Tag Archives: buttercream

Lemon Raspberry Cake

Willow Bird Baking is the namesake of my darling little noodle (read: poodle), Byrd. As I sit here writing this post (and listening to the cooing of mourning doves outside my window), she is at the veterinary hospital recovering from a double knee surgery. Judging by her exuberance about riding in the car yesterday morning, she wasn’t really expecting it.

Apparently both her little kneecaps were popping out of place, and she couldn’t do some of her favorite things (fetching, jumping) without limping. Poor puppy pumpkin. The vet tech just called and said she is standing, but won’t try to walk, and won’t eat a thing. No wonder, since she’s in a strange place without her mama. We go pick her up at 12:30 today, so keep us in your prayers.


Get it? It’s decorated to look like a lemon.

Because of this unexpected $2,400 surgery, my finances have not been my friends lately. I’ve been cutting back: we haven’t been eating out, I’ve been trimming my grocery budget, and the last time I got my hair cut or colored was last August — I’m about ready to pick up some scissors myself. In addition to limiting my spending, another issue needed to be addressed: waste!

I’ve been a bad steward of my kitchen for too long. Buying a bag of cheese with the best intentions, but letting it mold. Buying a bag of fresh herbs, using them once, and letting them brown in the back of my fridge. Buying expensive ingredients (hello, pancetta, I’m talking to you) with the intention of using every last hunk, only to open my fridge drawer a month later and guiltily remember that broken resolution.

So, I’ve been trying to be better. Leftover creams, frostings, and doughs from one pastry become the basis for the next. I survey the fridge for unused ingredients before deciding what to make for Saturday dinner. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than it was!

This past weekend, leftover raspberry curd, nine egg whites left from making the curds, and some extra lemons provided my inspiration.

After buying only some butter, some fresh raspberries, and some white chocolate bark, I whipped up this cool, bright, summer dessert: Lemon Raspberry Cake. The cake itself is my favorite white cake recipe because it’s moist with the perfect crumb. Each layer is brushed with lemon syrup for moisture and tang before being coated in a luxurious raspberry curd. The frosting is rich and decadent, and even the white chocolate decorations added a nice dimension to the overall flavor of each slice.

My “lemon” decoration broke as I was trying to release it from the wax paper I piped it on, so I pieced it together on top of the cake. It’s a little crooked! I’m sure you can do better. I also completely forgot the poppy seed until I made the third cake layer (I mixed it separately), so you’ll notice that only my middle layer has the seeds. Oh well! Crooked citrus or not, seeds or not, we all loved the refreshing taste of this layer cake! Happy eating!

Lemon Raspberry Cake



Recipe by: compiled from adaptations of The Way the Cookie Crumbles (white cake), Notes from my Food Diary (frosting and raspberry curd), Bon Appétit (lemon syrup)
Yields: 12 servings

Cake Ingredients:
3 3/8 cups cake flour, plus more for dusting the pans
1 1/2 cups + 3 tablespoons whole milk, at room temperature
9 large egg whites, at room temperature
3 teaspoons almond extract
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups + 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
6 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
18 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks and 2 tablespoons), softened but still cool
1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seed (optional)

Lemon Syrup Ingredients:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup boiling water
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Raspberry Curd Filling Ingredients:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
Two 1/2-pints ripe raspberries or one 12-ounce package frozen raspberries, thawed
5 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
2 to 3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Lemon Buttercream Frosting Ingredients:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (I opted for a teaspoon or two of lemon extract instead)
3 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions: Make raspberry curd: Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the raspberries, egg yolks, sugar, and salt and cook, mashing the berries and stirring frequently at first and them constantly at the end, until thickened, about 10 minutes (this took longer for me — about 15+). Pour this mixture through a coarse strainer, pressing to get out the maximum amount of liquid. Add in lemon juice to taste. Allow this to cool and then cover (with plastic wrap touching surface of curd to prevent skin from forming) and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the Cake: Set oven rack in middle position. (If oven is too small to cook both layers on a single rack, set racks in upper-middle and lower-middle positions.) Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray three 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray; line the bottoms with parchment or waxed paper rounds. Spray the paper rounds, dust the pans with flour, and invert pans and rap sharply to remove excess flour. (I brush my pans with Wilton’s cake release, then add the parchment circle and brush again. Be sure the parchment circles reach to the edges of your pan to ensure easily release).

Pour milk, egg whites, and extracts into 2-cup glass measure, and mix with fork until blended.

Mix cake flour, sugar, baking powder, poppy seed, and salt in bowl of electric mixer at slow speed. Add butter; continue beating at slow speed until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no powdery streaks remaining.

Add all but ½ cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed (or high speed if using handheld mixer) for 1½ minutes. Add remaining ½ cup of milk mixture and beat 30 seconds more. Stop mixer and scrape sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium (or high) speed and beat 20 seconds longer.

Divide batter evenly between prepared cake pans; using rubber spatula, spread batter to pan walls and smooth tops. Arrange pans at least 3 inches from the oven walls and 3 inches apart. (If oven is small, place pans on separate racks in staggered fashion to allow for air circulation.) Bake until thin skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 23 to 25 minutes.

Let cakes rest in pans for 3 minutes. Loosen from sides of pans with a knife, if necessary, and invert onto wire racks. Reinvert onto additional wire racks. Let cool completely, about 1½ hours.

Make lemon syrup: Place sugar in small metal bowl. Add 1/2 cup boiling water; stir to dissolve sugar. Stir in lemon juice.

Make frosting: Beat the butter and zest with an electric mixer on medium speed in a medium bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the lemon juice and beat for 1 minute longer.

Assemble the cake: I love Smitten Kitchen’s Layer Cake Tips — especially the one about freezing your layers before working with them. It makes it so much easier.

When cakes are completely cool, level each layer using a long, serrated knife. Use a little frosting to attach your bottom layer to a cake board or serving platter. Brush layer generously with lemon syrup. Spread a scant 1/2 cup raspberry curd on the layer (I may have used a little more). Continue building the layers this way, with syrup and curd, until all three layers are stacked. Frost with lemon buttercream frosting. I used white chocolate to create decorations for the sides and top of my cake. Cut into wedges and serve with fresh raspberries. Store in refrigerator.


Enjoy!


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Toasted Almond Cake with Mascarpone Cream and Amarena Cherries

Don’t worry — I did go see my wonderful mom on Mother’s Day and take her a special gift. But (despite the fact that Mother’s Day is now over), I also thought it would be nice to brag on her here a bit and show you the decadent birthday cake she made me. I’ve loved reading blog posts all over the internet about why others’ mothers were so great. Now it’s my turn!

Why do I love my mom?

1. She made me this cake. Enough said (but you know I’ll say more)! This three-layer dessert was a masterpiece of toasted almond, slightly tart cherry, and light-as-a-feather buttercream. Many joyous exclamations were uttered while we plowed through our three-story pieces.

2. She went back to college with four kids (insert appropriate gasp!) in the 80’s to earn her nursing degree. Even with four kids, she managed to graduate magna cum laude from UNCC’s nursing program.

3. She sews: she has created special quilts for me and my siblings, as well as other family members. She also makes clothes for my niece and nephews. Look for a picture of my quilt at the end of this post!

4. She taught me how to cook. It was under her auspices that I made my first Chocolate Sheet Cake, my first pan of Oven Baked Macaroni, and she is always on-call for cooking emergencies. As I mention on my About page, she is my main culinary influence, and I learn new things from her every meal.

5. She (and my little brother — Hi, Alex!) hung out with me for 3-4 hours while waiting for Pioneer Woman to sign our books last week. More on the Pioneer Woman booksigning later!

6. She’s beautiful.

7. She crafts: lately, her creative craft has been homemade chalkboards from antique or recycled frames. See her handiwork at her Etsy store, Posh Pilfer.

8. She decorates. She and my dad have single-handedly (well, double-handedly, I guess) renovated and redecorated their home to be a gorgeous oasis. Once again, photo evidence at the bottom of this post!

9. She cares about her children. A few years ago, she wrote each one of us poems. Every April Fools’ Day, she makes my little brother a wacky meal to celebrate. She has bandaged wounds, baked cakes, worked hard, and sacrificed to make us happy.

10. She rose above a difficult childhood to become an amazing mother of 5 children.

…And did I mention that she made me this cake? This heavenly confection is truly a “special occasion” cake: it’s expensive, it’s time consuming and involved, and it’s positively dreamy. If you want to feel like you’ve been transported to an almond-cherry cloud of joy, you should invest in some fancy Italian cherries and make this baby. It was the grand finale to a fantastic birthday meal, which I’ll share with you soon!

Toasted Almond Cake with Mascarpone Cream and Amarena Cherries



Recipe by: Gina DePalma
Yields: 12-16 servings

Cake Ingredients:
2 cups almond flour
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (not self-rising)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 can or tube (7 to 8 ounces) almond paste, cut into small chunks
24 tablespoons (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
1 tablespoon Amaretto liqueur
Finely grated lemon zest (from 1 lemon, about 2 teaspoons)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Mascarpone and Amarena Cherry Filling Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups mascarpone
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
2 tablespoons kirsch or grappa
1 cup amarena cherries in syrup, well drained and coarsely chopped
3/4 cup cherry jam

Buttercream Ingredients:
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
24 tablespoons (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

Note: Amarena cherries are a sweet-sour varietal from Northern Italy. DePalma uses Agrimontana’s and also recommends those from Fabbri, available at Amazon.com. Almond flour is available on Amazon.com and at specialty grocers. This recipe is for a classic, one-tiered layer cake.

To make cake: Adjust 2 oven racks to divide oven into thirds. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease 3 (9″ x 2″) round cake pans. Line bottoms with parchment paper; grease paper and dust pans with flour, tapping out excess. Spread almond flour on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until toasted, stirring once, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool.

In a large bowl, whisk together almond flour, all-purpose flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda; set aside. Combine sugar and almond paste in a food processor and blend until almond paste is finely ground, with the texture of fine sand.

In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, combine almond paste mixture and butter. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Beat in eggs one at a time until well blended. With mixer on low speed, beat in milk, Amaretto, lemon zest, and vanilla until well blended. Beat in flour mixture, scraping bowl. Beat on medium speed until well blended, about 30 seconds. Divide batter among prepared pans and spread evenly. Stagger pans on 2 racks in oven so pans are not directly above one another. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, rotating pans halfway through, or until a toothpick inserted in center of cakes comes out clean. Let cool in pans 10 minutes. Run a knife around sides of pans and turn cakes out onto wire racks. Remove parchment paper and flip again; cool completely.

To make filling: In a stand mixer with whisk attachment, combine mascarpone, heavy cream, sugar, vanilla bean seeds, and 1 tablespoon kirsch or grappa. With mixer on low speed at first and increasing to medium, beat just until firm peaks form; do not over beat. Fold in cherries. Refrigerate 30 minutes. In a bowl, stir together cherry jam and remaining 1 tablespoon kirsch or grappa.

To make buttercream icing: Combine sugar and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Boil without stirring until syrup reaches 240° on a digital thermometer, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a stand mixer with whisk attachment, beat egg whites on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. With mixer on medium speed, gradually pour in hot syrup in a thin stream; avoid pouring syrup on whisk. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until stiff peaks form and mixture is cool, about 8 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add butter 1 tablespoon at a time, beating after each addition. (If at any time buttercream appears curdled, beat on high until smooth, then reduce speed to medium and continue beating in butter.) Once all butter is added, beat on high speed until buttercream is smooth and fluffy, about 1 minute. Beat in vanilla.

To assemble cake: Spread 1 side of 2 of the cake layers with jam and let stand 10 minutes, so cakes absorb some of jam. Place 1 cake layer, jam-side up on cake stand or plate. Spread with half of mascarpone filling. Top with second cake layer, jam-side up. Spread with remaining filling. Top with third cake layer, top-side up. Frost cake with about 1 cup buttercream to crumb coat cake; refrigerate 1 hour. Frost cake with remaining buttercream. Serve immediately or refrigerate; if refrigerated, let stand at room temperature 1 hour before serving.

Note: My mother’s cake is decorated with marshmallow fondant flowers in various shades of pink.


Clockwise from upper left:My mom, my dad, and the family toy poodle, Abbey; the quilt mom made for me; mom’s redecorated bedroom; Mom on Christmas morning, 2007.



Happy (late) Mother’s Day!


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A&P Spanish Bar Cake

In case you were wondering: No, I cannot eat all these desserts by myself. First of all, I’d rather not weigh 400 pounds — I just don’t think that’d be a very fun way to live. Secondly, even if I developed some wonderful condition that kept me trim regardless of how much pie I ate, baking is no fun unless you can share it with people you love. For me, one of the most rewarding parts of being a food blogger is watching people enjoy the things I’ve made (that sounds creepy, like I sit and stare at them as they eat, but I’m sure you know what I mean).

One group of folks I love to bake for is Mike’s family. Each Sunday evening we gather at their house for dinner and I bring whatever dessert I’ve whipped up. His mom is a fantastic cook, so the meal is always devoured enthusiastically. Many times I almost don’t think I have room for dessert! I say almost, because y’all know that there is always room for dessert.

Yay, SPRING!!

One reason I love to bake for Mike’s family is because they’re always encouraging — even if the results of my culinary efforts that week are not perfect! Don’t you love the people in your life who take one look at your runny pie and say, “Nevermind, it tastes delicious!” My own family deserves this praise as well, since they were served Coconut Cream Soup for Thanksgiving and ate it with cheerful smiles and compliments. Yep, those kind of folks are the keepers!

Because Mike’s family has been so supportive of my baking, I jumped at the chance this past weekend to create something a little special for them. A couple Sundays ago, Mike’s dad mentioned a cake his dad used to bring home from the old A&P store. The cake was called Spanish Bar Cake, and he described it as a dark brown cake with raisins and a creamy white frosting. I was so excited to recreate the memory that I started googling around that night.

What did I find? Well, first off, Mike’s dad is not the only one by far who wants to recreate the cake! Many online forums had pages of nostalgic posters describing their childhood experiences with the cake. They discussed every facet of their vivid Spanish Bar Cake memories : the color, the texture, the pattern on the frosting, the shape, the packaging . . . ! I also found many copycat recipes that boasted an identical taste and appearance to the original.

Not having tasted Spanish Bar Cake myself, I found it difficult to settle on a recipe! There were a few key disparities I had to evaluate. First, some recipes used cocoa powder, while some were a more traditional spice cake. After asking Mike’s dad to describe the color again, I decided to use the recipe that included the cocoa.

Another difference in the recipes I viewed was the frosting. Some used a standard cream cheese frosting, while others used white buttercream. I chose the latter, though I love cream cheese frosting. I reasoned that if the cakes were not refrigerated and had groove marks in the frosting, chances are the frosting would need to be safe when stored at room temperature and relatively stiff. Hence, buttercream. There were other, smaller decisions to make — things like nuts or no nuts (I chose no nuts), one layer or two (I chose one) — and then I was ready to bake!

One bonus of this cake is how simple it is to make! I must be on an easy cake kick. It’s a two-bowl process (one for the cake and one for the frosting). In a nutshell, you mix the dry ingredients, add the wet, bake, cool, mix the frosting, frost. No fuss.

If you have fond memories of this old A&P cake, bake one up for yourself and enjoy a blast from the past. I’ll add a note tomorrow to let you know how close to the original this recipe is, based on Mike’s dad’s reaction!

UPDATE: Score! Mike’s dad said as soon as it touched his tongue, the memories came flooding back! Apparently this is it, folks! He even said it seemed a bit moister than the original. Hurray!

Spanish Bar Cake



Recipe by: compiled from various internet sources
Yields: one 9 x 13 in. cake

Cake Ingredients:
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon cocoa (I used Dutch process)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups applesauce
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups raisins, soaked in warm water until plump and drained

Buttercream Frosting Ingredients:
1 cup white shortening
1 cup butter, softened
8 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (can use clear if you want the frosting to be snow white)
4-6 tablespoons milk for thinning to desired consistency

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a 9 x 13 in. baking pan with cooking spray (or butter and flour). Plump the raisins in warm water (I do this in a measuring cup that I’ll use for wet ingredients later — one less dish to clean).

In a large bowl, whisk all dry ingredients together. Add oil, applesauce, and eggs. Mix well. Add in raisins and stir to combine. Pour batter into prepared pan, rapping 3-4 times on a counter to release trapped air bubbles. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs. Let cake cool completely before frosting.

To prepare frosting, mix all ingredients until well combined. Add more milk if needed for consistency. Frost completely cool cake. Use a fork to rake grooves into the frosting to resemble A&P’s cake presentation.


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