April Showers Bring May Flowers
Are you as ready as I am to move past the showers and onto the flowers?
I thought it would be cute to use the new pan I got from CSN stores for this post. CSN gave me the opportunity to choose an item from one of its stores to review, and after much deliberation I selected the Nordicware Petits Fours pan. I was really impressed with the service and how quickly the pan arrived and will definitely consider CSN for future purchases. (I just wish CSN didn't send so many follow-up and sale emails.)
The pan features flower-shaped molds the size of mini cupcakes. It took me quite a while to decide what kind of cake to make in the pans. I wanted something that would show the details of the flowers, unlike a chocolate cake. Eventually I decided on a lemon cake because it was stuck in my head after being around it at the bakery all week, and I thought the light-colored batter would work well for showing off the floral details of the baked cakes. I used Rose Levy Beranbaum's recipe for Woody's Lemon Luxury Layer Cake.
Woody's Lemon Luxury Layer Cake (adapted from Rose's Heavenly Cakes)
6 ounces white chocolate (preferably Ghirardelli baking bars)
6 large egg yolks
1 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups sifted cake flour (sift flour into the measuring cup)
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons superfine sugar
4 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray Petits Fours pan with non-stick baking spray.
Melt chocolate in small bowl in microwave in 15-second increments, stirring after each. Set aside to cool.
In medium bowl, whisk yolks, 1/3 cup of the milk, and vanilla until combined.
In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest on low speed, just until incorporated. Add the butter and remaining 2/3 cup of milk. Mix on low until dry ingredients are moistened, and then raise speed to medium and beat for 1 1/2 minutes.
Next, add the egg mixture in three parts, and beat at medium speed for 20 seconds after each addition.
Scrape down the bowl, and add the melted chocolate. Mix until incorporated.
Scoop batter by 1/2-tablespoonfuls into prepared Petits Fours pan. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown and until toothpick inserted in center of one of the middle cakes comes out clean and cakes spring back when lightly touched.
Let cool in pan for 5 to 10 minutes, until pan is cool enough to handle, and then transfer cakes to wire cooling rack. Repeat with remaining batter. If you get tired of scooping 1/2 tablespoons of batter into the Petits Fours pan, you can do what I did and pour the remaining batter into a cake pan and make a cake! Baking time will vary based on how much batter you have leftover and what size cake pan you use.
Things to keep in mind for the above recipe: For the first round of baking, I overfilled the pan -- who knew a tablespoon of batter would rise so much?
I went with about a half tablespoon of batter for the next round of baking.
That seemed to be the perfect amount; however, I didn't get the result I wanted, which was well-defined flowers. I bet you can't even tell from the pictures that these are flowers. I consider them lemon-yellow blobs. They tasted pretty good though.
After baking two batches of flower blobs, I still had a ton of batter leftover, so I simply poured the rest of the batter into a round cake pan and baked it off. I initially thought I would serve the lemon cake with berries and homemade whipped cream, but after more consideration and more drooling over the picture of Woody's Lemon Luxury Layer Cake in Rose's Heavenly Cakes, I decided to try to make the lemon buttercream that goes with the cake.
The buttercream consists of a white chocolate custard base, lemon curd, and butter. I cut the buttercream and white chocolate custard recipes in half and determined that I would only need to make one-third of the lemon curd recipe, which I started working on first. (I only had two lemons in the house, so that was my motivation for making only a small batch of the buttercream.) It turns out that the recipe was incredibly easy to follow. The only issue I have is that my curd was overly thick, so I'm guessing I must have overcooked it. That kind of bothers me because I followed all of the directions and took the curd off the heat when I could drip it onto itself as the recipe instructed, so I'm not sure why it thickened up significantly more after that. Maybe it has something to do with only making a very small amount.
Lemon Curd (adapted from Rose's Heavenly Cakes)
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1.33 fluid ounces egg yolks (or one-third of 7 yolks)
6 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
smidgen of salt
Place lemon zest in a medium bowl, and set a strainer over the bowl.
In medium saucepan, whisk yolks, sugar, and butter until well blended. Whisk in lemon juice and salt. Then place pan over medium-low heat and stir constantly with spatula. Watch for the mixture to appear yellow on the spatula rather than translucent. And be sure to regulate the heat so the mixture does not come to a boil. To test whether the curd is done, drip some of it off the spatula onto itself and watch to see if it pools thickly. Once this happens, pour the mixture through the strainer, and then stir the zest into the mixture. Allow the curd to cool for 30 minutes.
I transferred the curd to a bowl and let it cool slightly. Then I pressed some plastic wrap against it and left it to chill in the fridge while I made the white chocolate custard base. This consists of melting white chocolate and butter together in a double boiler and then whisking in some eggs.
White Chocolate Custard Base (adapted from Rose's Heavenly Cakes)
5.3 ounces white chocolate (preferably Ghirardelli baking bars)
5 1/4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
In top of double boiler, melt white chocolate and butter, stirring often with rubber spatula until smooth. Beat eggs lightly in separate bowl, and then whisk them into the chocolate and butter. Continue whisking and heating until mixture reaches 140 degrees (use an instant read thermometer). Remove from heat, transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for 45 minutes. Stir every 15 minutes, until cool.
With the curd and white chocolate base prepared and cooled for the appropriate durations, I was ready to compose the buttercream.
White Chocolate Lemon Buttercream (adapted from Rose's Heavenly Cakes)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
White Chocolate Custard Base (recipe above)
Lemon Curd (recipe above)
In bowl of electric stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat butter on medium-low speed for about 30 seconds. Gradually beat in the White Chocolate Custard Base until stiff peaks form. Cover and set aside for 1 1/2 hours. The mixture should thicken and become slightly spongy.
Beat on medium-high speed for 30 seconds. Then add the lemon curd and beat just until combined.
Now for the fun part. I sliced through the cake taking off about the top third. I brushed some lemon syrup (lemon juice and sugar, heated in the microwave until the sugar dissolves) on the exposed cake (because I actually decided to frost the cake two days after I made it and wanted to make sure it would still be moist), and then I layered the inside with strawberries and raspberries and replaced the top.
I covered the top and sides of the cake with the lemon buttercream.
Then I decorated the cake with more raspberries and strawberries.
I can't think of a better way to welcome the month of May -- filled with warmth, flowers, and sunshine, hopefully -- than with this luscious, lemony cake packed with juicy, red fruit.
Those of you who know me well know of my distaste for white chocolate, so you might be wondering why I used a recipe that's so heavy on white chocolate. I was just really, really drawn in by the photograph of the cake, and I kept my fingers crossed that the lemon flavor would overpower the white chocolate flavor -- and it did!
Do you have any big plans for the month of May?