Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Better Late Than No Cake

Early on in my marriage I loved surprises. Or rather, I loved the idea of surprises - that special moment when my honey gives me a beautifully wrapped gift and when I open it, I'm overwhelmed. At a loss for words I can only stammer, "Honey, it's perfect!" That never happened.

I'd play the game correctly, giving him lots of hints ("Gee, this coat is getting so worn. Did you see that cute coat that's on sale that I circled in the ad and left on your pillow?"), but instead of the coat I'd get something to which I'd smile and say thank you, but on the inside I was thinking, "Really? You really thought out of all the possible choices THIS was what I most wanted?"

Not to knock my hubbie. He loves me and really tries, but we've figured out that it works better all around if I do the shopping for my presents. I look at it this way - I save him the hassle of trying to guess what I want and then the hassle of shopping for it and I get the bonus of getting exactly what I want. I'm really happy, so he's happy, too. Win, win, win.

This year for my birthday I chose and ordered in plenty of time to be inspired for my birthday cake, Sky High - Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes. When it came I oohed, aahed, and picked out my birthday cake. Lovely, light, lemony, with blueberries. Perfect! Except for the weather. It was waaaaay too hot to bake a cake. I whined about that here.

But I was not to be denied my birthday cake. As soon as it cooled down to reasonable temperatures, I had company over and baked this baby. It was almost everything I'd hoped for. Light, lemony layers set off by luscious buttercream blueberry jam slathered between the layers. But the one thing that had really caught my eye in the cookbook didn't work out for me. Some of the jam is supposed to be added to the batter and marbled into the cake. The dainty swirls barely showed in my cake. Boo! But if that's the worst surprise of the day, I can handle it.

Sorta-Marbled Lemon-Blueberry Birthday Cake
- adapted from Sky High - Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes

2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 tsp grated lemon zest
1-1/2 tsp lemon extract
7 egg whites
3 cups cake flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1-1/4 cup milk

Lemon-Blueberry Preserves
Lemon Buttercream Frosting (below)
Fresh blueberries for decoration

1- Preheat the oven to 350 deg. F. Butter the bottom and sides of three 8-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment paper and butter the paper.

2- In a mixer bowl, cream the butter, sugar, lemon zest, and lemon extract until light and fluffy. Gradually add the egg whites 2 or 3 at a time, beating well between additions and occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

3- In a small bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt, whisking gently to blend. In 2 or 3 additions, beat the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, alternating with the milk, scraping down the sides of the bowl several times. Beat on medium-high speed for about e1 minute to smooth out any lumps and aerate the batter.

4- Scoop 1 cup of the batter into a small bowl. Divide the remainder equally among the 3 prepared cake pans, smoothing the tops with a rubber spatula. Add 2-1/2 Tbsp of the Preserves to the reserved batter and blend well. Drizzle heaping tsp of this blueberry mixture over the batter in the pans. Using a skewer, swirl the blueberry mixture in short stroked to drag it down through the lemon batter without mixing it in.

5- Bake for about 25 minutes or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick stuck into the center comes out clean and the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Let the layers cool in their pans for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely, at least one hour.

6- To assemble the cake, place a layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or serving plate. Spread half of the remaining Lemon-Bleuberry Preserves over the top. Place a second cake layer on top of the first and spread the remaining preserves over it. Finally, place the third layer on top of the second and frost the sides and top of the cake with the Lemon Buttercream Frosting. Decorate with fresh blueberries.

Lemon Buttercream Frosting
- makes about 3-1/2 cups

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 eggs
3 sticks (12 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1- In a small nonreactive saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Continue to boil without stirring, occasionally washing down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush, until the syrup reaches the soft-ball stage, 238 deg. F on a candy thermometer. Immediately remove from the heat.

2- In a large mixer bowl with the mixer on medium speed, beat the eggs briefly. Slowly add the hot syrup in a thin stream, pouring it down the sides of the bowl; avoid hitting the beaters, or the syrup may splatter. When all the syrup has been added, raise the speed to medium-high and beat until the mixture is very fluffy and cooled to body temperature. This can take 15 to 20 minutes.

3- Reduce the mixer speed to medium-low and gradually add the softened butter 2 to 3 Tbsp at a time, beating well between additions. As you're adding the last few Tbsp of butter, the frosting will appear to break, then suddenly come together like whipped butter. Beat in the lemon juice and the frosting is ready for use.


Melinda said...

I probably would do better on my birthday if I adopted your approach. But I love to see him squirm as my birthday comes round. He would love your idea of picking out presents.
I guess I do have a wide and wicked streak in me!
Your cake looks so delicious! I am having a sweet tooth craving with my illness. This cake looks like what I want and I also have a craving for Tootsie Rolls... which are not available here. Just as well.
I love the sound of this cake and it does have quite a WOW factor!

Debbie said...

I now ask for gift cards to my favorite stores for my birthday. My husband and I are both happy that way. He gets what he wants and I get what I want. That cake looks like a winner to me...just beautiful and delicious!

Mama JJ said...

I have the same gift-giving problems (I mean, my HUBBY has those problems) and while I've (mostly) adapted, I'd still like him to really really TRY to think of me...just once in a blue moon. Ya' know?

The cake looks gorgeous---happy birthday!

CookiePie said...

Happy birthday!!! Perfect cake -- love lemon and blueberry!

The Blonde Duck said...

What a lovely cake! Happy birthday! Ben and I are the same way--I take him into the store, point to what I want and he buys it. Then I demand lunch and ice cream.

How did your lunchbox melt on the stove?

Grace said...

well, a happy birthday to you! this is a great cake with which to celebrate, jam swirl or not.

Anonymous said...

The cake looks gorgeous! I think I need to get this book - I have heard lots of good things about it.

Sarah said...

I do that for sure with Sam. He tries to get one thing to surprise me, but I just flat out tell him what I want, and he's less stressed. He does much better with time as his special love language so he spends lots of time with me, and took the day off to be with me. He's a sweet boy.

The cake was just so yummy mom!

Abby said...

We've just stopped giving gifts! Not as much fun, but it helps the pocketbook. HA.

I love that you topped the cake with fresh blueberries. They're so pretty!

Abby said...

Yes! Peanut Butteries is very cute.

And I've made blondies with chocolate chips - they'd go great in these!

Peabody said...

Yeah, I have an Amazon and Anthropolgie wish list....makes things so much easier. The perfect gift finding husband is only on my soap opera. ;)

Mmm, that cake looks mighty tasty!

Lien said...

I wonder why lots of man have this void? Can't they learn it? Mine is a hopeless case. My birthday was last week... nothing at all! Not even a surprise I didn't like... sigh. So I do what you do buy something for myself, but it's just not the same, is it?
Anyway your cake looks the part, very yummy!

natalia said...

Well this cake is really a super treat !! I want some too !!!

Barbara said...

Happy Birthday! The lemon cake looks delicious. Maybe you can't see the marbling, but you can sure see that filling. Fabulous. I gave up on birthdays a long time ago!

We Are Not Martha said...

That is a beautiful cake! I Love lemon buttercream frosting. Yummm!


Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

It's gorgeous! I pick out my own prezzies too, and lots of them!

Maria said...

I usually don't like frosting but the lemon buttercream sounds heavenly!

Mini Baker said...

yum yum yumm!!! Lemon and blueberry sounds like a delicious combo! I'm so excited i found your blog! Its one of y new favorites! I'll be back often :)
Mini Baker

Susan from Food Blogga said...

We don't do as many gifts as we did early on. Truth be told, I'd rather have a cake like this one than some jewelry. I've always been a cheap date. ;)

Baking Soda said...

Same same here! I love that cake! the layers are so light and airy... now I want a slice ánd the book it came from (no can do; my birthday is two weeks old and I got Mrs.Childs 1&2 hehe)

Dolce said...

Sometimes I will ask for a particular gift and say "I would really like to have this" instead of going with hints that he never catches. And sometimes, I just have no idea for myself so... he has to try!

Lovely cake, as always.

Patricia said...

A belated happy birthday to you!! Lovely and luscious looking cake,,,I would like a piece right now!

Rose&Thorn said...

You are a true cake magician! I would love to have a slice of that now!

eatme_delicious said...

Happy belated birthday! I was thinking of making this cake last weekend but ended up going with the maple cake instead. That's disappointing that the swirl didn't show up! Looks amazing though.

The Purple Foodie said...

Belated happy birthday!

I love the tall cake you've made. Looks so pretty.

librariane said...

Ooo--I've made this one!

Love that cake book. I need more excuses to use it.