Monday, April 25, 2011

April Cake Odyssey

Easter is a special occasion for Christian families.  So I wanted to make something special for the dinner my family shared in honor of the holiday.When I spyed the photo of Lemon Layer Cake on the pages of a recent issue of Good Housekeeping, I knew I'd found my special Easter cake for this year.

This is no throw-together-quickly-on-a-whim kind of recipe.  There are some special ingredients.  There are several steps.  All of that said, it's still a pretty simple cake and doesn't take all day to make either.  So don't be scared off.

Lemon Layer Cake
Here's What You Need:
4 lemons
1 Ruby Red grapefruit
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
7 large eggs, separated
1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup sour cream
1 cup prepared lemon curd

Here's What You Do:
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease bottoms of three 9-in. round cake pans. Line bottoms of pans with parchment paper; then spray the parchment with cooking spray. Finely grate 4 teaspoons lemon zest and squeeze 1/4 cup lemon juice. From the grapefruit, squeeze 1/2 cup juice; set aside.

In a large bowl, with wire whisk, blend flour, 1 cup granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Make a well in center. Add oil, 5 egg yolks, lemon juice, grapefruit juice, and 2 teaspoons lemon zest; whisk into dry ingredients until smooth.

In another large bowl, with mixer on high speed, beat 7 egg whites until foamy.

Soft peaks.
Add cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually sprinkle in remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, and beat until whites just stand in stiff peaks when beaters are lifted. I took a picture of the soft peaks and had intentions of photographing the stiff peaks to show you the difference.  I'm not saying you don't know the difference between the two.  Just wanted to show.  Well, I made this cake on a very rainy, humid day and sometimes egg whites don't behave the way you'd like them to with unfavorable weather conditions.  I was so aggravated that I didn't take the picture.  Just in case you were wondering. 

With a rubber spatula, gently fold one-third of the whites mixture into the yolk mixture to loosen the batter, then fold in remaining whites mixture.

Somewhere along in here, I stopped taking pictures.  My hands were a mess and I didn't want cake batter and lemon zest all over the camera.  I was still ticked off about the egg whites and my kitchen counter started looking like this:

and this....

and this...

I'm a clean-as-you-go kind of baker and my Type-A was getting a bit anxious with all the dishes that were piling up.  I had the dishwasher running already, so I couldn't very well just shove everything in there as I went along.  Trust me.  Taking photographs was the last thing on my mind!

Divide batter among prepared pans. Gently smooth tops. Bake 33 to 35 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched with finger. I rotated the pans halfway through so they all three had equal time on the top and bottom wrack of the oven.  Cool completely in pans on wire racks. With a knife, carefully loosen cake from sides of pans. Invert onto wire racks. Carefully peel off parchment and discard. Cake layers can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and kept at room temperature up to 1 day.

To prepare frosting: In a large bowl, with mixer on low speed, beat mascapone and cream to combine. Gradually beat in confectioners' sugar. Increase speed to medium-low and beat until soft peaks form. Fold in vanilla and remaining 2 teaspoons lemon peel until well blended.

Fold sour cream into lemon curd until well blended.

To assemble the cake: Place 1 cake layer on cake plate, flat side up. Spread with half of curd and top with another cake layer, flat side up. Spread remaining curd on top. Top with remaining cake layer, flat side up. Frost side and top of cake with frosting. Refrigerate assembled cake at least 1 hour and up to 6 hours to allow flavors to meld and frosting to set. (Cover loosely with plastic wrap after 1 hour.) To serve, let stand at room temperature 15 minutes.  I sprinkled some lemon zest on top for added flavor and for appearance.

I felt like this cake should have had a more intense lemon flavor to it.  What with all of the lemon zest and lemon and grapefruit juice and lemon curd.  Don't get me wrong; this cake is delicious - a true special occasion cake.  I would like to find a way to kick the lemon factor up a bit.  Perhaps some lemon extract in the icing rather than the vanilla?

A side note:   Remember the Scalloped Tomatoes that I made for Christmas and raved about?  I took the dish to my parents' house for our Christmas get-together and it came straight from the oven and into my handy little thermal casserole carrier.  Anyway, I never got a chance to photograph it.  I made it again this weekend (at my oldest brother's request) so I made sure to photograph it this time.  No photo does it justice. 

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