Long time, no see, right guys? I know I’ve been MIA recently, and I’ve even gotten a few texts/Tweets/emails asking when I planned to update the blog again. I know lots of people comment and read this thing, but somehow I still sometimes feel like nobody really cares too much about what I’m doing here (and I mean, honestly, why would they, it’s a blog, there are a million of them), so those of you that reached out, thank you for making me feel incredibly special and loved. Really! I can’t tell you how touched I am when someone asks where I’ve been or what I’m up to or whatever. I’m a part of something and it’s an incredible feeling, not to get too sentimental on you or anything. But yeah, I could blame it on work or whatever else, though I guess I just needed a bit of a break. By the time I get home at night, after being at work all day and then spending the evening either at some event, getting drinks with friends, or maybe even the gym, I get home, make dinner or do chores or whatever else it is that adults are supposed to do to lead healthy, normal lives, and it’s often hard to motivate myself to hop back on my laptop and start editing photos and writing recipes when all I really want to do is zone the hell out and watch some TV or talk to my husband for five minutes. I do miss working on the blog, though. Even sitting here right now, typing out whatever fluff pops into my brain, makes me feel good. It’s a warm, fuzzy feeling that I can’t quite describe but after doing this for eight years now, it’s almost like putting on a favorite sweatshirt or listening to a favorite album. It’s weird, I know, but even being away for, what, two or three weeks, makes me miss blogging a whole lot. So I’m going to try harder to be here, to work on this little project of mine, because honestly, I need it. It’s my outlet, my baby, the thing I’ve come to view as a really big part of myself, and even if I’m tired or lazy or whatever, I should make time for it. I get to come here and talk, be it about something trivial like a movie I really liked recently, or more serious, like the anxiety I often feel and am alleviated from by taking photos and recipe testing. So hi, hello, I’m back! Thanks for sticking around.
I missed you guys, did you miss me?
There’s a bar near my apartment that Kramer and I frequent perhaps a little too much, but it’s basically our Cheers, so we like going. It’s super close and the bartenders are all incredibly friendly, the music is great, and there’s a big, beautiful backyard to hang out in when the weather is tolerable, which for New Yorkers, means anything above freezing. That’s why when one of my favorite bartenders asked if I could make a cake for her friend’s birthday party, I was like, “Yeah, duh.” I wanted it to be extra special, but I’m admittedly not an impressive cake-maker. I can whip up something ~rustic~ pretty easily, but decorating a cake is kind of a daunting task for me. That’s why I turned to lemons. I love a good lemon curd, or in this case, a dreamy lemon cream, and I figured that plus a solid lemon cake could do me no wrong. I did a bit of adjusting, specifically making my cakes a bit bigger because I wanted to make a four-layer cake and knew that my shaky cake-slicing skills would fail me if I tried to slice through a thinner 8-inch round, but otherwise, it was pretty smooth sailing. The directions look daunting, I admit, but this was a cake I spaced out over the course of a few days so as to not go insane. I made the lemon cream a few days ahead of time, and I even made the cakes themselves about a week ahead of time, froze them, and then thawed them out a day before I planned to assemble everything. This is something I highly, highly, highly recommend, because it actually makes for a more moist, yet more sturdy cake, and it gives you more free time on the weekends to binge whatever TV show you’re super into. I also discovered that just piping a bunch of extra buttercream and lemon cream all over your cake in random areas ends up looking pretty good, if I do say so myself, so there’s that. If you like lemon meringue pie or lemon bars or anything tart and sweet and bursting with flavor, then this is truly the cake for you, be it your birthday or otherwise. Thanks for asking me to make this, Anne! It was an honor.
Let’s get started.
This makes…a lot of batter.
This recipe calls for you to whip your eggs whites separately and then fold them into your cake for a lighter, airer texture. I’m pretty sure it was worth it, hah!
While your cake bakes (or a few days before, whatever), make your lemon cream.
If you don’t have a double-boiler, improvise.
Make that cream nice and smooth as you add in the butter VERY SLOWLY. So slowly you think this process is never going to end, but just keep at it, girl.
Cake time! Level those suckers off if you need to.
Then make your buttercream.
This is the easiest way to make two cakes into four cakes. Some people can probably just eyeball it, but I like to use toothpicks to help guide my knife.
Now add a ring of buttercream around your first layer.
Followed by a few healthy dollops of lemon cream.
Give that sucker a crumb coat and refrigerate to firm it up. This will make sure no crumbs show through the final product.
Then just kind of go nuts with the decorations because this is a big, fun cake and you deserve it!
This cake made me feel like a rockstar – I hope it makes you feel that way, too.
- ½ cup + 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 3 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup unsalted butter, cubed
- 3¼ + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3¾ teaspoon baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1½ cups unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
- 1¾ cup + ½ cup granulated sugar, divided
- zest of 3 lemons
- 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon lemon extract
- 1¼ + 2 tablespoons whole milk, at room temperature
- 9 egg whites
- ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 6 egg whites
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 2¼ cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup water
- 2½ cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- First, make your lemon cream. Combine the lemon juice, eggs, egg yolk, sugar, and salt in a non-reactive stainless steel bowl. In a smaller pan that the stainless steel bowl will fit in without sinking too deep in, place about 2 inches of water and bring it to a simmer over medium heat. Fit the stainless steel bowl inside and begin whisking your lemon and egg mixture, until thickened and about 180 degrees F. This will take around 10 minutes and will seem like forever but just keep whisking so that your eggs don't scramble. This is excellent exercise and worth every minute! When ready, your whisk will leave a "trail" through the curd and feel smooth between your fingers with no granular bits of sugar left.
- Remove the bowl from the heat and stir until slightly cooled, or about 140 degrees F. Cut the butter into 1-tablespoon sized pieces. You can use the same bowl if you're using an immersion blender, or you can pour the cream into a blender or food processor, then begin to add 1 tablespoon of butter at at time, incorporating each piece before adding the next. Keep going until smooth, until thick and slightly opaque.
- When ready, you can store the lemon cream in an airtight container in the fridge until you want to use it (I made this a day before I made the actual cake). This makes more than you'll need for the cake, so I recommend adding a dollop of it to your yogurt in the morning, or maybe smoothing it over a muffin or a scone or even ice cream. It will keep well for up to a week in your fridge, just make sure you bring it to room temperature when you're ready to use it.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line and grease two 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a medium sized bowl, whisk together your flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
- Beat together the butter, 1¾ cup granulated sugar, and lemon zest in the bowl of your mixer until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add in the vanilla and lemon extracts and beat to combine, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Add in the flour and milk in alternating batches, starting and ending with the milk (so start with ⅓ of the flour mixture, then add in half of the milk, followed by another ⅓ of the flour, the rest of the milk, and then finally the rest of the flour, being sure each addition is fully incorporated before adding the next). Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Place the batter in a large bowl and set aside. Clean out the bowl of your mixer, being sure it's totally dry, then add in the egg whites and cream of tartar. Using the whisk attachment for your mixer, whip them together on medium speed until frothy, about 1-2 minutes. Raise the speed slightly and whip until soft peaks form, another 2 minutes or so. Add in the remaining ½ cup of sugar in a slow, steady stream, and continue to whip until medium peaks form, another 2 minutes or so.
- Gently fold in about ⅓ of your egg white mixture into your cake batter. Once incorporated, add in another ⅓, fold it into the batter, then add in the remaining ⅓. Fold in this last bit gently so that you don't deflate the batter.
- Pour the batter evenly among your two pans. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until lightly golden and set. Once the cakes come out of the oven, use a greased spatula to press them down slightly while they're still warm so that they are flatter and easier to slice in half later. Let cool completely. You can make these cakes up to a week ahead of time, freeze them, and thaw them out the day before you plan to frost the cakes, which is what I did.
- Place the eggs whites and cream of tartar in a clean mixing bowl. Set aside.
- In a medium-sized pot, bring the granulated sugar and water to a simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently. Once simmering, stop stirring and attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pot. If you don't have a thermometer, you want to simmer the sugar mixture just until before it reaches the hard ball stage. If you don't know what that means, I recommend getting a candy thermometer before you make this buttercream or just making a more straight-forward buttercream recipe, which will work just as well but won't be quite as smooth.
- When the sugar reached 235 degrees F, begin whipping the egg whites on medium-high speed in your mixing bowl. Again, do NOT stir the sugar mixture while you do this. The goal here is to get the egg whites to soft peaks by the time the sugar reaches 245 degrees F.
- When the sugar reaches 245 degrees F, carefully start to pour it into the egg whites that are now at soft peaks. Pour the sugar in a very slow, steady stream while the mixer is running. Keep whipping the mixture until it's very white and thick, and the bowl is no longer warm to the touch.
- Once you've finished adding in the sugar mixture, start adding in the butter. If the frosting is too hot, the butter will melt and ruin your frosting, so make sure it really is cool to the touch at this point. Add in 1 or 2 tablespoons at a time, letting each bit incorporate fully into your frosting before adding more.This takes a while but this is the buttercream of the gods so just keep at it. If the frosting looks broken, don't fret, just keep mixing and adding in the butter and I promise it will come together in the end as long as you are patient and add in the butter 1 or 2 tablespoons at at time. Just keep whipping it, girl.
- When ready, whip in your vanilla extract to finish it off. You're ready! I recommend making this the day you plan to frost your cakes so it's easy to spread.
- Okay! You've made it. Let's make this freaking cake. First, grab your cakes and slice them in half so that you have four layers. I have found the best way to do this is to place toothpicks all around your cake in an even layer and slice with a bread knife through your cake using the toothpicks as a guide (see above).
- Place a dollop of buttercream on a cake board or the plate you plan to serve the cake on to secure the cake while you frost it. If you have a rotating cake stand, awesome, that makes frosting way easier, but if not, just go for it, you'll be fine. Place your first layer of cake on the surface. Add about ⅓ of your frosting to a piping bag and pipe a thick circle around the edge of your first layer. Spread about ⅓ cup of lemon cream in the middle of the circle (the frosting holds the cream in), then place another layer of cake on top. Continue doing this (see photos above), pressing each layer down gently on top of the next, until you've added your last layer of cake.
- Apply a thin layer of frosting all around your cake, called a crumb coat, and chill the cake in the fridge for 20 minutes or so to let it set. Frost the rest of the cake when you're ready, and use a scraper to smooth it all out. You can use extra buttercream or lemon cream to decorate the cake as you see fit - I colored some of the buttercream yellow for decorating, for example. Chill the cake until ready to use, then bring it to room temperature before slicing and serving.