super duper über lemon cake – with blueberries!

A few weeks ago, I discovered a wonderful place. And upon discovering that wonderful place, I immediately shared it with my mum. She was equally impressed.

For what modern woman doesn’t want to know about the joys of baking cakes in the gorgeous fashions of Sweetapolita? I wanted to know.

I’m a big fan of making fancy cakes, if only for the time it takes to put one together. I like to eat them, sure, but it’s not my top priority. Find my way to the Sweetapolita blog, I was impressed, but also slightly intimidated. Because my cakes don’t usually turn out looking like well-groomed beauty pageant contestants.

So it was only a matter of time before I decided to make one of these beauties. Enter Easter. I didn’t get enough sweets from the homemade marshmallow friends that I made that morning, oh no…. I longer for something more. Something sugarier – would this be possible?

So while my pan of mallow was still cooling, I began to make what may be the neatest-looking cake my two hands have ever put together. Until now, my chief triumph has been a banana-caramel cake with mascarpone frosting, a Martha Stewart recipe. Or perhaps it was my take on a 9-layer Dobos torte, with a Grand Marnier flavored Swiss meringue buttercream (see? Grand Marnier keeps popping up left and right. It’s time for a break from you, Marnier!), and then covered on the outside of that with a massive piping of meringue – made for a friend’s birthday.

We have now established that I like to make cakes. Keeping that in mind, we should also establish that many of the trees here in my fair city now have leaves! It’s exciting to watch leaf out – endlessly exciting for excitable me. When thinking of photos that I could pair with this cake, the beautiful daffodils, tulips and freshly-sprouted leaves that I see every day immediately came to mind. However, it hit me that this cake is really bold. It is really bright. It is plenty of springy sunshine on its own. And so having enough drama from The Bold and The Beautiful cake alone, I chose to photograph in black and white.

Perhaps the tastiest part of making this cake came in the form of the lemon C.U.R.D. While I’ve made variations of curd that tend more toward the custard end of the spectrum, I hadn’t made a true lemon curd. In my mind, it was difficult (or something… I’m not sure what I was thinking).

Well, it wasn’t. But it was delicious! Made simply of egg yolks, lemon juice and zest, sugar, and unsalted butter, it came together nicely and surprised me into tasting it at least eighteen times, with several spoons as well as three or four fingers, before it went into the fridge to set.

The frosting was nearly as tasty, but incredibly sweet. By Easter afternoon, I had overextended myself on sugar due to my intense snacking regime that consisted solely of friendly marshmallows, Cadbury creme eggs, and Starburst jelly beans. My week-long Easter candy sugar ride is only now drawing to a close, as I reach the bottom of my basket. Still, some Lake Champlain and Lindt chocolates remain, thank goodness.

On a semi-serious note, all savory foods that I have eaten in the past few days have tasted incredibly salty, almost painfully so. I can feel the salt, and it feels angry. Or at least overly flavorful. I’m curious to know if this is my palate’s revenge on me for indulging so singularly in sweets for so many days in a row. If so, my bad, palate. My bad. But calm down, already.

And now, without further ado, the recipe. This cake will take you some time, especially if you take breaks to

a) cut out homemade marshmallows friends with “your favorite Easter cookie cutters,”

b) go for a long walk that culminates in climbing on rickety iron structure, all the while taking pictures, and

c) stop to admire the wicked awesome butt portion ham that your boyfriend is cooking and glazing and effortlessly making look all sorts of delicious, while you work in an effort-filled frenzy to put together your 50-step cake.

Here it is:

Lemon-Blueberry Layer Cake {recipe adapted from Sweetapolita unless otherwise noted}

Makes 1 cheery, sweet sweet sweet cake!

Cake

++Ingredients:++

2 c. + 6 tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 pint blueberries (roughly 2 1/2 c.)
1/2 c. sour cream
1/2 c. whole milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 tsp. pure lemon extract (which I didn’t have, I used 1 tsp. lemon juice in its place)
1 tsp. lemon zest (I used 2 tsp., again to make up for the lack of lemon extract)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 c. sugar
4 large eggs

++Directions:++

Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare three 8″ round cake pans with parchment paper, butter and flour. Sift dry ingredients into medium bowl. Transfer 1 tablespoon flour mixture to larger bowl. Add washed and thoroughly dried blueberries and toss to coat them with flour. Set remaining flour mixture and blueberries aside.

Stir whole milk, sour cream, vanilla extract, lemon extract (or juice) and lemon zest in small bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until pale yellow and very fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time, until well combined. Mix in flour mixture alternately with milk mixture, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Stir until just combined.

Pour 1/3 of the batter into one of the prepared 8″ round cake pans. Gently fold blueberries into remaining batter. Divide batter equally among remaining 2 pans.

Bake cakes until toothpick inserted into centre comes out clean, about 25 minutes. As usual, my cakes required a few more minutes. However, this eggy batter cooks quicker than you may think! Cool cakes in pans on racks for about 10 minutes, then invert onto racks until completely cool.

Lemon Curd {recipe from Martha Stewart}

++Ingredients:++

6 large egg yolks
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 c. lemon juice
12 tbsp. sugar
8 tbsp unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces

++Directions:++

Combine yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice, and sugar in a small saucepan. Whisk to combine. Set over medium heat, and stir constantly with a wooden spoon, making sure to stir sides and bottom of pan. Cook until mixture is thick enough to coat back of wooden spoon, 5 to 7 minutes. Starting tasting this wonderful concoction.

Remove saucepan from heat. Add butter, one piece at a time, stirring with the wooden spoon until consistency is smooth. Abandon spoons, eat a goodly amount. Share with anyone else who may also be willing to lick your lemony fingers.

Transfer mixture to a medium bowl. Get in a few more tastes before you: Lay a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd to avoid a skin from forming; wrap tightly. Let cool; refrigerate until firm and chilled, at least 1 hour.

Zesty and Lemony Frosting 

++Ingredients:++

1 c. unsalted butter, softened
2 tsp. lemon zest
6 c. powdered sugar (it seems like a lot. It is.)
1/4 c.  lemon juice
6 tbsp. heavy cream
1/2 tsp. pure lemon extract (1-2 tsp. lemon juice for me)
2 tbsp. water
Pinch salt
Yellow food coloring

++Directions:++

Cream butter and lemon zest in bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, about 3 minutes. Slowly add icing sugar, mixing on low speed for about 2 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and beat on med-high for 3-4 minutes until very fluffy. Add a drop or two of food coloring, then beat until blended. Yields enough to frost outside of three layer 8″ round cake.

I should note that, not owning yellow gel food coloring, I added quite an immense amount of food coloring. I would like to take a moment to blame my kitchen, which has horrible natural lighting, especially in the afternoon (thank you so much, northeast facing window!). What looked uncolored in my kitchen proved to be quite yellow once I moved the frosting into the light. I didn’t mind, but I probably wouldn’t do this again. Next time I would mix my frosting in the bedroom, where there is a southwest facing window. At any rate, be forewarned. I was forewarned, but I didn’t listen.

++Assembly:++

Spread thin dollop of frosting on surface you plan to keep your cake on. Whether this is a cake board, or in my case, a cake stand (no cake boards), so be it. Transfer 1 cake layer to prepped surface, face up.

Create a dam around the perimeter of the layer using frosting in a pastry bag fitted with a coupler. The lemon curd will have thickened up, but may not be very thick. This dam will keep the curd from spilling out the sides of the layers. Spread lemon curd (roughly 1 cup) inside the dam. Top with plain cake layer, face up; repeat frosting around perimeter and lemon curd filling. Top with third cake layer, face down.

Spread a crumb coat of the sweeeeeeet Zesty and Lemony Frosting over top and sides of cake, using offset palette knife, and bench scraper for smooth finish if you have it (I do not). Place cake in refrigerator for apprx 30 mins. Remove from refrigerator and using same method, frost cake with generous layer of frosting, smoothing again.

Sweetapolita created a ruffled border by adding frosting to a piping bag with petal tip (Wilton #123): with skinny end facing out, use back and forth/up and down motion to create short ruffles. My frosting was not as thick as hers, so I added an edge detail around the top rim of the cake. As the frosting was so sweet and I had OD’d on sugar already, I called it good at that point. I also put it back into the fridge to set the frosting, and to give my stomach a few minutes to get ready for this delightful experience.

Keep cake covered and refrigerated (for up to 2 days – ha, who can eat this whole cake in two days?!? I’m still working on it over one week later) but serve at room temperature.

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9 thoughts on “super duper über lemon cake – with blueberries!

  1. Absolutely beautiful, my dear! I have serious love for lemon desserts, and even though I’m not the biggest cake fan in the world, I’d love to try this! The lemon curd is also *ahem* slightly more dignified here than in that lemon curd meringue I posted recently ;)

    1. Hannah: Thank you, miss! I too greatly enjoy lemony dessert goodness. I find it interesting that you so dislike orange, but love lemon; all citruses of the world sort of mingle in my mind flavor-wise. And yes, the lemon curd is a bit more contained, huh? That dessert from your post did look good, but it also looked like something one would ashamedly devour in the privacy of one’s home.

      I never used to like cake, it felt dry and nasty in my mouth (true story). Due to this, I have always had an ice cream cake for my birthday. Ah… the desperate measures we go to to get our sugar fixes:)

  2. Leaf out is a particularly exciting time for us remote sensing folk, who eagerly anticipate the summer’s batch of leafy imagery…and aren’t surprised when it’s covered in clouds.

    Your cake is beautiful! It left me speechless. The three layer cake I made last week was quite a failure, and I am in awe of your cake-baking skills (oh God, Napoleon Dynamite here). I’m going to be ogling these photos for a while!

    1. Brianne: My cake-baking skills are not even close to being in the same category as Nunchaku skills, bow hunting skills, or computer hacking skills!! :) But thank you. It left me kind of speechless too, but it might have been because the frosting was so very bright and yellow. I doubt your cake baking was a failure, like, GOSH!

      And, I’m glad you’re getting excited for summer leafy remote sensing imagery. You can be excited for both of us, okay?

      ….I caught you a delicious bass.

  3. This cake is gorgeous, I love all the layers (impressive!) and the sound of blueberries and lemon curd together…and I think I’m also a bit obsessed with Sweetapolita’s cakes, having never seen them before. Astounding!

    1. Laura @ hungryandfrozen: Aren’t Sweetapolita’s cakes amazing? They are potentially the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen, I think they should be in an art gallery somewhere! Compared with her lemon cake I almost felt bad putting my sub-par version on the interwebs, but then I decided that I wouldn’t even enter the realm of ‘comparing.’ The cake honestly tasted really amazing. The blueberries worked well, and the lemon curd was delicious. Mmm so much butter:)

  4. Gah, what a gorgeous cake!! Lemony, blueberry things are a favorite of mine, so I can only imagine that this tasted as good as it looks. I’ve been hearing a lot about Sweetapolita lately, so I definitely need to check her out. Also, I love the contrast between the b&w photos and this bright cake!

  5. Jessica: Gah!! I concur about the lemon and the blueberry. I don’t know how that Sweetapolita concocts such delicious-looking and delirium-inducing cakes, it’s amazing! I am amazed.

    Thanks for the photo props:)

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