Today's the last day (autumnal equinox occurs at 10:29 EDT tomorrow) and I'm trying not to shed a tear. Even though school's been in session for two weeks, even though I can't stand the humidity of August, even though I do love the fall season, saying good-bye always makes me a little sad.
I thought I'd share a sweet ray of sunshine before turning to the upcoming season's favorites of apples, pumpkin and hearty fare. The Dear Daughter turned 16 earlier this month and she requested this recipe as her birthday cake. I thought it suited her- they're both sunny, well-balanced and a little tart.
The Baked cookbook cakes ask for vegetable shortening in the recipes. It seems to prolong the shelf-life of the cake, keeping it moister for a day or two. The cake stayed moist for a good three days, which surprised me. (I'm usually forced to devour whatever leftovers we have within 36 hours to avoid throwing out the inevitable dried out pieces.)
The Kids picked off the lemon drops first. A few of them seemed more drawn to the candy than to the cake. No surprise.
Lemon Drop Cake
from Baked- New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
For the cake:
2½ cups cake flour
¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
½ cup vegetable shortening, at room temperature
1¾ cup sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
grated zest of one lemon
1 large egg
1½ cups ice cold water
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
For the lemon curd filling:
¾ cup fresh lemon juice (from about 6 lemons)
grated zest of 2 lemons
2 large eggs
7 large egg yolks
¾ cup sugar
4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
For the frosting:
1½ cups sugar
⅓ cup all-purpose flour
1½ cups milk
⅓ cup heavy cream
1½ cups unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup lemon curd
For the topping:
8 lemon drops
Make the lemon cake layers:
Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment, and butter the parchment. Dust with flour, and knock out the excess flour.l
In a large bowl, sift the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and shortening on medium speed until creamy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest and beat on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, add the egg, and beat just until combined. Reduce the speed to low. Add the flour mixture, alternating with the ice water, in three separate additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Scrape down the bowl, then mix on low speed for a few more seconds.
In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until sof peaks form. Do not overbeat. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.
Divide the batter among the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 30-32 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Transfer the cakes to a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the rack, remove the pans, and let cool completely. Remove the parchment.
Make the lemon curd filling:
In a small bowl, pour the lemon juice over the zest and let stand for 10 minutes to soften the zest.
In a nonreactive bowl whisk the eggs, egg yoks, and sugar until combined. Add he lemon zest and lemon juice to the egg mixture and whisk until just combined.
Place your bowl containing the egg mixture over a double boiler. Continuously stir the mixture with a heatproof spatula until the mixture has thickened to a pudding like texture, about 6 minutes.
Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk in the butter until emulsified. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve. Take a sheet of plastic wrap and press it into the mixture and around the bowl so that the curd does not form a skin.
Set the lemon curd aside while you make the frosting. Do not refrigerate the curd unless you are saving it for future use.
Make the frosting:
In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the sugar and flour together. Add the milk and cream and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until hte mixture comes to a boil and has thickened, about 20 minutes.
Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed until cool. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter; mix until thoroughly incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy.
Add the vanilla extract and ½ cup of the lemon curd and continue mixing until combined. If the frosting is too soft, put it in the refrigerator to chill slightly then mix again until it is the proper consistency. If the frosting is too firm, place the bowl over a pot of simmering water and beat with a wooden spoon until it is the proper consistency.
Assemble the cake:
Refrigerate the frosting for a few minutes until it can hold its shape. Place one cake layer on a serving platter. Trim the top to create a flat surface and evenly spread about ¾ cup of the remaining curd on top. Evenly spread about ¾ cup of the frosting over the curd layer. Repeat the above step with the next layer. For the third layer, trim the top. Crumb coat* the cake and refrigerate for about 15 minutes. Frost the sides and top of the cake with the remaining frosting. Refrigerate for 15 minutes to firm up the frosted cake. Garnish with the candies right before serving.
This cake will keep beautifully in a cake saver at room temperature (cool and humidity free) for up to 3 days. If your room is not cool, place the cake in a cake saver and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Remove the cake from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours before serving.
*crumb coat- an initial thin layer of frosting applied to the cake to keep the light crumbs suspended so they won't appear in the final layer of frosting