Monday, February 28, 2011

Lemon Curd Cake

 I usually use lemons from my father's trees to create this cake and to my mind, it makes the dessert that much more special & tasty.  Now it's time to fill & frost those delicious layers that were made in the previous post.  It takes a little bit of planning, so I suggest you pace yourself.  The lemon curd can be made a day  in advanced (you'll need to make two batches of this) and the swiss meringue buttercream can also be made a day in advanced.  This is how I do it.

3/4 cups lemon curd is added to the swiss meringue buttercream.

With a silicone spatula, thoroughly mix the chilled lemon curd.  You want to blend this until it's creamy.

The buttercream is smooth & delicious.  It takes on a very appealing lemon color. 

I dab a bit of buttercream onto my turntable to help stabilize the layers.  Using a lazy susan like this allows
 me to turn the cake as I frost & decorate it. 

Since I'm going to transfer the decorated cake onto a cake stand, it helps to use a cardboard cake round as a base.  This also gets a small dab of buttercream so that my cake doesn't shift.

The first cake layer gets placed on top of the turntable.  I'm using a very wide spatula that is strong & sturdy to help me transfer the cake.  If you find your layers with a domed top, use a serrated knife to trim them level.
Fill a pastry bag with some of your buttercream and pipe a small "dam" around the top of the layer.  This will help contain your lemon curd.

Now add about 1/2 cup to 3/4 cups of your lemon curd.  Smooth it out with a small spatula and make sure you get completely to the edges.  The color of homemade curd is quite beautiful.

The second cake layer gets placed on top very carefully.  If you find your layers shifting a lot, insert a large bamboo skewer down the middle of the cake & snip off the tip.

Can you see how the lemon curd is just peeking through?  The dam of buttercream is preventing it from oozing out the sides.  A very good thing.

Quickly frost the top and sides of the cake with a small amount of buttercream.  This is the crumb coat.  The purpose of this is to keep any stray crumbs from marring the rest of the icing.  When you're done applying this thin layer of buttercream, chill the entire cake in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to set it.

Once chilled, the cake can now take on more buttercream.  Pile the frosting on top of your cake and bring it down the sides with your offset spatula.  Having a lazy susan like this makes the job quite easy.

To create smooth, professional looking sides, use a bench scraper like this.  Hold it perpendicular to your pedestal and start turning.  The icing will flow smoothly & correct itself.  Any excess buttercream can be returned to your bowl.  The top of the cake gets treated in the same manner.

This is the end result.  Smooth, creamy & quite impressive if I do say so myself.  How easy was that?

Now for the decorating.  The smaller piping bag holds the remainder of my buttercream & is fitted with a #70 Ateco leaf tip.  The larger bag has a second batch of lemon curd.

Note: twist ties are placed at the ends of my bags.

Before I decorate it, the entire cake gets moved onto one my collectible Martha by Mail milk glass cake stands.  I'm using the same wide spatula to lift the cake--remember to pick it up from  underneath the cardboard cake round & transfer it.  A smaller spatula helps me push the cake off.

You can get as whimsical as you want when decorating a cake.  I'm piping a simple border around the top.  Hold your pastry bag with your dominant hand & squeeze from the top of the bag.  You can use your other hand to hold the piping tip & guide your design.

I piped the exact border around the bottom of the cake.

The bag holding the lemon curd was snipped at the end & no piping tip was needed.  Simple lemon drop shapes were haphazardly placed around the top.

Note: you'll have some leftover lemon curd.

A slice of the cake showing those scrumptious layers, the tangy lemon curd filling & that smooth buttercream.  Absolutely delicious!

It's really no wonder why aunt Marg likes this cake so much.  Perhaps the next time I make this, I may just pipe those lemon drops all around the cake and not do any borders.  The cake can be kept for about 3 days or so, but it may not last that long.  Try making one of these the next time you plan a birthday party or some other special occasion.  Everyone is going to love it.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Lemon Cake Layers

This cake has a special place in my repertoire.  It gets requested by aunt Marg for her birthday every year and it never fails to please.  The recipe I follow comes from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook and the one I've linked from is a slight variation.  The cake is tender, lemony & so scrumptious.  I'll show you how I assembled and decorated these layers for aunt Marg's cake in my next post.  Bookmark this and make it for your next special occasion.

The ingredients are carefully measured out.  Make sure the eggs, butter & sour cream are at room temperature.  Click here for the recipe.

Yield: Two 9"x2" rounds

As I've said before, I always beat my butter before adding the sugar whenever I make a butter cake.

Recipes always say to cream your butter & sugar until pale & fluffy.  This is what pale & fluffy should look
like.  Don't rush this, for it makes a tender cake.

Although this step isn't taken in the recipe, I like to add my zest soon after I've creamed the butter & sugar.  This will help release the essential oil from the lemon rind.  Don't forget to scrape down your bowl.

Add your eggs one at a time & beat well after each addition.  This is done at medium speed.

You want to emulsify the mixture, so it's very important to let each egg do so before adding the next.  You may need to scrape down your bowl.

The lemon juice & sour cream get mixed together.

This rich, thick batter has all of the eggs incorporated.  It's time to add the flour & sour cream mixture in
alternating stages. 

With my spoonula, I alternately add my dry ingredients with my sour cream mixture, beginning and ending
with the dry. 

This is what your finished cake batter should look like.  It's thick, creamy, sweet & ready to be baked.

Promptly divide your batter among your 9" baking pans and pop them into your preheated 350F oven.  As you can see,  I like to weigh my pans filled with batter so that I get even results.  This is definitely a good thing.  The layers bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

The cake layers out of the oven, cooling on a rack.  Deliciously golden!

These layers can be frosted with just about any icing (don't forget to remove the piece of parchment paper).  A dark chocolate ganache, some seven minute frosting or even a simple dusting of confectioner's sugar would do.  In Martha's Baking Handbook, she uses a lemon buttercream that is so good and so addictive, I suggest you make it.  I'll show you how it's done in my next post.  Cheers!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Lining a Round Cake Pan

Lining cake pans with parchment paper guarantees that your layers will release without any problems.  It is possible to buy parchment rounds from specialty shops, but one doesn't always have them on hand.  Simply cut a piece of parchment paper that's roughly the same diameter as your round cake pan.  Follow these steps and you'll see how easy it really is.

This layer pan is 9" in diameter.

Fold the parchment in half, lengthwise.

Fold the closed sides in half.

Fold the closed sides in half again two more times.

You should end up with a triangular piece of parchment
like this.

Turn your cake pan upside down.  Take the tip of your
parchment paper and place it right in the middle
of your pan.  Trim the overhanging piece of parchment.

Voila!  Unfold your parchment & you have a
perfect round with which to line your pan.

This is such a simple trick that all bakers should know how to do.  Now you can line your cake pan and bake away. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

There are several types of buttercream options for bakers and I think it's good knowing how to make at least one or two.  Swiss meringue buttercream is among my favorites, because it's simple to make and its texture is light & creamy.  The buttercream can be flavored or tinted to suit your tastes.  It helps if you have a stand mixer for this, but a good hand-held mixer can certainly do the job.  Every baker should know how to make a good buttercream.  Let's begin!

Click here for the actual recipe.  The egg whites and sugar are ready to be whisked.

Place the bowl of your stand mixer over a pot of simmering water and start whisking vigorously.  You don't want the water to be boiling. 

After a few minutes, you will see a change in texture.  You want the sugar to completely dissolve.  Don't walk away from this task or you risk curdling the egg whites.

When working at the stove, I like to keep a dish or two set out so that I can rest my cooking implements after I'm completely done.  This is a good thing.

When your egg whites and sugar are ready, quickly attach your bowl & fit the mixer with the whisk attachment.  Turn the power on to high and let the machine do its job.

The mixture has to cool down before you can begin to add the butter.  One way of doing this is by wiping the mixer bowl with a damp towel until it no longer feels warm.  This helps speed things along.

You can see that I've cut up my butter into pats.  My paddle attachment is clean & waiting to be attached as soon as the meringue is done.   

This is what your meringue should look like (glossy & thick).  Tap out the whisk to remove every bit of 
meringue. You could actually use this mixture to make a meringue pie or pipe onto a cake, if you don't feel like making a buttercream. 

The paddle is attached to the mixer & the power should be set at medium speed.

Begin adding your butter one pat at a time.  You want to create an emulsion, so be patient.

You can see the butter changing the texture of the meringue.

Your buttercream will separate and look curdled.  Although it looks like small curd cottage cheese at this point, DON'T panic.  This is normal.  You have to keep beating this until it comes together.

When it's done, the texture will be quite creamy and it will taste out of this world.  This is what a good buttercream should look like.  If you're flavoring your buttercream with an extract or liqueur, you should do so now. 

Now that you've completed this delicious buttercream, you can begin to decorate that cake or those little cupcakes.  This icing pipes beautifully and it really does hold its shape well.  If you're going to use the buttercream later in the day, leave it out at room temperature.  This can also be refrigerated for a few days if you like.  Just make sure you bring it to room temperature before proceeding.  Start decorating!