There and back again…

Readers, don’t take my silence as a sign of indolence. It has been almost a month since my last entry, but that month has been filled with midterms, nostalgia, neurotic friends and their boy troubles (you know who you are), Swine flu panic, rounds of baked goods, lots of restaurants that have yet to be reviewed, impromptu Britney Spears concert (don’t laugh), late nights studying, bouts of near-depression, weddings, hotel escapades, torrents of anxiety attacks, friends graduating, visitations, tears, final exams — in a nutshell, I’ve been very busy. But I am back, and here to stay. Hope you didn’t miss me too much? 😉

Being utterly annoyed with >30-minute-long-waits at both Jupiter’s and Pyramid’s in Berkeley, someiknow and I found ourselves heading toward quiet Albany for our Sunday night dinner. We hate waits, especially when we’re hungry, and quiet accidentally, we ended up on the doorsteps of Solano Bar & Grill. A review will be put up at later, but the highlight of the night was the Lemon Curd Shortcake. I came out of the restaurant completely inspired to create lemony desserts. Cookbooks were strewn all over my living room floor, post-it tags marking the lemon pages. Suddenly, my Google search bar was filled with “lemon curd cake” and “lemon dessert” and I found myself looking for “lemon tart” on Epicurious and FoodNetwork. There were millions of hits, and each new find only intensified my craving for making a lemon dessert. And lo-and-behold — the second I walked into my parents’ home last night, I smelled IT. Yes, IT. IT. That beautifully tangy fresh scent of ripe lemons that just cuts through the earthy smell of my home, and overwhelms ones’ olfactory sense. I almost wanted to cry! How did my mother know? How did she know?

As it was God’s will, I had to take on this lemon endeavor. And after much searching, I got it, and you are going to looooove it. The perfect way to start the summer with this amazingly fragrant and refreshing Lemon Curd Cake.

Lemon Curd Cake
Those of you acquainted with Tuesdays with Dorie and Daring Bakers are most likely familiar with this cake recipe as it is Dorie Greenspan’s Perfect Party Cake and Buttercream from Baking: From my home to yours. And Ina Garten fans will appreciate this cake as I use her Lemon Curd found on the FoodNetwork as a filling. My notes are in [brackets] as always.

For Lemon Curd:
3 lemons
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 stick (8tbs) unsalted butter, room temp
4 large eggs
1/2 cup lemon juice (3 to 4 lemons)
1/8 tsp salt

To make Lemon Curd:
Remove the zest of 3 lemons (Microplanes are God-sent), avoiding the white pith. Put the zest in a food processor, add sugar and pulse until the zest is very finely minced into the sugar.
In a mixer with paddle attachment, cream the butter and add in the sugar and lemon mixture. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and then add the lemon juice and salt. Mix until combined.
Pour the mixture into a 2 quart saucepan and cook over low heat until thickened (about 10 minutes), stirring constantly. The lemon curd will thicken at about 170 degrees F, or just below simmer. You want a thick, creamy consistency. Remove from the heat and cool or refrigerate. The lemon curd will continue to thicken as it cools.

For the Cake:
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 buttermilk [or milk + acid]
4 egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp grated lemon zest
1 stick (8tbs) butter, room temp
1/2 tsp lemon extract [used 1/2 tsp lemon juice]

To Make Cake:
Preheat oven to 350F, and prepare 2-9″ cake rounds [I used 2 pie tins, compensated by using extra buttercream to even the sides, oops]
Sift and whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In another bowl, whisk together milk and eggs. Set aside.
Like the Lemon Curd, place lemon zest and sugar in food processor and pulse until the sugar is minced, moist and fragrant. Remove and place in stand mixer with paddle attachment, along with butter. Cream until light and fluffy. Beat in the extract, then add 1/3 of the flour, continuing at medium speed. Beat in 1/2 egg-milk mixture, then add 1/2 of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the last of the milk-eggs, scraping down the bowl every so often, adding the last of the flour, mixing until the batter is homogeneous and lump free.
Divide batter into the 2 cake pans. Smooth the top, give a tap (to get rid of air bubbles), and bake for 30-35 minutes or until it springs back when touched.
Remove from heat, invert onto cooling rack, and let cool completely to room temp before doing any thing else.

For Lemon Buttercream:
1 cup sugar
4 egg whites
3 sticks butter, room temp [2.5 is sufficient, other wise too buttery]
1/4 cups lemon juice (about 2 large lemons)
1 tsp vanilla extract [omitted]

To make Butercream:
Put sugar and egg whites in a heatproof mixer bowl and place over a pan of simmering water. Whisk constantly, or use a hand held mixer, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture resembles marshmallow cream. Remove the bowl from heat.
Continue to whisk the meringue on medium speed until it is completely cool. Place bowl in stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add butter, one stick at a time, and beat until incorporated, thick and very smooth, about 6-10 minutes. If the buttercream curdles, just keep beating and it will come together. On medium speed, add the lemon juice, then vanilla. The end product should be shiny, smooth, velvety and pristine.

To assemble [my impatient way]:

Place one cake layer face up on a cake plate, using a serrated knife to undome the cake as needed. Now eat what you cut off. Spread a generous layer of lemon curd over the top. Place the other cake layer face down (ergo pan side up) on top of that layer. Align as needed. Spread the buttercream all over (I used a lazy susan instead or rotating cake stand)… You can decorate with coconut shavings or drizzle lemon curd over the top and sides. Up to your fancy. Enjoy!

This cake is fabulous. I now know why the entire food blogging world raved about Dorie’s Perfect Party Cake. It IS amazing. I don’t quite like the buttercream, as I found it too rich and buttery. But I do love how it pairs so well with the lemon curd. Essentially, all 3 components were infused with lemons, and really sated my lemon thirst.

After a month long break, I owe you a month’s worth of blogs. I am helping with food prep for LaSan’s annual camping trip – that’s 3 days of campsite food for 25 people, so be sure to check out my fireside foods entry. Also, I am newly addicted to Julie/Julia Project after seeing the trailer in theaters (yes I am slow to the blogging world), and have been reading about it ever since. So, I really want to make QUICHE. It seems like JulieP makes quiche every week, and it seems so quintessentially French, that I have to make one, it seems. Also, I am in the mood for another fruit tart, so that will be up at some point. Watch out readers, there’s a lot more to come this summer. I can hardly wait!!

Back to the kitchen,

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