Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Lemon Cake Recipe Wowza!

All of you wonderful Wonder Turtle Soaps fans and followers know that I love to soap, but you may not know that I also love to bake.

It struck me the other day how soaping and baking are sorta similar. There are measuring cups and measuring spoons involved in both, and there's a lot of mixing and stirring. And there's a bit of anxiety when it comes time to turn out, or "unmold," the creation that you've slaved over. In soaping and baking, you take a bunch of ingredients that aren't too terribly useful on their own and combine them to make a practical yet lovely thing.

Anytime a potlock or family gathering comes along, I volunteer to make dessert. I pull dessert duty on Easter, too, for our family get-together, and it seems that I make a lemon-something every year. This year, I made a lemon cake with a lemon cream cheese frosting and a lemon curd filling. Definitely not low-calorie, but every dang calorie is worth it.

I got this Lemon Cake recipe from the Southern Food website. I followed the recipe exactly except for one small tweak -- I added a tablespoon of fresh lemon zest to the flour mixture.


Ingredients for cake:
* 3 cups cake flour
* 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
* 1 tsp baking soda
* 1 tsp ground ginger
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 1 Tbsp fresh lemon zest
* 3/4 cup unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened
* 2 cups sugar
* 4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
* 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
* 1 tsp vanilla extract
* 1 1/3 cups buttermilk
* 1/4 tsp cream of tartar

Ingredients for frosting:
* 8 ounces of cream cheese, softened
* 3/4 cup unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened
* 2 cups confectioners sugar (sift before measuring)
* 1/4 cup heavy cream
* 1/3 cup lemon curd

Ingredients for filling:
* 1 cup lemon curd

(Note: You can make your own lemon curd if you want to, but I ain't gonna. Store-bought lemon curd is just fine, and you can usually find it wherever you find the jams and jellies in your grocery store.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter or grease two 9"x2" round cake pans and dust generously with flour. Tap out the excess flour.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, ginger and salt. Sift into another large bowl. Stir in the tablespoon of lemon zest.

In another large bowl, beat the butter and sugar at medium speed for 2 minutes until fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the lemon juice and vanilla. At low speed, beat in flour and buttermilk, alternating between the two and beginning and ending with the flour mixture (about four flour additions and three buttermilk additions). Beat until just blended.

In a small bowl, beat (with clean beaters) egg whites with the cream of tartar until stiff peaks form (this may take a few minutes). With a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the batter, folding one-third of the egg whites in at a time.

Spread the batter in prepared pans. Bake 35-40 minutes until cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cakes in their pans on cooling racks for 10 minutes, and then invert the cakes onto the racks. Allow cakes to completely cool before frosting.

To make the frosting:
In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter for 2 minutes until fluffy. At low speed, beat in the confectioners sugar, heavy cream, and 1/3 cup lemon curd until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 20 minutes or until the frosting is of a spreadable consistency.

Using a serrated knife, level the tops of your cooled cakes if necessary. Place the first layer on a serving plate and spread 1 cup of lemon curd on top. Refrigerate for 15 minutes to set the curd. Top with the second cake layer. Frost the cake.

Store cake in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature for serving. Garnish with fresh berries or lemon slices, if desired.

* To grease my cake pans, I just smeared the bottoms and sides of my pans with a hunk of butter and then put about a 1/4 cup flour in the pans. Then I picked up the pans and swirled the flour across the bottom and sides of the pan. Dump out the excess. This helps your cake to not stick when you turn it out.

* If you're like me, you never remember to leave your butter out to soften. You can microwave the butter in short 15- to 20-second bursts to soften it up in a hurry.

* I love my Microplane zester for zesting lemons, but you can use the finest grate on a grater instead.

* You should be able to find cream of tartar wherever spices and dried herbs are sold in your grocery store. If it's not there, check the baking aisle. Cream of tartar is a white powder that looks like baking soda.

* Don't forget to scrape the sides of your mixing bowls often while beating to make sure everything get mixed in!

This makes a very nice lemon-y, moist cake. The lemon zest in the batter really helps bump up the lemon flavor.

I hope you enjoy this cake, if you decide to make it. And if you do, please let me and Wally the Wonder Turtle know how it turned out! Heck, even if you don't make the cake, feel free to tell us what you think about it!

Happy baking (and soaping)!