Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Golden Summer Cake

When we were at Lake Skaneateles in the Finger Lakes, Eric and I stumbled upon a library book sale. We dove in head first and came away with tons of books (books that made lugging our bulging carry-ons around the airport miserable.)

While browsing through the cookbooks, I found such gems as The Microwave Bible, 1,000 Microwave Recipes and Dinner from the Microwave. I like my microwave as much as the next person, but I had no idea that we required such extensive instruction for using it. I guess in the 1960s when it was marketed to the public, things like microwave dinners and steam-able vegetable packets didn't exist, so people really were cooking from scratch with their microwave. Unthinkable!

(confession: I know microwaves have dubious effects on health, but I can't help but stare inside and watch my food cook! Eric is often horrified to walk into the kitchen and find me with my nose almost touching the microwave door.)

Back to the book sale...
One of the books I picked up is called Rosie's Bakery: All-Butter, Fresh Cream, Sugar-Packed No Holds Barred Baking Book. Excellent, I know.

In this book is the absolute best vanilla cake recipe I've encountered yet. It's texture, flavor and look are unparalleled. It also had an idea for a "Summertime Cake," which I've adapted to create my Golden Summer Cake. Lemon Curd fills the delicious yellow cake, and it's topped with fluffy vanilla frositng. It's divine.

Golden Summer Cake (doesn't that sound nice?) adapted from Rosie's Bakery Book.

Vanilla-Sour Cream Cake (makes two 9 or 10 in layers to be cut in half. You could also make three layers from this recipe)

3 3/4 cup cake flour (make sure to pour into the cup measure and scrape the top- don't just scoop)
1 1/4 t baking powder
1 1/4 t baking soda
3/4 t salt
3 1/2 sticks butter
2 cups sugar
2 t vanilla extract
6 egg yolks
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup sour cream

Preheat to 350 degrees.

Grease and line 2 or 3 pans with parchment rounds.
Sift the flour with the baking powder, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl.

Use an electric mixer to cream the butter and sugar until very fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the yolks and eggs one at a time, blending each well and scraping down the bowl as needed.

Alternate adding the dry ingredients and the sour cream in 2 or 3 additions. Mix only until incorporated before adding the next addition. When everything is added, turn the mixer to low and blend until the batter is very smooth. It tastes so good at this point :)

Divide the batter between your pans and smooth the top. Drop the pans a few times from a few inches up to get the bubbles out. Bake for about 35 minutes, until the cake springs back when you touch it and a knife stuck in the middle comes out clean.

Cool the layers completely before cutting in half. Take a long serrated knife and work around the sides of the layer to make sure it's cut evenly.

While the cake is baking, make the Lemon Curd Filling

2 t finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 4 lemons)
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 stick of butter

Mix the zest, juice, eggs and sugar in a saucepan and heat, stirring very often, over medium heat until it boils and is thickened. Pour through a strainer into a medium bowl. Cut the butter into small pieces and stir into the lemon curd until melted. Set the bowl into an ice bath and stir occasionally until cool. When cool, put into the fridge for at least an hour.

Finally, make the vanilla buttercream. Rosie's book introduced me to adding significant amounts of cream to the butter when making buttercream. When mixed long enough, the cream actually turns into butter itself. Pretty cool.

1 lb (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups heavy cream
2 t vanilla extract
1 pound or 6 cups powdered sugar

Mix all the ingredients with the paddle attachment in a stand mixer. You can do this with a hand held mixer, but the frosting takes at least 10 minute to come together, and thats a long time to stand there, hand vibrating.

Mix on medium-high until the frosting is light and fluffy, at least ten minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed. At first some of the cream might want to splash out, so I recommend wrapping some plastic wrap around the open part of the bowl.

This frosting is great because you can flavor it with just about anything. So far I've used espresso to make mocha frosting, I've added white chocolate, and I've added raspberry jam.

To assemble the cake, take your split layers and stack, spread about a 1/2 cup lemon curd between each. Spread a thin crumb coat of vanilla buttercream all over the cake and stick in the fridge for 10 or so minutes before completing the cake. For an easy garnish, I like to cut thin slices of lemons and slit them on one side to make little lemon curls as seen in the above picture.

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