Baking with Friends

Lemon Raspberry Cake

As much as I love to cook and bake, I find that it is always more fun to do it together with someone. It’s a great way to spend time with someone and catch up on life. It’s also a great way to relax and ease nerves (i.e, cooking dinner alongside a special someone).

I paid my cousin Pete and his lovely wife Maria a visit a while ago. The purpose of the visit, other than to spend time with each other, was to bake a cake that Maria had seen in Joanne Chang’s latest cookbook “Flour: A Baker’s Collection of Spectacular Recipes”. The recipe was for Lemon-Raspberry Cake with Lemon Buttercream, and after reading the recipe, it didn’t appear to be an easy feat and was either best made in stages over a period of a couple of days, or with the help of a friend.

This cake was well worth the amount of effort it took to make. It was rich, but not overly so, and delicious with a nice bright taste from the lemons. It’s definitely wedding-cake worthy!

My only complaint about the recipe, however, was its “wordiness” — the recipe was spread over three full pages (in small font, and excluding photos). It seemed to cater to those who have never baked before and need help understanding some of the baking methods. Although the ingredients in the recipe below are directly from the cookbook, I have modified the directions in order to be as concise as possible without losing anything significant.

Lemon-Raspberry Cake with Lemon Buttercream
(Adapted from “Flour: A Baker’s Collection of Spectacular Recipes”, by Joanne Chang and Christie Matheson)

Makes one unbelievably delicious 9-inch, three layer cake (10-12 servings)

Cake:

  • 6 tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 6 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp grated lemon zest (about 1 lemon)
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup milk, room temperature
  • 6 egg whites

Lemon Curd:

  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice (6-7 lemons)
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp heavy cream
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Buttercream:

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3 cups (6 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (3-4 lemons)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 pint raspberries

Cake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour three 9-inch round cake pans, or line with parchment paper.

Cream together the butter, oil, and 1 cup of the sugar for 2-3 minutes, or until light and fluffy (4-5 minutes if using a handheld mixer). Beat in the vanilla and lemon zest.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. On low speed, add about one-third of the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture and mix until incorporated. Add about half of the milk and continue to mix on low speed until incorporated. Add half of the remaining flour mixture and mix until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and mix until incorporated. Add the remaining flour mixture and mix on low speed until incorporated.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites on medium speed for 3-4 minutes, until they hold soft peaks (6-7 minutes with a handheld mixer). On medium speed, slowly add the remaining 1/3 cup sugar and whip for 1-2 minutes or until the whites are glossy and shiny and hold a stiff peak. Fold about 1/3 of the whipped egg whites into the batter to lighten it. Then gently fold in the remaining egg whites. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cake pans.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until each cake layer begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and the top starts to get a little golden but is still pale and it springs back when pressed in the middle with a finger tip. Cool in the pans on wire racks 30 minutes. Invert the cakes on to the racks and peel off the parchment (if used). Let cool for about 2 hours, or until completely cooled.

Lemon Curd:

While the cake layers are baking, in a medium nonreactive saucepan, combine the lemon juice, butter, and cream. Place over medium-high heat until just under a boil. In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk together the eggs and egg yolks until combined, and then slowly whisk in the sugar until combined. Remove the lemon juice mixture from the heat and gradually mix a little of it into the sugar-egg mixture. Continue whisking the hot liquid into the egg mixture a little at a time until all of it has been incorporated.

Return the contents of the bowl to the saucepan, and return the saucepan to medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.. Scrape the bottom of the pan frequently in order to prevent the eggs from scrambling. Cook for 5-8 minutes or until the mixture thickens and coats the spoon thickly. To test, draw your finger along the back of the spoon, the curd should hold the trail for a second or two before it fills.

Remove the curd from the heat and strain into a bowl. Whisk in the salt and vanilla. You should have about 2 cups. Cover tightly and refrigerate for 1-2 hours, or until cold. The curd can be made up to 5 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Lemon Curd

Buttercream:

In a small saucepan, stir together the sugar and water. Place over high heat, bring to a boil and cook without stirring for 3-4 minutes. Meanwhile beat together the eggs and egg yolks on medium speed for 3-4 minutes or until pale and light.

When the syrup is ready, remove from the heat. On low speed, slowly add the syrup into the eggs, drizzling it down the side of the bowl to keep it from hitting the beaters and spattering. Whip for 6-8 minutes or until the mixture turns light and fluffy, is pale and cool to the touch. Turn down the speed to low and add the butter, a few chunks at a time. Increase the mixer to medium speed and continue to whip for 4-5 minutes (6-7 minutes with a handheld mixer). The mixture will break and look curdled at first, but will soon become smooth and silky.

Add the salt and whip until completely combined. You should have about 6 cups. Use within 30 minutes, or cover and leave at room temperature for up to 8 hours. Then beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until smooth before using. You may also transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, then bring to room temperature and beat with a mixer for a few minutes until smooth before using.

In a small saucepan, combine the lemon juice, water, and sugar and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. This syrup will be used to moisten the cake layers.

Scoop about 3 cups of the buttercream into a medium bowl, add about 1/2 cup of the lemon curd, and whisk together until well combined. This will be used to fill the cake. Set aside the remaining buttercream for frosting the cake and set aside about 1/3 cup curd for finishing off the top.

Remove the cooled cakes from their pans. Using a long serrated knife, trim the top of each cake to level it. Place one layer on a cake plate. Brush generously with about 1/3 of the lemon syrup.

Spoon about 1 cup of the curd-buttercream mixture onto the cake layer and use an offset spatula to spread evenly to the edges. Spoon about 1/2 cup of the curd-buttercream mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch round tip and pipe a layer of it around the perimeter in order to form a “flood layer.” (Alternatively, use a small offset spatula to spread and push some of the curd-buttercream mixture from the middle of the cake up around the edge to create a crater of sorts.). Carefully spread about half of the nonreserved lemon curd onto of the buttercream. Sprinkle half of the raspberries evenly on top.

Carefully place a second layer on top of the raspberries and press down lightly so the cake adheres to the curd and the raspberries settle into the curd and curd-buttercream layers. Brush the second layer with half of the remaining syrup, then spoon on another 1 cup of the curd-buttercream mixture, spreading it to the edges. Repeat the flood layer,then spread the rest of the nonreserved curd on top of the buttercream. Set aside a few raspberries for garnishing the top, then sprinkle the remaining raspberries evenly over the curd layer.

Brushing with Syrup

Layering the Lemon Curd

Placing the Raspberries

Carefully place the third layer topside down on top. Brush the remaining lemon syrup over the top. At this point, the cake needs to firm up in the refrigerator before you finish it. Place in the fridge for one hour or up to 2 days, wrapped in plastic wrap.

After the cake has firmed up, spoon about 1 cup of the reserved plain buttercream on top of the cake and spread it over the top and down the sides, smoothing the buttercream and covering the entire cake with a thin layer. This is the crumb coat. Refrigerate the cake again for 30 minutes to set the crumb coat.

Spoon about 1 1/2 cups plain buttercream on top and spread evenly across the top and down the sides. This is the finishing layer of frosting. Spread the reserved 1/3 cup curd on top of the cake, spreading it in a very thin layer. Spoon any remaining buttercream in a pastry bag fitted with a small round or star tip and pipe a decorative line along the top and/or the bottom edge of the cake. Garnish with the reserved raspberries.

This cake can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two days.

The final touches

The Final Cake!

Enjoy!

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