Cakes. When I was young I wanted to decorate cakes. I dreamed of owning an eensy shop with the most exquisite flavors. Colors. Details.
For years I attempted to decorate cakes that with their uneven edges and soft, fluffy frosting never turned out as I had imagined.
Last year, I convinced my two roommates to take a cake decorating class with me. This was the loveliest of adventures. Anneke, Shannon, and I each baked a cake per week and attempted to learn what real cake decorating required:
Lots of sugar, butter, coloring, and frustration. Lots of boys stopping by for lots of cake.
Not only was this a special opportunity each week for us to spend quality time together, it resulted in many interesting creations. Like Shannon’s Proposal cake dedicated to Anneke’s boyfriend, Russel. Or the “Wedding Cake” baked for the firehouse boys—which meant we never had to worry about getting immediate aid in case of a fire. Perhaps the best creation that slid out of this class was Tyler’s birthday cake—the one Shannon spent all day creating. Dark chocolate with vivid blue flowers. It was served with what has come to be a delicate and infamous beverage—what Tyler termed “pond water.”
After partaking in this class, testing more frosting recipes than I ever want to again, and getting frustrated with my own lack of patience, I came to the conclusion that I am not a cake artist.
Yet I still bake lots of cakes. Whenever I have time. And decorate them. These days the cakes end perfectly level. The frosting consistency and flavor is just so. But the decorations—layers of petals, vines, and scrolls—they’d be better found in a real cake shop.
Lovely Lemon Cake adapted from Cooking Light. 1 1/2 cups granulated or ultrafine baking sugar 1/2 cup butter, softened 6 egg whites 1 T. each lemon and lime zest 1 T. fresh lemon juice 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 1 1/2 t. baking powder 1 t. baking soda 1/2 t. salt 1 1/3 cups non-fat milk, plus 1 T. white vinegar Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting 1 t. each lemon and lime zest 1 t. lemon juice 8 oz. cream cheese, softened 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar Lemon Curd Filling 3/4 cup sugar 1 T. lemon zest 4 egg yolks (saved from cake) 2/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 3 large lemons) 2 T. butter
Place sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 5 minutes). Add eggs and the next 3 ingredients (through 1 tablespoon juice); beat well. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, stirring well with a whisk. Add flour mixture and milk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Spoon batter into prepared pans; tap pans on countertop to remove air bubbles.
Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on a wire rack 10 minutes; remove cakes from pans. Cool completely on wire racks.
To prepare frosting, place lemon zest and next 3 ingredients (through cream cheese) in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth (about 1 minute). Gradually add powdered sugar, beating at low speed just until blended (do not overbeat). Cover and chill for 30 minutes.
Prepare Lemon Curd Filling:
Combine the first 3 ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring with a whisk. Cook until sugar dissolves and mixture is light in color (about 3 minutes). Stir in lemon juice and butter; cook for 5 minutes or until mixture thinly coats the back of a spoon, stirring constantly with a whisk. Cool. Cover and chill (the mixture will thicken as it cools).
Place 1 cake layer on a plate; spread with Lemon Curd. Top with remaining cake layer. Spread frosting over top and sides of cake. Chill 1 hour. Decorate as desired. Store cake loosely covered in refrigerator.Pond Water 1 pitcher water add any or all of the following to taste: sliced cucumber sliced orange, lemon, lime melon chunks basil, thyme, mint or other herbs
Chill until cold and water is murky. Enjoy with friends and cake.