Friday, April 6, 2007

Lemon Rhapsody Friday

All good things must come to an end, and so it is that I finish up the Week of Lemons. What a week it's been, keeping a hectic pace of baking, photographing, and blogging every day. I must report that I was successful in my mission to use up the entire 4 lbs of lemons. Today's post and yesterday's dinner of Chicken Piccata used up the last of them. Yahoo!

When the cherry trees were in blossom in the last weeks my daughter commented on the snowdrifts of cherry blossoms below the trees. I loved the poetry of that. And so, me being me, I thought about how I could make a cake that would capture that imagery. I envisioned fluffy white frosting, like piles of delicate blossoms. Then when Week of Lemons came along, I knew what kind of cake to make. A delicate white cake with a hint of lemon flavor, sublime lemon curd filling, topped by drifts of marshmallowy frosting. Oh, heaven!

None of the recipes are original. I used my inherited copy of Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book , 1950 edition, putting together 3 of the recipes from that. It's a fun book to own. I love the slice of 1950's Americana it represents where "tortilla" is in the dictionary of foreign terms, pimento garnish is the height of haute cuisine, and apparently shortening was one of the 5 basic food groups. It's not a cookbook that I turn to for my menu planning, but I love how well its cake recipes consistently turn out.

Lemon Rhapsody Cake
Delicious White Cake

1/3 cup shortening
1/3 cup butter
1-3/4 cup sugar
3 cups sifted cake flour
3-1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon extract
4 egg whites - stiffly beaten

Preheat oven to 350 deg. Line two 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper. Generously grease and flour the pans.

Cream together the shortening, butter, and sugar at medium speed in a mixer. The mixture will be quite granular at first, then come together in a solid clump, and as you continue to beat, become creamy, almost frothy. This stage is important for the cakes consistency. Stop the mixer several times to scrape down the bowl and beater with a rubber spatula so that all the shortening is incorporated.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Combine the milk, water, and extracts.

Alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk mixture, in 3 batches, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.

Gently fold in the beaten egg whites - place the egg whites on top of the batter then draw a spatula down through the middle and up toward yourself. Turn the bowl 1/4 turn and repeat. Do this until the egg whites are completely incorporated into the batter. It must be done gently so as not to deflate them.

Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake until a cake tester comes out clean, 30 to 35 min. Cool in pans for 10 minutes on a cooling rack, then invert onto a plate, peel off the parchment paper, and invert onto the cooling rack to finish cooling.

While the cake is baking make:

Rich Lemon Filling

Mix together in a saucepan:
1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup water
2 Tbsp grated lemon rind
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 Tbsp butter

Bring to a rolling boil and boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Beat in:

4 egg yolks, slightly beaten

Return to heat and cook 1 more minute, stirring constantly. Pour into a bowl to cool, then put into the refrigerator to chill until the cake has cooled all the way.

After the cake has cooled, make

Fluffy White Frosting

Mix thoroughly in saucepan:

1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1/3 tsp cream of tartar (I used a heaping 1/4 measure)

Put a lid on the saucepan and bring to a boil. Keep the lid on the pan for 3 minutes to wash down the sides of the pan. Boil slowly without stirring until a candy thermometer reads 242 deg.

While the syrup is cooking, in a large mixing bowl beat 2 egg whites until stiff enough to hold a point.

Pour the hot syrup very slowly in a thin stream into the stiffly beaten egg whites, beating constantly on high. (How did people do this before KitchenAids?) Add:

1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract.

This is the most exciting part - a huge cloud of steam comes out of the bowl as you add the syrup. I feel like a medieval alchemist, changing ordinary egg whites into a fluffy, sweet confection.

Beat until the frosting holds its shape.

Now you get to assemble the cake. Gently brush loose crumbs off the sides of the cake layers. If your cake domed up during baking, you might want to level that off with a bread knife. I skipped that step and I can see it in the pictures. Cut each layer in 1/2, using a gentle sawing motion with a long bread knife.

Place 1/2 layer on your cake plate. Spread 1/3 of the lemon filling on it. Repeat with two more layers. Add the final layer and check to make sure you don't have filling oozing out the sides - wipe it off if you do.

Frost the top and sides with the Fluffy White Frosting. The frosting begins to set quickly, so if you want decorative swishes in the frosting, do that as you go along.


Anuhea said...

That looks so delicious...perfect for Easter!

Sean said...

*Whimper* Oh my goodness, that looks absolutely wonderful. I haven't had a good cake in... well, probably since the last time I had cake at your house. I love your fluffy white frosting. It's one of my favorites.

Cookie baker Lynn said...

Anuhea - Thank you.

Sean - Well, you know how to bake, so get to it. I'm sure you could find a few hungry college students to share a cake with.

Risse said...

Oh, Lynn! Your cake didn't even make it up to Bellingham. I couldn't resist! Thank you so much for feeding me. :)

Helene said...

I can see we both love lemons! I have bookmarked all the recipes from your lemon week, especially this one. I am so making this for my birthday!