Lately, every friend that has a birthday has been receiving a cake, made by yours
truly! I am practicing and testing out recipes for some upcoming baby showers that I’m baking for this fall and perfecting my skills when it comes to cake leveling, layering and making different frostings, icings and glazes.
This cake was absolutely thrilling to make, every step emitted a zesty, fresh scent and every little taste test left me drooling for more. However it took me a long time to decide what cake I was making and ended in a frustrated phone call to the birthday girl to ask some questions about flavors and landed on this one when she proclaimed that she had never had marscapone cheese before and that it sounded fancy…! So Mei and I headed into the kitchen at 9pm. I know, I know! So late in the day! I knew the process was more or less four different steps that would respectively take some time away from Mei over a hot stove to accomplish, but I had at least 14 hours before I planned to deliver it so I knew I would have enough time between steps to play with Mei and Patella.
Reflecting back, waiting until 9pm to start baking a cake like this was probably not in my best interest, by the time we were through making all the parts, we were ready for bed and saved the assembly for the next day (the cake layers will remain fresh at room temperature, wrapped in plastic wrap or double wrapped in plastic wrap and placed inside freezer bags in the freezer for up to one month). The lemon syrup can be made anytime you have a few minutes to squeeze lemons and five minutes over the stove while your tea is steeping. The lemon curd must be made ahead of the marscapone filling/frosting.
The lemon curd. I love lemon curd! It’s probably why I love lemon meringue pie so
much! The lemon curds I have made in the past were not in this fashion and took a relatively short time – I would say under a half hour. But this lemon curd? This lemon curd took years off of my life! The recipe says it should set in 7 minutes, when in all actuality, it over an hour for this lemon curd to set! Trust me, it was all worth it in the end, but what a circus act! Being one of the last tasks of the evening, Mei was bound and determined to stay awake until the bitter end – so half tired and completely unamused at her mother’s cake making abilities, she would whine, half convicted, at a low volume until she would let out a tiny shriek, roll over and bury her forehead (as she likes to do), in her bouncy chair and try to settle in for a nap, toss herself back over, whine, look at me with those longing puppy dog eyes and throw her feet wildly as I tried to console and beg for another five minutes – praying that the darn curd would set in time. It seemed like it never did.
Twice, I had to pull the curd off the double broiler (to prevent any boiling or scrambling) to run and grab Mei and hold her on my hip. Of course, then she was mesmerized by the whisking of the curd and quiet but with a few minutes time, she would resort to burying her head in my shoulder and trying to eat my shirt (in a comfortable way prehaps?) to get herself to sleep – only to whip herself towards the curd and stare at the swirling, aromatic, yellow mass.
Eventually we got the lemon curd done! When the whisk is lifted and the curd allowed to fall back on itself, it held a distinct shape on the surface of the curd! Straining the curd allows you to catch any scrambled bits (we had two fairly small bits) and any lemon seeds that might have made it into the curd (we had a few of those too…); and it all strained very quickly and nicely!
So then we were ready for the marscapone, we guess-ti-mated a package and a half of the cheese, added a little bit more because we like marscapone, and got to folding! The filling/frosting was delicious! A friend of mine, over visiting the next day while trying to help me decide how to decorate the overall finished cake, declared that a bowl of this frosting in place of the “lover’s chocolate” would be appropriate for sexy time – so if I ever go to make this in bulk and sell it, that’s what we are going to call it, Sexy Time Lemon. Watch for it in stores nearest to you! LOL!
Since I had made my friend the whole cake and it would probably bit a bit disheartening to send her a cake with a big ole’ slice missing, I decided to take a small amount of the batter and make three tiny cakes in a cupcake mold to practice on, and so that me and two of my girlfriends could savor a bite as well. Which worked out well, since one of my friends is going to commission my cake making abilities for an upcoming baby shower.
Talk about the perfect solution! It gave me a chance to taste the cake and see how it would turn out but I wouldn’t need to make extra of anything (which was pretty important) and gives me a platform to practice my cake decorating so we could see what works and what looks the best for the final cake. I have been thinking about adding some pressed almonds at the bottom of a cake for sometime now and though that the sliced almonds would bring in a hearty color and add a dimension to the cake that would make it stand out some more. So we got out a packet of sliced almonds and picked out all the whole, unbroken, tallest almonds that were more or less uniformly the same height (that part didn’t go so well…) and once I saw how it looked with one layer of almonds along the bottom, I decided to add a second row to make it come a bit further up the side of the cake. I think next time, I will be adding pressed almonds all the way up the side of the cake. The almonds looked amazing on the small cupcake sized cakes since one almond was the height of the cake and it looked really amazing.
On one of our practice cakes we realized that the natural yellow of the lemon curd was too light against the super pale yellow (basically white) of the marscapone filling, so we wound up adding some yellow food coloring to it to make it stand out a bit more – which made the pearls we set on top of that really glisten and take life! It looked amazing from the top and spiky when viewed from the side and just delicious overall.
We stuck in the fridge for an extra 30 minutes to allow the marscapone filling to really set and while we were waiting, Mei and I got dressed and tackled putting together the cake box. We had some plans to wrap it up all cute like with some plaid ribbons that we had picked out, but I didn’t want to chance wrapping it once I safely slid the parchment papers out from the bottom of the cake and into the cake box. So we loaded up the car with a baby, a mama and a cake in a box and headed out to deliver to a more than deserving, birthday girl!
Ingredients for the Sponge Cake:
- 6 large eggs, separated
- 7 TBS plus 7 TBS granulated sugar
- 1 – 3/4 C sifted cake flour*
Preheat the oven to 350 F/190 C and position the racks int he lower and upper thirds of the oven. Fit each cake pan with parchment paper (just in the bottom), but DO NOT GREASE THE PANS.
*sifted cake flour, means to sift the cake flour into the measuring cup until you get the amount that you need. It is a bit messy, but if you set your measuring cup on a plate, you can brush the extra that lands on the plate back into your storage container for the flour.
First, whip the egg yolks and 7 TBS of sugar in the bowl of a mixer on high-speed until it is thick and very light in color, about 4-5 minutes. You will need to beat them longer with a hand mixer – but this recipe can be made successfully without a stand mixer. Transfer to a large bowl and set it aside while you beat the egg whites. Clean the mixer bowl or get another clean bowl if you’re using a handmixer.
In the cleaned mixer bowl, with a clean whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on medium speed until soft peaks form. With the mixer running, gradually add 7 TBS sugar and continue to beat until the egg whites hold firm peaks.
Then fold in one-third of the eggs whites into the beaten yolks with a spatula. THen use a fine mesh strainer to sift half the flour over the top and gently fold it in. Repeat. Fold in the last of the egg whites until no streaks of white remain.
Divide the batter evenly between two prepared pans. Bake for 18-22 minutes until the tops are golden, firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Halfway through baking, rotate the pans and switch them so they bake evenly. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks to cool completely.
Run a thin, flexible knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake. Turn the pan upside down and give it a sharp rap (it’s ok, these cakes are sturdy). Turn the cake right side up, leaving the parchment paper attached. Repeat for each cake.
Then level the cakes, if necessary, the slice into two layers. Set aside one of the bottom layers to use last and remove the parchment from the outer layer.
Ingredients for the Lemon Syrup
- 1/2 C sugar
- 1/2 C water
- 1/4 C fresh squeezed lemon juice
Heat the sugar and water in a small saucepan, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has completely dissolved and clear. Remove it from the heat and cool completely then stir in the lemon juice until combined.
Ingredients for the Marscapone Filling/Frosting
- 2-1/2 C heavy whipping cream
- 7 TBS sugar
- 1 lb or 453 g of marscapone cheese
Place the cream and sugar int he mixer and whip until soft peaks form. Place the marscapone and one cup of lemon curd in a large bowl and stir until blended – it should resemble the consistency of pudding.
Gently fold in the whipped cream until the mixture is homogenous and thick. If it’s overworked, it will look grainy or separated. If this happens, stir in several TBS of cream with a spatula and stir until smooth again.
Transfer 2 -1/4 C of the filling to a medium bowl for the decoration, 1/2 of the remaining filling to another medium bowl the refrigerate all three bowls, maybe labeling each for decoration, frosting and layers.
Ingredients for the Lemon Curd
- 3 large eggs
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1 C minus 1 TBS sugar
- 3/4 C strained, fresh lemon juice
- 6 TBS unsalted, cold butter cut into 1 TBS pieces
First, fill a large bowl with ice and water and set aside. Fill the bottom of a double broiler (which can be made by placing a saucepan filled with a small level of water in it and a metal bowl on top of that) with two inches of water and bring it to a rolling boil. Check to see that the water is at least two inches below the portion of the double broiler.
Second, place the eggs, egg yolks and sugar into the top of the double broiler, off the heat, and whisk until blended. Add lemon and mix well. REduce the heat until the water is at a gentle boil. Place the egg mixture over the water and cook, whisking constantly, but leisurely and scraping the edges so that the egg doesnt scramble there until the curd is thick, about seven minutes.
- A finished curd should hold its shape, when a whisk is lifted out of it so that a bit of the curd falls back into the bowl, and it should remain distinct on the surface rather than blending back into the mixture and register a temperature of 180F.
- Don’t let the curd ever to a boil, or you will have bits of scrambled egg in the mixture – if this happens, quickly move on to the next step.
Third, immediately strain the curd through a strainer set over a medium owl. Use he spatula to push the curd through the strainer, leaving behind some scrambled egg. Add the cold butter to the curd, burning it so that it will melt quickly. Wait one minute then whisk until the butter is completely incorporated.
Then press a piece of plastic on the surface and set the bowl in the bowl of ice water. Once the curd has cooled, store in the fridge until it is needed.
Place the cake layer, cut side up on the cake cardboard or a serving plate. Line the bottom of the serving plate or cake cardboard with short strips of parchment paper to make cleaning the bottom of the serveware easier and to keep that surface clean. Brush the cake with 1/4 of the lemon syrup. With an icing spatula, spread 1/3 of the marscapone filling on top. Place 3 level TBS of the remaining lemon curd on top fo the filling and spread evenly to the edge. Place the second cake layer on top, cut side up and repeat with the syrup, marscapone and curd. Place the third layer on top, cut side up, repeat.
Top with the last cake layer, placing the bottom up , and remove the parchment. Voila! Moisten with the remaining syrup. Use the icing spatula to spread the marscapone reserved for frosting over the cake, evenly, spreading it thickly on top and more on the side. Keep the layer on top really thin since you will be decorating it .
To finish and serve the cake; spoon the marscapone filling set aside for
decoration, into a pastry bag and pipe rosettes over the entire top of the cake from the outside, in. Put a few TBS of remaining curd in a sandwich bag and squeeze into one corner. Snip a very small hole in the corner, and pipe a center of curd into each rosette and refrigerate the cake for at least four hours before serving.
*cake recipe taken from Art & Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet
**lemon curd recipe taken from Ready for Dessert by David Lebovitz