Even though I always start pondering cake options weeks in advance of my birthday, I usually end up choosing something lemony or berry-filled or both, unless I decide on butterscotch. I always have to try something different, it’s never the same cake twice, but the flavors are usually similar. I’ve been enjoying baking from Flour since receiving a review copy last fall. Not only has everything from the book been completely delicious, the recipes have also just worked really well. Even if you have a standard approach to apple pie, and I did, the one from this book might change your mind about it. The techniques resulted in the best apple pie I’ve ever made. So, I’ve come to trust this book, and I’m thrilled that Joanne Chang is working on a second one. I knew there would be a good option for a birthday cake in Flour. The name of the cake in the book is lemon-raspberry cake with lemon buttercream, but I had fresh, local strawberries to use instead. It’s intended as a three layer cake with lemon curd mixed with buttercream and berries between each layer. I cut the quantity down to two layers for the cakes and stored the extra buttercream and lemon curd in the freezer for another use. This was a special occasion cake, meaning there are a few parts to making it, although none of them are difficult.
I started by making the lemon curd in advance, and I used meyer lemons for the juice. The next day, I made the cakes which began by creaming together butter and sugar and then adding vanilla and lemon zest. A mixture of flour, baking powder, and salt were added alternately with milk. Last, egg whites were beaten until they held peaks, and they were folded into the cake batter. While the cakes baked and cooled, I gathered ingredients for the French buttercream. First, a sugar syrup was made in a saucepan, and it was brought to 238 degrees F. Eggs and egg yolks were mixed in a stand mixer until pale, and then the syrup was slowly added to the eggs while mixing on low speed. Once all the syrup was added, the speed was increased to medium, and it was mixed until fluffy and cool. Next came the butter, and this was an obscene amount of butter. Three cups of butter were cut into chunks, and the chunks were slowly added while mixing until the buttercream became smooth and lovely. A pinch of salt was added, and the frosting was completed. One last item to make was the lemon syrup which was a mix of lemon juice, sugar, and water which was brought to a boil to dissolve the sugar and then left to cool. That lemon syrup was brushed on top of each cake layer before the filling and toppings were added. A little of the lemon curd was mixed with a little of the buttercream to make the filling that was placed between the cake layers. And, I need to pause for a moment while I remember that mixture of lemon curd and buttercream because it was delightful. I placed some of it in a plastic bag so I could pipe a quick circle of the mixture around the edge, and that held the berries in place preventing berry juice from running on the outside of the cake. Sliced strawberries were placed on the curd-buttercream layer inside the circle barrier. The other cake layer went on top, it was brushed with lemon syrup, and the remaining plain buttercream was used to frost the top and sides of the layers. Last, some lemon curd was spread on top of the cake, and I decorated with a few whole strawberries.
The cake met my requirements perfectly for lemony-ness and berry flavor. Lemon curd, buttercream, and fresh strawberries couldn’t possibly disappoint. The cake layers themselves were light as can be, and the brushed-on lemon syrup kept them from becoming dry. With the strawberries, it was a cake for spring, and I bet the lemon flavors would be great with blueberries too. I’m not sure I can top this, so I might have to bake the same cake again next year.