Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lemon Explosion: Lemon Sponge Cake with Lemon Curd Filling & Cream Cheese Frosting

When I was much younger, my birthdays were filled with Barbie tiaras, pink Minnie Mouse shaped pancakes, ice skating and even multi-colored manicures. The frenzy of pink became trips to amusement parks and small-scale sleepovers. I will skip my college celebrations for uh, obvious reasons. I graduated to law school which was mostly filled with group dinners, one of which provided me with my very first taste of the culinary wonder known as the truffle. Last year? I moped around the house in abject fear of the bar results being released six days later. And this year? Well, this year was the best year of all.

Yesterday was my 26th birthday and I began preparing for it days in advance. I knew I wanted to make my own cake. Sure, my mom would have happily made or purchased one for me, but I was going for something specific. One of my food weaknesses (besides garlic and chocolate) is tartness. I thoroughly enjoy any acidic dessert. I decided I was going to combine a few delicious elements and make the tart cake of my dreams. Lemon Explosion Cake (as aptly named by Megan) would consist of a lemon sponge cake with lemon curd filling and cream cheese frosting. Sounds easy, right? Wrong. You see, prior to this endeavor, I had never before made a sponge cake or a layer cake, nor had I piped frosting or frosted anything other than a cake top. Yeah, it was going to be loads of fun.

I suggest that you don't attempt this or any other frosted layer cake without the proper tools. Instead of purchasing a cake round, I cut one out of cardboard and then covered it in foil. I also utilized zip-lock freezer bags as makeshift pastry bags. Those substitutions worked out well. I also don't possess a cake turntable, but randomly recalled seeing a marble Lazy Susan nestled in a drawer of things I've never seen my parents use. Do not place a Lazy Susan on top of an upside down pot--it will tilt and try to destroy your cake when you turn it. And if you have a choice? Get the offset spatula--the amount of frosting I had to lick off my knuckles made me kind of sick by the time I was done. Errant knuckles don't make for pretty cakes or happy tummies.

So, you'd think that after making and decorating my first layer cake in a fit of chaos I would have just left it at that, right? Uh, wrong. I tried really hard to make chocolate letters that spelled out "Happy Birthday To Me" (I made my own cake, it would be silly to write my name on it). Yeah, failure. I put my melted chocolate and makeshift lettering tools away, only to be struck with utter brilliance hours later, late into the evening. Screw the letters, I was going to make a chocolate giraffe! Why I thought this was a good idea after I had already destroyed a few sets of letters is beyond me. But I did. And I persevered. I spent two hours making two chocolate giraffes. I spread melted white chocolate on parchment paper and pressed my cookie cutters into it. They didn't go all the way through. I re-melted the chocolate, stuck in the cookie cutters, placed a cutting board on top, and then a bunch of cans so they cut through the chocolate fully. The legs broke off when I unmolded them. I "glued" those legs back on countless times. I brushed both sides of the giraffes with extra chocolate for "texture" (read: to hide the patches), and finally got them to stay together. Then one of them broke again--a fast-track ticket to the trash bin. With the final giraffe, I painstakingly brushed on chocolate spots and set it in the fridge for later. You should have heard the threats coming out of my mouth Sunday night, warning my family of the consequences of breaking the giraffe. Luckily it survived to the point of cake cutting, when I bit off its dastardly legs and then let it eat cake.

So what made this a birthday to top all other birthdays besides the best birthday cake ever? Oh, just the fact that I won ZESPRI's Kiwi A-Go-Go Blogger's Contest with my Kiwi Tartlets. Oh yeah, I'm going to New Zealand! Now if I could only get someone to hire me...

Lemon Explosion:
Lemon Sponge Cake with Lemon Curd Filling & Cream Cheese Frosting

(and A Chocolate Giraffe)

Lemon Curd

3 large eggs
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. lemon zest
3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature

Set up a double boiler on your stove. When simmering, whisk together eggs, sugar and lemon juice. Stir constantly until mixture is thick, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and pour through fine sieve to remove any clumps. Stir in lemon zest and butter, whisking until melted. Cover immediately to prevent skin from forming.

This curd is swoon-worthy on its own and can be made a few days ahead and store in a closed container in the fridge.

Lemon Sponge Cake
Adapted From Joy of Baking

6 large eggs, separated & room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar, divided into 1/4, 1/4 & 1/2
1 tsp. lemon extract (or 1/4 tsp. lemon oil)
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
Zest of 1 medium lemon
1 cup (100 grams) sifted cake flour
3/4 tsp. cream of tartar

The actual cake should be made, at the very least, the night before, to allow time for cooling as well as to make it easier to frost. You may also substitute in any white or yellow cake, taking care to substitute in the lemon extract, juice and zest.

1. Sift and measure cake flour and whisk together with 1/4 cup of sugar. Set aside.
2. In your mixer bowl, place 1/2 cup sugar and egg yolks. Beat on high until thick, fluffy and light in color, about 5 minutes. Beat in leon extract, lemon juice and lemon zest. Then sift flour-sugar mixture over batter, but do not fold in. Set aside.
3. In another mixer bowl, whip egg whites until foay. Add cream of tarter and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add final 1/4 cup sugar until shiny and stiff peaks form.
4. Lightly fold in a little of the whites to the batter, then add the rest of the whites. Fold until incorporated, but be gentle so you do not deflate the batter.
5. Split between two 8" ungreased spring form pans lined with parchment on the bottom.
6. Bake for 15-17 minutes. Cakes will be done when lightly browned and toothpick comes out clean.
7. Immediately invert cakes on a rack. Let cool for at least an hour before removing. Place in fridge overnight.

Cream Cheese Frosting
12 oz cream cheese, cold
8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract (substitute for lemon extract if desired)
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

In the bowl of your mixer, beat together butter, cream cheese, vanilla and whipping cream until mixed, 2-3 minutes. Slowly add sugar, whipping on medium-high until frosting achieves a stiff yet pliable consistency easy for piping and spreading. Over-whipping will cause cream cheese to break down, so take caution.

To Assemble

Take cakes out of the fridge and use a serrated knife to level them out if need be. On your chosen "turntable" (a lone upside down pot works) add a dollop of frosting and press your cake round into the center. This will help keep it from slipping. Add another dollop to top of cake round, add first cake layer, and press down lightly. Pipe a barrier between 1/4" and 1/2" tall around the edge of the cake. Plop 1/3 cup of lemon curd in the middle of the cake and use the back of a spoon to spread evenly until it reaches the barrier. Add more if necessary or if you don't plan to add curd to the top of the cake. At this point, add the second layer of cake and press down just a touch so the frosting barrier causes the two levels to stick together.

To frost. You will need a crumb coat, which is a thin layer of frosting designed to keep crumbs in place. For a good tutorial on how to frost the cake, check out One Tough Cookie's tutorial--it's fabulous and helpful. If you're going to add the lemon curd to the top of the cake, first you need to decide what kind of decoration you want edging your cake. Will you be piping pearls, using a star tip or edging with berries? How wide will the border be? When you figure this out, spread a layer of curd about 1/4" thick on top of the cake but don't go all the way to the edge. Leave enough room around the edge of the cake so you can pipe in your decoration which will be the barrier that keeps the curd from seeping. Make sure your border is close enough together to keep that barrier alive.

Keep cake covered and chilled until time to serve. Plop on some berries and serve with the rest of the curd.


Jenni said...

Good job for making a dessert that was completely alien to you (spongecake, etc). It turned out beautifully.

Here's a hint for perfect giraffes. Next time, heat the cookie cutter--then it'll glide right through like butter! 8)

Spicie Foodie said...

What a cute cake! The Giraffe is so adorable too. I bet it tasted as delicious as it looks.

Petes said...

Great job! It looks really good. Happy Birthday!

Chef Dennis said...

what a great cake!! I love lemon curd!! and happy bleated birthday!!! Are you really going to New Zealand? Let me know, I have foodie friends down there!

Megan said...

I look forward to your tweets of crashing the Hobbit set.

Happy birthday :)

Evan @swEEts said...

What an absolutely adorable cake! And congrats on winning that competition.. Going to NZ?! that's awesome!

apiciusapprentice said...

I absolutely love the chocolate giraffes. Beautifully done and it looks like it tasted delicious as well. I hope you had a wonderful birthday!

Chow and Chatter said...

happy birthday wow love lemon curd this cake rocks

The Cilantropist said...

Happy birthday my dear friend, your cake is beautiful and so perfectly you with that giraffe on the top! I wish our whole gang could still be rinding around in your giraffe-mobile and on our way to celebrate your birthday AND your incredible win in the Zespri Kiwi contest!!! Hugs! :)

*kimmie* said...

Happy Birthday! The giraffe is a pretty phenomenal addition!

tastesbetterwithfriends said...

Great anti-pink, anti-lawyer cake! Next year, I challenge you to make some roasted garlic type of cake!
happy birthday again:)

michelle @ The Domestic Mama and The Village Cook said...

OMG! I am soooooooo happy for you! You must be on cloud nine! :)
That cake looks awesome... wait. Cake is awesome. I'm a cake fan. So, you got me with this post.

les 2 gourmands said...

yum yum yum yummy, we want our share !!!!

ravienomnoms said...

I think you did a fantastic job on your birthday cake! I bet it was delicious!

Stephanie @ Per l'Amore del Cibo said...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY and CONGRATULATIONS!! What an awesome birthday gift. And your cake is gorgeous, giraffe and all!

Monet said...

Congratulations! Are you truly going to New Zealand? How incredible! I'm all about baking my own birthday cake...and I think yours looks pretty darn adorable. Happy Birthday! Thank you for sharing. I hope you have a wonderful Wednesday night!

Ken│hungry rabbit said...

Finally get to see this cake in it's full glory. What a birthday and best wishes a splendid year.

Sommer J said...

Happy belated birthday! Lovely cake and beautiful color! The giraffe looks quite awesome! Will refer back to this the next time I bake a special cake! Also, congrats on the trip to NZ! What an amazing experience that will be! Glad this year was better for you than last.

Trish said...

I adore lemon curd. And cream cheese frosting - yum! The cake looks amazing. The giraffe touch is adorable too. Happy belated birthday!

Sharon said...

Belated birthday wished to you..And I am a great fan of garlic and the tartness as well..Love it


This sounds like a truly dreamy cake. But what I really want to do is bite the head off your giraffe cookie! ;)

My Man's Belly said...

Happy Birthday! and congrats on the kiwi win.

whatsfordinneracrossstatelines said...

You did a great job with this! I love the chocolate giraffe. Happy Belated Birthday, I know a really good cake always makes it happy for me! Congrats on the Kiwi win!

Eileen said...

Happy belated B-day! That cake definitely makes it worth celebrating....

sara @ CaffeIna said...

three things are unfair: #1 you are only 26, #2 you are going to NZ and #3 you got to eat this wonderful cake and i didn't! But, you totally deserve it! i'm glad you also got to eat a giraffe :)

saltyseattle said...

1. kick ass cake
2. take funny pictures of you and kiwis for me, will ya?
3. feeling sappy today. wanted to drop by and tell you that you mean a lot to a lot of people in this community, me included. xo, linda

Legally Married said...

Happy late birthday - I think your cake is awesome. And CONGRATULATIONS ON WINNING THE KIWI CONTEST! Your tarts were so adorable - I'm so happy for you!

Laura said...

Gorgeous! Love all the lemon and cannot believe you made the giraffe. Talk about ambitious! Bravo!

jean said...

Though I wished you a happy birthday via twitter, I never congratulated you on your contest win. How exciting to have won a trip to New Zealand--congrats! This is totally my kind of cake, too. Will have to borrow your recipe for a day when I actually have time to do all the work for it. You did a wonderful job. I wish I could taste all that lemony goodness now. :-)

Indonesian Di Turkey said...

I've been searching for lemon cake these days.. and yours looks so yummy and you made it easy to follow.. thx for sharing :)

Danielle said...

Beautiful cake! I love the giraffe and blueberries on top.

JulieD said...

I'm a week late to wish you happy birthday! This cake looks so moist and tasty. Congratulations on winning the trip to NZ. I can't wait to hear all about it on here. Continued good luck on finding a job.

January said...

better late than never... happy birthday! :) i love lemons especially those in a cake but i have to say i love your giraffe more! soooo cute :)

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