Disclaimer: I'm feeling nostalgic because I'm currently planning a trip to NYC. Next week we're going on our awesome family vacation to Skaneateles and finishing the week with a couple days in the city! Therefore this post may or may not be mostly about this quintessential summer cake.
I really enjoy exploring on my own. Events are more significant when you don't have to acknowledge them to another person. They seem to be a tailor-made gift just for you.
Maybe if you were with a soul mate of the type where you don't have to acknowledge things to know that they've been absorbed, then you could have the same special feeling. Then months later you could be like "Remember that time...?" and they could be like "Yeah, that was amazing."
I kind of have that relationship with my brother, but it usually only applies to funny-looking people. Later I can say "That man today- he was crazy." and he'll say "I know. I've never seen a beard that color before."
One time when I was living in New York City, I decided to visit Redhook for the first time by myself. Its a long trip that requires taking the metro to a bus and then walking, but its worth it for such wonders as Steve's Authentic Key Lime Pie and Baked.
My train emerged from its tunnel to ride along tracks raised above the streets, and I found that I was sharing the car with only one other person. This young man took out a one-legged stool and sat leaning against a pole in the middle of the aisle. He slowly bowed a cello; fluid, sad and lovely.
It was so precious and tenuous, sitting in that light-filled car at roof-top level as the city buildings shrank and spread below. The air in that bright, music-laden car made my head swim as it seemed to grow thicker and thicker with beauty and impossibility. It was hard to breath for loveliness. We came to a station. The man stood, picked up his stool and instrument, and exited the train.
I was lonely and yearning for the rest of the ride, and it pains me to tell people about it now. I can't say out loud how I felt and so I rush it and it seems like just another part of a bigger story, when really, it was the story.
I won't say that this cake is like that, though maybe you get very emotional about cake, I don't know. But this cake could be part of a experience like that. It could be part of your ideal, sun-filled afternoon with a soul mate. It could you and that person, sitting on the perfect hill, under the most majestic tree, on the loveliest blanket, in an idyllic breeze under a flawless sky, with the coldest lemonade in the ideal glasses, having the best conversation of your life, eating this dreamy cake. Maybe you wouldn't even want to post pictures on the internet later, because that would ruin the perfection. Maybe you'll just keep that day to yourself and never speak of it again, but hold it so, so dearly.
I guess you'll have to make this cake and make it all happen. Because this cake really is worthy of such magic.
The layers are the lemon-drop cake layers from the (awesome) Baked cookbook, paired with lemon curd and a lightly lemon frosting, and stuffed with as many strawberries as you can fit between each layer.
Lemon Layers (from Baked)
2 1/2 cups cake flour
3/4 cup AP flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temp
1/2 cup vegetable shortening, room temp
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 large egg
1 1/2 cup cold water
2 large egg whites, room temp
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Lemon Curd (from Baked)
3/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (from 6-8 lemons)
grated zest of 2 lemons
2 large eggs
7 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
optional 1 tablespoon of cornstarch
4 tablespoons butter, room temp
2 cups whole milk
10 tablespoons flour
2 cups sugar
1 pound (4 sticks) butter, room temp
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup lemon curd
Strawberries- chopped. The smaller the pieces, the easier it will be to slice the cake.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Spray with oil and line 3 8-in pans with parchment rounds. If you're using 9-in pans, I'd make the recipe times 1.5.
In a large bowl, sift the flours, baking soda and powder, and salt together.
In the bowl of your stand mixer, or using a bowl and a hand-held mixer, cream the butter, shortening, zest and sugar together for 4 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the while egg and vanilla, beating until just combined.
With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients, alternating with the ice water, in three additions, beginning and ending the the dry and scraping down the bowl as needed. Mix for a few seconds after the ingredients are all combined.
In a spotless bowl, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Don't over beat. Gently fold the egg whites into the cake batter.
Divide the batter evenly between the pans, smooth the tops and bake, for 40-45 minutes, or until a cake testing object stuck in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and place on wire racks to cool for 20 or so minutes. Then remove the cakes from the pan and allow to cool completely before frosting. If you want your frosting to go easier, you can wrap the layers with plastic wrap when cool, then stick them in the freezer for a couple hours before frosting. Believe me, its so much easier to frost a cold cake.
Make the Lemon Curd*
In a small, non-reactive pan, whisk the eggs, egg yolks, and sugar until combined. Add the lemon juice and zest and whisk thoroughly. If you're worried about runny lemon curd, you can mix a tablespoon of cornstarch in the with sugar before combining the ingredients.
Place the pot on the stove over very low heat and whisk constantly until the mixture has thickened.
Pour/scrape the curd through a fine-mesh strainer to remove any eggy bits and lemon zest. Add the butter, cut into chunks and stir until the mixture is homogenous. Press a piece of plastic wrap directly against the lemon curd and set aside to cool. If you're using it soon you can refrigerate it, or if you're using VERY soon, you can set the bowl of curd in an ice bath.
*The ingredients are the same, but my instructions vary slightly from the original Baked ones, most notably, the fact that I don't use a double boiler. Its just the way I do things and it turns out fab.
Make the frosting
Pour the 2 cups of milk into a small sauce pan and set it over low heat. Gradually add the flour, one tablespoon at a time, whisking to incorporate between each addition. Whisk constantly while the gravy mixture heats, until it thickens to brownie-batter consistency.
Set it aside to cool, stirring occasionally.
When the gravy-mixture is cool, place the sugar and butter in bowl of your stand mixer and mix with the paddle attachment on low speed for at LEAST 5 minutes, until the butter and sugar are incredibly fluffy and whipped-cream-like. The sugar should be almost dissolved.
Scrape the cooled (<-important) gravy-mixture though a fine mesh strainer into the bowl of sugar butter and mix for several more minutes, until the whole thing is very fluffy and nice-looking. Add the vanilla and the half-cup of lemon curd and mix until combined. The frosting should taste lightly of lemon and be very smooth and light and delicious. It's even reminiscent of whipped cream, but it will hold up way better.
To assemble, put a thin layer of lightly lemon frosting on the bottom layer of the cake. COVER the thing with as many chopped strawberries as your heart desires and the spoon a layer of lemon curd evenly over the strawberries. Top with the next layer and repeat. Top with the final layer and then spread the remaining frosting over the entire cake. Garnish with more strawberries and lemon rind curls. OR...make cupcakes.
Serve to your soul mate.