Monday, November 16, 2009

Heavenly Cake Bakers: Woody's Lemon Luxury Cake -- well, almost

The Heavenly Cake Bakers' project for this week is Woody's Lemon Luxury Cake -- a lemon-flavored yellow butter cake (with white chocolate in the batter), layered with lemon curd, and frosted with a white chocolate-vanilla-lemon buttercream.

Mine is actually a Lemon "Whisper of Luxury" White Cake. Let me explain.

The full recipe calls for 13 egg yolks, 4 whole eggs, 17.8 ounces of butter and 16.6 ounces of white chocolate. Whew! Even with Green & Black's white chocolate on sale at the co-op, the monetary and calorific cost of the cake was scaring me. And then there was the thought of all those left-over egg whites. Do you know how many containers of egg whites are already in my freezer? (Good, then you can tell me, because I've lost track...too many, is all.)

But my taste buds wanted this cake. I love lemon! OK, I'll make a half recipe of the cake and bake it in 6-inch round pans instead of 9-inch round pans. And I'll make 3/4 of the recipe for the frosting, because I'll probably need more than half. (At some point I'd like to make a post explaining the math for this. But maybe not now.)

And, to help with the egg white problem, I'll make it a white cake instead of a yellow cake. Hey, if you turn to page 48 of Rose's earlier book, "The Cake Bible," you'll find the basis for this cake recipe -- the Golden Luxury Cake. It's virtually identical to this recipe - except the Lemon Luxury has very slightly less baking powder, adds a teaspoon of lemon zest, and is baked in deeper pans. And if you flip ahead a page in the Cake Bible, you'll find the White Velvet Whisper Cake. Guess what? It's identical to the Golden Luxury Cake, except it uses 4 1/2 egg whites instead of 6 egg yolks. Aha! A way to use some of those extra egg whites from the lemon curd!

After some time with a pencil and calculator, the first step was the lemon curd -- 3/4 of the recipe. Some of it goes into the frosting and the rest is used for filling and decorating. You might think measuring 3/4 of 7 egg yolks would be hard, but I just used my scale. Weighing is the way to go!

The last time I made lemon curd, it turned out a bit runny, so I cooked this a bit longer. See how it mounds up? Actually, my test for done-ness is to run the spatula across the pan, scraping all the way to the bottom. You should be able to see the bottom of the pan briefly before the curd oozes slowly back, and the marks of the spatula should fade away quite slowly. I've tried going by temperature, but mine never seems to get as hot as it is supposed to.

I love how Rose has you mix the softened butter in with the eggs. Yes, it's a bit more of a pain to wait for it to soften, but the curd just does not lump. You hardly have to strain it - although I did, just in case.

OK, put the curd into the fridge to cool and gather up and measure ingredients for the cake and frosting. Leave in a corner of the kitchen counter overnight. See? I just have to bring out the egg whites and milk from the fridge -- and later, the eggs for the frosting.

All went well with mixing the cake batter until I began to pour the batter into the pans. "Gee, this seems awfully thin," I thought, and then it struck me. The white chocolate! I forgot to add it! There it was, resting on the counter behind me as it cooled. Drat. I should have put it on the same counter. So I scraped the batter back into the mixing bowl, and mixed in the white chocolate. Ah, now it was nice and thick.

No way was I washing out the pans, drying them, cutting new rounds of waxed paper -- nope, I just wiped away the small amount of remaining batter with a damp paper towel and put on some more "pan goop." (Shortening, oil, flour. Thanks to Alton Brown, there is always some of this in my freezer.)

There really didn't seem to be much batter. It only came about 1/4 to 1/3 of the way up the sides of the pan. Hmm. I don't understand. I really didn't lose that much batter with the mistake -- I was very thorough about scraping it back out of the pans. Oh well, into the oven.

They rose nicely. But it was interesting how differently the two cakes baked. The one with the red silicone strip baked considerably faster, despite having a little more batter in the pan. It domed more, and the edges got brown. The one with the Wilton fabric strip took 5 minutes longer to bake. It was more even and did not get brown at the edges. And even though I baked it longer, it came out dense and underbaked. (It's the bottom layer in the finished cake.)

Layer 1: Silicone cake strip

Layer 2: Fabric cake strip

My comparison was not quite fair -- I overlapped the Wilton strip on itself, so most of the cake had two layers of cake strip. I don't think this was a good idea -- it gave too much insulation. And of course there is always the possibility that my oven heats differently on one side.

Both cakes shrank and fell a lot after a few minutes out of the oven. And they were hard to get out of the pans -- but I blame that on my mistake. Some batter had gotten under the wax paper liners and they stuck. In fact, the fabric-strip cake cracked in half. Oh well, the frosting will cover it all up.

So, on to the frosting. First, melt white chocolate and butter together. Thank goodness for Kristina's post about this, or I would have panicked! By the time the white chocolate bits were melted, the mixture had separated into a grainy mess with melted butter floating on top. (It was about 110 F or so.)

It looked even worse just after stirring in the eggs, but as it heated up again, it smoothed out beautifully. For this, you really need to go by the thermometer reading to know when it is done -- there was no dramatic change in texture.

OK, into the fridge with an occasional stirring until it gets down to room temperature. Lovely! Now, beat up some softened butter and gradually beat in the white chocolate custard. Then let sit for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

At this point my husband started saying, "So, is it cake yet?" with increasing impatience. He likes simpler desserts that don't keep him waiting as long!

So, while we're waiting for the frosting, let's put together some of the cake layers. The recipe calls for splitting each layer and filling with lemon curd. Splitting my poor little flat cakes looked like it was going to be a royal pain -- and result in even more cracked cake. (I really should have remembered that white chocolate...Sigh.) OK, go to Plan B -- let's leave it at two layers and just put a really thick layer of lemon curd in between. Hey, I like that idea! And my lemon curd is nice and thick, not runny at all. See? (If you look closely, you can see the crack in the layer, too.) Wrap it up and put into the fridge for a while...

The frosting got to rest for about an hour and 15 minutes ("When will it be cake?") before I beat in a bit of the lemon curd. A taste test revealed only a faint taste of lemon. Now, I like my lemon desserts to be lemony. They may not have to shout "LEMON!!" (although I don't mind if they do), but they at least have to state "Lemon!" with a bit of emphasis. So I pulled out the jar of Penzey's lemon extract and the jar of frozen lemon zest/sugar/vodka and started doctoring it up. It took several additions before I was happy with the taste. It was still only saying "lemon," but at least the white chocolate had receeded to the background. That's where I prefer it. I'm not a fan of white chocolate, although it can be nice as a subtle whisper.

The cake got a crumb coat and a brief rest in the refrigerator, then the final coat of frosting. At this point the cake is supposed to chill again, but the cries of "Cake now!" were getting louder, not to mention that it was getting late. If I didn't finish up this cake now, we'd have to wait until tomorrow. "Unacceptable!" was the unanimous decision on that idea.

But, I am a food blogger, after all. Since I didn't have time to make the frosting all smooth and lovely, I settled for some rustic vertical spatula swipes up the sides. And we had to have some swirls of lemon curd on top! That was problematical because the buttercream was room temperature and quite soft and the curd was cold and quite firm. But eventually (fairly quickly, actually) I managed a sort of giant daisy/sunflower effect with a nice blob of lemon curd in the center.

It's cake! And very good cake too.

And what did I learn this time?
1) Lemon curd is sublime. Totally worth those left-over egg whites. Well, I already knew that, but I was reminded again.
2) Don't forget the white chocolate!
3) Don't mix types of cake strips. Who knew?
4) Eggs really are great emulsifiers.
5) A fancy cake project does better when spread out over several days. (I'm sure my husband will be happy to remind me of this. Or to say "is it done yet?" if I forget.)
6) Even a less-than-perfect cake can be delicious!


Vicki said...

Brilliant way to lighten it up. Did you taste the white chocolate before using any? HEAVENLY! The Easter bunny can keep the darker stuff from now on!

Jenn said...

Barbara, great story! I had issues with my cake as well. One cake didn't bake properly so I started over. You're right that it's good to spread it over several days. I would have given up had I not started a day earlier.

Amanda said...

Holy cow on the ingredient list, but OMG that looks awesome!!!

Clivia said...

Mmm. I love lemon curd. This cake sounds divine! Congrats on all your hard work.

faithy, the amateur baker said...

Wow! I love your version! I probably would have love the cake if i have done it your way! Just frost one layer with lemon curd! :)

Mendy Greenstein said...


I liked how you used the egg whites. Good thinking!

Rachelino said...

Wow, I agree with you. I had calorie sticker shock by all the egg yolks, too.
I also have the same problem with curds. Perhaps it's the pans I use, but I do not rely on temperature for curds, but the test with the spatula across the bottom of the pan like you.
I think I read it in Cooks Illustrated. If you can make a streak that fills in quickly, but not immediately, it's done. If the streak fills in very slowly or not at all it's overcooked.
I like your sunflower. It's cute...

ButterYum said...

Hi Barbara - I really love the last photo... your cake looks perfect! I love the cute flower design on top too! Great idea to use the egg whites too!


JC said...

You cake is beautiful. I agree, this was very time consuming and had way too many eggs, too much butter and calories. But it was worth it for a big splurge. I had 1 piece.

Anonymous said...

Did you find that you really needed 3/4 recipe instead of half? I always wondered.

Bungalow Barbara said...

Vicki, yes, I did take a nibble or two of the white chocolate. But I'm sad to say, it just confirmed me in my opinion, which is, I don't like the taste of cocoa butter. And white chocolate tastes of sugar, vanilla (lovely!) and cocoa butter (weird and funky to my taste buds.) Oh well.

Anon, I used up almost all of the 3/4 recipe of lemon curd but had tons of frosting left. But the cake was supposed to have a layer of frosting in the middle, too, which I left out.

When you cut a cake recipe in half and bake it to the same height, the surface area of the top of each layer is also decreased to half. So, if you were only frosting the tops of the layers, you would need half as much frosting as well. The problem is the sides. If you make the layers the same height as the original recipe, the surface area of the sides is 71% of what it was for the original recipe.

So you're going to need more than 50% but less than 71% of the original amount of frosting. Making 2/3 the recipe will probably do it. I decided on 3/4 because I didn't mind having extra and the math seemed a little simpler.

Nina said...

Wow, your cake looks fantastic! Beautiful job. Love the lemon curd "daisy" on top.

Karine said...

You did a great job with your cake! Thanks for sharing :)

Baking Sorceress' Apprentice said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Baking Sorceress' Apprentice said...

You were so creative in solving the little problems as they presented themselves! The cake slice looked wonderful! and loved the large yellow daisy on top. joan