Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Lemon Cake

One of my earliest memories of cooking as a child is baking lemon squares. I used to make them all the time and I'm sure it drove my mom nuts. I'll bet she had other uses in mind for the eggs used in the recipe and I'll bet she had to purchase a lot more flour and sugar because of me and that silly recipe. I even remember once I put the pan in the oven and then promptly forgot all about it and left to go swimming. About an hour later my mom came and found me with a blackened pan of lemon squares. Come to think of it, I think that may have been the last time I made that recipe. Hmmm...
As you can see, I'm continuing yesterdays lemon theme, but today I am going to take you through my process of baking a fabulous lemon cake from the Martha Stewart Everyday Food magazine. I'm pretty sure I receive that periodical as a "bonus" gift associated with my Martha Stewart Living subscription and let me tell you- I love it. I'm not gonna lie to you- I've always been a fan of Martha. Even back in her prison days, I pictured her (as I'm sure many people did) making coordinating bedsheets and window treatments for her cell, teaching the other inmates how to maximize their limited cell space, and giving the cafeteria cooks tips on how to make that meatloaf nice and moist. Anyway, this particular issue included a recipe for a "Cake 3 Ways." It's a standard vanilla cake recipe with 2 different variations- one chocolate and the other- you guessed it- LEMON! I think sometimes people are intimidated by Martha's recipes, so I'm going to walk you through this one step by step, complete with pictures. (Haha- I say that as if I'm some kind of Martha Stewart recipe expert. If only!)

You'll need:
For cake:
2 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 c. sugar
2 sticks butter
2 eggs plus 3 egg yolks (save whites for frosting)
1 T. lemon zest
2 T. lemon juice
1 c. buttermilk

For syrup:
1/2 c. water
1/2 c. sugar
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1/4 c. lemon juice

For frosting:
3 egg whites
1/3 c. sugar
1/2 c. water
2 T. fresh lemon juice
As always, begin by preheating your oven. This recipe calls for a 350 degree oven. Next, you've got to butter & flour your cake pans. I'm not gonna lie to you- I use the Pam butter & flour spray for ALL my cakes and it works like a dream, plus it's a lot cleaner to use.
Next, in a medium sized bowl, sift together 2 1/2 c. flour, 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 1/2 tsp. baking powder and the zest of one lemon. In a separate bowl, cream 2 sticks of butter with 3/4 cup sugar. I always use my KitchenAid stand mixer whenever I'm baking because it makes life SO easy. (Side note: I purchased my KitchenAid for the bargain price of $50 from an ex-boss and it was the BEST kitchen purchase I have EVER made.) Back to the recipe- the key to "creaming" butter & sugar is making sure that the butter is at room temperature- not too cold, nor too melty. This makes for a nice "creamy" consistency. Like this:
Next, beat in the eggs, one at a time. Then alternate mixing in the flour mixture with 1 cup of buttermilk and 2 T. fresh lemon juice. Do not use the stuff from a bottle. Gross! Try not to overbeat the batter, and remember to scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure the ingredients are all incorporated well. Next, evenly divide the batter between your two 8-inch cake pans. Spread the batter out evenly or you could get some wonky cakes. Nobody likes a wonky cake.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until cakes are set. Insert a toothpick into the center of the cake and if it comes out clean, the cake is done. While the cake is baking, you're going to make a simple syrup infused with lemons. In a small saucepan, boil 1/2 cup sugar with 1/2 cup water.
Take a fresh lemon and slice it nice and thin and then add it to the water/sugar mixture. Simmer for a solid 25 minutes. Here's what makes Martha so brilliant. Not only are you infusing the simply syrup with lemon flavor, but you are SIMULTANEOUSLY making candied lemon slices! Brilliant.
After simmering for 25 minutes, remove the lemon slices and place them on wax paper. Aren't they pretty? They're pretty tasty, too. After you are done admiring your work, stir the 1/4 c. lemon juice into the syrup. Believe it or not, you're almost done. Once the cakes are done, turn them out on a wire cooling rack and let them cool a bit. Then, pierce the tops with a toothpick a whole bunch of times. While the cakes are still warm, brush the lemon syrup on top of each cake. The holes allow the syrup to get down into the cake. Yum! Once the cakes are cooled completely, make the frosting. This is where things got tricky for me. I had never made a frosting like this and I was really nervous to do it. I followed Martha's instructions to the letter and at first the frosting looked perfect. It's like a beautiful glossy meringue. Then, several hours later, it appeared my meringue frosting had "deflated." I have NO IDEA what I did wrong. It could have been anything. I'll probably try this recipe again just to see if I can get it right. According to Martha, you take the water, egg whites and sugar and in a "heatproof bowl" heat them over a saucepan of boiling water. Double-boiler-style is my guess. Anyway, you are supposed to stir constantly until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture reaches 150 degrees. Then, beat the mixture until it forms stiff peaks. Mine looks pretty darn good, don't you think?
The picture really doesn't do it justice. I swear it looked EXACTLY like the picture in the magazine. Here it is on the first layer of the cake:

I have to admit, at this point, I was feeling pretty confident and sure of myself and this frosting. I finished assembling the cake and topped it with the candied lemon slices just like Martha did in her magazine. It sure is a pretty cake. I think I did a decent job making this cake and let me tell you- it was DELICIOUS. Even after the frosting deflated, it was still moist and refreshing and oh-so-lemon-y. It's a perfect cake for summer. Good job, Martha!
Now, if anyone can fill me in on what I did wrong with this frosting, I'd really appreciate it. Thanks! Enjoy!


joebina lemonface said...

this looks delicious! i cant wait to bake it myself!!! compliments to the chef!!!!

Anonymous said...

WHERE'S THE ICE CREAM!! I thought this was an ice cream blog..... But I also like cake, so you're in luck!

"but I like zee cookie"-