Lemon cakes and well wishes

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It was an incredibly dreary day when I made this, and yet I could not allow it to permeate the purpose of this cake. The summer weather has been odd, abruptly throwing rain in the middle of heat waves whenever it felt like it, like a child throwing a tantrum, or maybe a person splashing water into the face of another in the heat of an argument. Either way, the clouds had caused the sun to cast a dark gray sheen over everything, but thankfully not on our moods.

Jason was holding my camera as I messily assembled his birthday cake.

‘Hurry up, will you!’ He told me as he snapped some process photos. ‘I’ve got tons of things to do!’

‘Shut up and concentrate on taking good pictures!’ I called back.

He checked the LCD of my camera. ‘Oh please. I think you’ll be pleased with all the photos I took,’ he responded, a smug smile crossing his face. In truth he took several blurry photos, but I was in too good a mood to care an awful lot. Anyway, it wouldn’t be right of me to rain on his parade while I’m making a cake to celebrate his high school graduation.

‘Hmph, being narcissistic again, are we?’ I chided him playfully.

It’s been this way between us lately, and anybody who knows what my relationship with this particular brother of mine is like would comment that we’ve come a long way. People make jokes about cats and dogs fighting but those jokes got nothing on us when we fought as children. I remember distinctly a lot of name-calling, body-dragging, and sabotaging of personal belongings, but all of it feels like another lifetime ago.

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These past few months I’ve come to realise that among all my brothers, Jason is the only one who I can rightly call my friend– as in someone I can talk to about serious things, though perhaps not my deepest darkest secrets because he can be such a blabbermouth sometimes. I’ve long ago known that he is the most like me among my brothers, but he is also incredibly different from me.

We both love to draw and write and blog, and I’m glad to finally have someone to talk to about these things at home; but while he blogs mostly about fashion, he does it as passionately as I do when I blog about the things I love. He mostly concerns himself with expanding his wardrobe while I couldn’t care less about buying new clothes every week (I still care about clothes in general because I am a girl after all), because I would rather spend a bigger percentage of my money for buying more cookbooks than I can read at a time. I enjoy baking in my pajamas, something I reckon he would not be caught dead doing (I mean the pajamas part, not the baking part).

He browses the Internet for the latest trends in fashion while I browse for recipes to add to my MacGourmet app. He is sometimes shy about voicing his opinions on a matter in public but his mouth can shock you when we’re in private, while when I was his age, I got quite the reputation for being a brutally frank high-schooler in and out of the house. So you see, even though we are apparently quite different, we are still in essence quite the same.

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I used to really hate it when people say we’re very similar in nature (also used to hate when they pointed out we had the same birthdate!), but recently I’ve grown to see that there’s actually nothing wrong with any of it. In fact perhaps I should be flattered that he takes after me, and I’m not sure how much of that has to do with him “idolising” me like a lot of younger siblings do with their older ones (he would deny it to his death), but I am very happy to admit that I like where we are now in terms of our relationship. Like it enough to welcome the comparisons in fact. Sure there are things we absolutely hate about each other, but on my part, I don’t want to make the same mistake of letting that cloud the things I actually like about him. That’s what children do, and I am relieved in this aspect at least I have matured. We still have our constant misunderstandings and bickering sessions- a normal phenomenon- but indeed we have come a long way.

Jason and I aren’t the affectionate sort of brother and sister. I don’t hug him like I do my other brothers, but he is the only one I talk to about my frustrations in life, and he’s the only one I give advise to using my own past mistakes as examples. I’ve been trying to become a better sister to him, giving him hopefully not questionable life lessons and telling him about attitude adjustments that might help him take the next step in his life. He’s going off to college in a few months (not as dramatic as it sounds since his university is about 15 minutes max away from our house), and by that time I think the fact that my brothers are all growing up will finally sink in. Even though Jason has always acted slightly older than his years, it still gives me a swirl of mixed feelings as an older sister.

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It was only natural for me to ask Jason what he would like me to make him to celebrate this momentous milestone of his, and he was very adamant that there were only two things he would like: that I finally make him macarons, and a lemon cake.

When he said lemon cake, my mind immediately drifted to this particular one which I had bookmarked from the lovely Baked: New Frontiers in Baking cookbook. It was the cake that I was supposed to make for our birthday in January, but certain unfortunate circumstances made it impossible for me to do so. It requires a bit of muscle and requires an almost alarming amount of eggs, but then again, all good cakes require some sort of sacrifice. Jason and I both thought it would be perfect for the occasion. He even came down to the kitchen to “help out”.

He really needs to reevaluate his definition and usage of that word.

Lemon Drop Cake 300x300 - Lemon cakes and well wishes
Baked's Lemon Drop Cake
Lemon Drop Cake 300x300 - Lemon cakes and well wishes
This cake is layers upon layers of lemon; starting from the beautifully-scented cake itself to the super tangy lemon curd filling. Finally, the silky citrusy frosting rounds up this cake that is sure to please lemon lovers. The only thing missing from when I made these are the lemon drop toppings to make this a truly lemony experience!

Makes one 8-inch 3-layer cake
For the cake layers
  1. 2 1/2 cups cake flour
  2. 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  3. 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  4. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  5. 3/4 teaspoon salt
  6. 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  7. 1/2 cup vegetable shortening, at room temperature
  8. 1 3/4 cups sugar
  9. 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  10. Grated zest of one lemon
  11. 1 large egg
  12. 1 1/2 cups ice cold water
  13. 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  14. 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
For the lemon curd filling
  1. 3/4 cups fresh lemon juice (from 6 lemons)
  2. Grated zest of 2 lemons
  3. 2 large eggs
  4. 7 large egg yolks
  5. 3/4 cup sugar
  6. 4 Tablespoons butter, at room temperature
For the frosting
  1. 1 1/2 cups sugar
  2. 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  3. 1 1/2 cups milk
  4. 1/3 cup heavy cream
  5. 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into small pieces
  6. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  7. 1/2 cup lemon curd
  8. Chewy Lemon Drops, for decoration if desired
Make the lemon cake layers
  1. 1. Preheat the oven to 325°F (165°C). Butter three 8-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment, and butter the parchment. Dust with flour, and knock out the excess flour.
  2. 2. In a large bowl, sift the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.
  3. 3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and shortening on medium speed until creamy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest and beat on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, add the egg, and beat just until combined. Reduce the speed to low.
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  5. 4. Add the flour mixture, alternating with the ice water, in three separate additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Scrape down the bowl, then mix on low speed for a few more seconds.
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  7. 5. In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Do not over beat.
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  9. 6. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.
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  11. 7. Divide the batter among the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean. Transfer the cakes to a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Invert the cakes onto the rack, remove pans, and let cool completely. Remove the parchment.
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Make the lemon curd filling
  1. 8. In a small bowl, pour the lemon juice over the lemon zest and let stand for 10 minutes to soften the zest.
  2. 9. In a nonreactive bowl whisk the egg, egg yolks, and sugar until combined. Add the lemon zest and lemon juice to the egg mixture and whisk until just combined.
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  4. 10. Place your bowl containing the egg mixture over a double boiler. Continuously stir the mixture with a heatproof spatula until the mixture has thickened to a pudding like texture, about 6 minutes.
  5. 11. Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk in the butter until emulsified. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve. Take a sheet of plastic wrap and press it into the mixture and around the bowl so that the curd does not form a skin. Set the lemon curd aside while you make the frosting. Do not refrigerate the curd unless you are saving it for future use.
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Make the frosting
  1. 12. In a medium heavy-bottom saucepan, whisk the sugar and flour together. Add the milk and cream and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil and has thickened, about 20 minutes. *
  2. 13. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed until cool. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter, mix until thoroughly incorporated.
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  4. 14. Increase the speed to medium high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and 1/2 cup of the freshly made lemon curd and continue to combined. If the frosting is too soft, put it in the refrigerator to chill slightly then mix again until it is the proper consistency. If the frosting is too firm, place the bowl over a pot of simmering water and beat with a wooden spoon until proper consistency.
Assembling the cake
  1. 15. Refrigerate the frosting for a few minutes until it can hold its shape. Place one cake layer on a serving platter.
  2. 16. Trim the top to create a flat surface and evenly spread about 1 cup of the remaining lemon curd on top. Add the next layer, trim, and fill with 1 cup of the lemon curd, then add the third layer and trim. Crumb coat the cake and refrigerate for about 15 minutes.
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  4. 17. Frost the sides and the top of the cake with the frosting. Garnish with the candies and refrigerate for 15 minutes to firm up the finished cake.
  5. Storage: Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  1. * Make sure you stir the cream mixture every once in a while to prevent burning. (Like what happened to mine! But not to worry; the lemon curd added to the frosting will make the slight burnt flavour disappear.)
Adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis & Renato Poliafito
The Tummy Train http://www.thetummytrain.com/
And to Jason, if you ever happen upon this post: Know that everything I’ve written in here is true. Happy graduation! You’ve got a bright future ahead of you, as long as you remember to keep your head just at the right level. 😉

Oh and I also hope you really liked this cake.

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