Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Cake of the Week: Lemon Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Fresh Strawberries

Friday was my boss’s last day of work, so we simultaneously celebrated her awesomeness and mourned her loss with cake – Lemon Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Fresh Strawberries to be exact.


This was my first new apartment baking venture, so YAY my oven works! Friday morning I boxed it up and metro’ed to the office, praying that the (albeit semi-sloppy) writing on top would arrive intact. (I like to think of myself as a good writer, and a good cake-baker…but writing on cake is clearly not my forte, so forgive me for the messiness and focus on the message and deliciousness.)


I don’t bake for everyone at the office - just those I really really like. Jenn hired me about a year ago (time flies!) and has taught me soooo much in that time – things I never even knew existed: information architecture, content strategy, and web accessibility to name a few. The Enough Project will miss her, but I know that NYC will love her!

At 4 pm we met for one final Online Comms meeting in her office, busted out the cake and some champagne and honored Jenn’s 2 years of accomplishments.

This is a cupcake recipe that I adapted to make a 3-layer cake. The cake is deeelicious – just the right amount of lemony. Between the layers I slathered frosting and laid out thinly sliced strawberries (I lost my camera in the move, so no process pictures – sorry!). Though it’s tempting to pile on more strawberries, they do add a degree of difficulty when it comes to balance and frosting the outside, so I suggest holding back a bit for appearance purposes.


Lemon Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Fresh Strawberries

Cake Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest (about two medium-sized lemons – you’ll only need one lemon’s juice, so after zesting store the second lemon in a zip-lock bag or Tupperware to keep it fresh)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about one lemon)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups whole strawberries, washed and dried completely, then thinly sliced

Frosting Ingredients:

  • 1 stick butter (1/2 cup) at room temperature
  • 8 oz cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2-4 tablespoons milk or buttermilk as needed

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Spray and flour 3 9-inch round pans.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. With an electric mixer with paddle attachment or stand mixer on medium speed, cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy, about 3 or 4 minutes.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl down the sides as necessary.
  5. Beat in the lemon zest and the vanilla.
  6. Mix the lemon juice and the buttermilk together.
  7. Add the buttermilk/lemon mixture and the flour mixture to the batter in thirds. Pour 1/3 the flour mixture, then 1/3 the buttermilk mixture, beating until just combined, then repeat.
  8. Divide batter evenly between pans. 
  9. Bake for about 35 minutes, until cake tester comes out clean.
  10. Cool in pans for 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire racks to completely before frosting.
For the Frosting: 
  1. Beat butter and cream cheese, add in vanilla and 2 tablespoons milk or buttermilk.
  2. Beat in powdered sugar. 
  3. Add more milk or buttermilk as necessary to reach a spreadable consistency.

Assembly:

  1. Choose flattest layer for the bottom.
  2. Spread a thin layer of frosting on the cake and cover it with thinly sliced strawberries (make sure your strawberries are completely dry).
  3. This is a little different but worked quite well: instead of putting cake layer 2 directly on top of the strawberries, first spread a thin layer of frosting on the underside of it. So it goes: cake layer 1, thin layer of frosting, strawberries, thin layer of frosting, cake layer 2, etc. 
  4. Repeat between layers 2 and 3. If your cake appears unstable, push spaghetti noodles down through the layers to keep it upright (but warn people eating the cake about the potential for spaghetti; Mama rules: whomever gets a piece of spaghetti in their slice gets to make a wish!)
  5. Frost the outside of the cake completely. Store in the refrigerator, but take out at least an hour before serving.

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