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 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
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.