I can’t believe it’s already August. It feels like the summer is going by so fast, and I’m ready and yet not ready at the same time for it to be over and for school to start. BECAUSE STARTING SCHOOL IS SCARY. I’ve actually got orientation in little less than a week and…well…I’m somewhat terrified. And there are only ten students accepted each quarter so if I don’t like people…SCARY.
But anyways, we’re here to talk about something wonderful: Cake. Cake is wonderful and delicious and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like cake. Cake is glorious and to be adored.
The recipe is (very mildly) adapted from this one. And it is moist and fluffy and tender, and pretty much melts in your mouth. It’s my go-to cake recipe. I’m not going to add all the exact measurements here, so go to that blog to get them. But I reduced the vanilla to one teaspoon, and added the zest of one lemon to the batter.
Anyways, in the book, the Rampion crew celebrates with a lemon cake made by one Scarlet Benoit. It’s a recipe that has been passed down to Scarlet from her grandmother, who would make Scarlet the cake for her birthday.
And, anyone who’s ever had a conversation with me about cake knows that I’m somewhat leery of lemon cake, especially of bakery lemon cake. I find that most lemon cakes taste kind of how citrus cleaner smells, which is to say fake. That’s because most lemon cakes are made using lemon extract, because it’s cheaper, but it’s also faker tasting. The cake, at first, tastes simply like your average white cake, but as you swallow it leaves the faint, bright taste of lemon zest. The frosting is light and cheerful, and tastes so much like lemonade it basically screams summer.
It also calls for cake flour, which, because I basically did no planning before deciding to make this cake for this month, I had no cake flour. So I made some.
First, measure out your flour. For every cup of flour you measure out, take away two tablespoons. This recipe called for three cups, so take away six tablespoons of flour.
Replace those six tablespoons of flour with six tablespoons of cornstarch. And then sift the flour four times. I’m serious. Sift it four times. You want to completely mix the cornstarch into the flour and force air into it so it becomes light and fluffy.
Or you could plan ahead and get cake flour.
Now you can start your cake. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and grease and flour two eight inch cake tins.
I also forgot to get the milk and the eggs out half an hour early (it was seven AM! Who can blame me?) so they can get to room temp, so I used my handy dandy trick. Fill two bowls with warm water. Place the eggs in one bowl and the milk (in the measuring cup) in the other. The water will bring them to room temp a lot faster than letting them sit on the counter.
Separate the eggs. Add 1/4 cup of milk and vanilla to the egg whites and whole egg, and whisk. The original recipe calls for
Add the dry ingredients to the mixer, and mix until combined. Cut the butter into twenty four cubes and add the cubes to the dry mixture, one at a time, in ten second intervals.
Mix until the flour is soft and crumbly. Add the rest of the milk in a steady stream, and mix until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg mixture in three separate batches. Scrape down the sides.
Zest the lemon. I’ve heard you can do it on a cheese grater, but about a year ago I bought a microplane and it’s pretty much the best $15 dollars I have ever spent on kitchen supplies. It’s freaking fantastic. Make sure you buy an unwaxed lemon and scrub it really well before you zest.
You only want to get the bright yellow stuff, too, so be careful not to get the bitter white pith beneath. Add it to the batter and mix until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake tins. Smack them against the counter a couple of times to get all the air bubbles out. Bake for half an hour, rotating the pans halfway through baking. Check at around twenty minutes, and check them every three minutes after that. This is a cake that you really don’t want to overcook, because it will loose some of the beautiful soft mouthfeel.
Test the cake, and once a toothpick comes out clean, take out of the oven. The cake will still be very pale on top, but that doesn’t mean it’s undercooked. Let cool in the pan for ten minutes, then let cool on wire rack.
Meanwhile, while the cake is cooling, make the buttercream.
Whip three sticks of butter on medium high for eight minutes. The butter will become very pale and really, really fluffy. Add three cups of sifted confectioner’s (powdered) sugar. Mix until combined with the butter. Juice the lemon you zested. I don’t have an exact measurement to use, because I go completely by taste, here. Add the lemon juice a little bit at a time, tasting as you go. If you have the flavor you want and the frosting is too thick, add half-and-half a teaspoon at a time until it’s the right thickness.
I added a tiny bit of yellow gel food coloring. You can’t really tell in the picture, but the frosting is no longer white; it’s a super pretty, very pale yellow. This is totally optional. And you can do pretty much anything you want with this frosting. You can add more lemon zest to it, replace the lemon juice with lime or orange, or even forgo the citrus altogether and add a different flavor, instead.
Frost the first layer. You want some frosting to hang off the edges a bit, so it’s easier to frost the sides.
Frost the top and sides. I didn’t do my normal, careful, perfectly smooth frosting job. Instead, I flung frosting in the general direction of the cake and used the back of a spoon to frost it. It gives the cake an artfully messy, homemade sort of look, because, let’s be honest, Scarlet wouldn’t be patient enough to go about painstakingly frosting it and piping decorations.
Basically, to sum it up: this cake is delicious and you should totally make it. It’s especially lovely with strawberries, but you could use pretty much any berry with it and it would be equally amazing. I bet blueberries will go very well with it.
Tell me, blogglings, how do you feel about lemon cake? Yay or nay (or meh)? Do you have any suggestions on what I should make next?