How do you feel about surprises? As a general rule of thumb, I love surprises. Treats, a card, a call out of the blue, a party. You name it.
People can surprise you too. Strangely, I find comfort in the uncertainty of that. Obviously this can be a good thing or a bad thing. If it’s a bad surprise, well no one likes that. But then you get to come around to the fact that you’re awesome and they’re just missing out on all the awesomeness. If it’s a good surprise, well hot damn! That just restores your faith in humanity a bit, doesn’t it? People can change and you can change too. Here’s a little nugget for you to take home: be who you want to become everyday.
Just in case you missed it…be who you want to become everyday. Kind of scary and exhilarating, isn’t it? :) I’ll support you!
You can be someone who tries foods you think you don’t like, and then surprises yourself. And you know what was a great surprise recently? Feeding lemon birthday cake to people who don’t like lemon cake and hearing cake-muffled “derricious” from the new converts. I’ve been wanting to make a lemon birthday cake for someone for such a long time, but apparently it isn’t met with the same embrace of the decadence and luxury that is a Chocolate Coffee Chiffon Cake or a Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake. I get you. Let’s eat chocolate. But can we eat lemon sometimes too?
I finally found a birthday boy that was ready to embrace the lemony dessert, and I’m so glad he did! The real stars of this cake are the lemon curd filling and the lemon buttercream frosting. You know my feelings on buttercream – I mean, it’s silly-good, but then I was always the one to lick the frosting off the cupcakes and discard the cake portion. But I digress. I also feel similarly about lemon curd. Bad name, but a luxurious and decadent dessert component to be sure. It’s rich and creamy, yet tangy. It all came together quite well.
Here’s what I did:
Lemon Lemon Cake
For the cake, just do a basic yellow cake in two layers, perhaps like this one from Smitten Kitchen: http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2009/07/best-birthday-cake/
*slightly adapted from Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food
Using a microplane or the small holes on a grater, zest:
Set aside in a small, heavy pot (this will be your cooking vessel). Juice into a measuring cup:
-3 or 4 lemons until you have about 1/2 c. fresh juice
Into the pot, mix together:
-3 egg yolks
-1/3 c. sugar minus 2 tsp.
-1/2 tsp. salt
Stir in the lemon juice. Add:
-6 Tbs. butter, cut into small cubes
Over medium-low heat, cook the mixture, stirring constantly until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of your wooden spoon. Be careful not to boil the mixture or forget to stir or the eggs will curdle. Remove from the heat, and store the lemon curd in the refrigerator – at least for an hour before using as the filling. You can make it up to three days ahead of time.
Lemon Buttercream Frosting
Beat with the paddle attachment of a stand mixer, until light in color and fluffy:
-2 sticks (1 c.) softened butter
Add and mix on low until incorporated:
-2 c. powdered sugar
Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula and add:
-2 c. powdered sugar
-2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
-2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
-the zest of one lemon
-1/2 tsp. salt
Beat slowly at first, increasing the speed to medium-high until light and fluffy. Add another cup of powdered sugar if you like your frosting thicker.
To assemble the cake, lay your first cake layer on your serving plate. Cut a bit of the cake out to make room for the lemon curd filling – using a long bread knife, cut a shallow inverted cone shake out of the cake (only about a half an inch thick at the center and very thin on the edges). Discard (or taste-test) that piece. Pour and spread the lemon curd over the cake layer. Add the next cake layer on top. Frost the cake. Garnish with lemon zest and birthday candles if it’s that sort of gig :)
**French phrase for fun: