16 May 2014

Layer Cake with Lemon Filling

After recently having taught myself to make lokumi (AKA Turkish Delight) and maznik, I felt the next food-from-my-childhood I should take on via the Small Pond Arts Special Projects Division* was some form of lemon cake. I remember my mother baking very simple, but tasty, lemon cakes, sometimes even for my birthday (see the photos from 1974 below –or maybe 1973, sometimes my parents would add an extra candle for good luck) and, even though this type of cake wasn't as ubiquitous as lokum and maznik and graf (a lovely, rich bean soup I learned to make a few years ago), I felt that, having found the photos below, it was a significant enough part of my early childhood that I should give it a try.

Behind me, L-R: unknown lady, my cousin, his dad.
(my head's almost as big as that balloon)

When I was an adolescent, somewhere around 11-13 years old, I was learning how to make simple foods. My good friend, Chris, showed me how to make omelettes and I felt quite skilled, cracking the eggs, chopping the onions, and laying down the processed cheese slices, making a nice meal for myself. Eventually, over the years, my cooking repertoire grew, inspired by TV cooks Stephen Yan, Martin Yan (no relation), and Graham Kerr. Nothing sophisticated, but I liked the idea of playing with ingredients, experimenting, confident in the knowledge that it's kind of hard to mess up a pasta dish.

That's my dad, standing. Judging by the awesome framing, my mom must have been taking the pictures.

At some point, while still a young adolescent, I tried my hand at baking, not knowing that it was a precise science reliant on specific chemistry to do the work. I think I tried making a cake, but I'm not sure what I did wrong (maybe it was undercooked and/or I messed up the icing and/or a whole assortment of other possible failings). Anyway, after trying and failing at a few other baking projects, my confidence was shattered and I was more or less put off baking for a very long time (focusing more on –and getting better at– cooking other, non-bakery things). That's why these projects mean so much to me.

Behind me L-R: my cousin, her mom, my dad.

Having lemon cake on my mind (but not looking for the specific kind my mother made) I did a Google search and picked a lemon cake that looked delicious and challenging. I picked one from a blog by Shauna Sever where you can marvel at the amazing cake she made, as well as see the ingredients and instructions I used here.


My first springform pan. I like it a lot.


The directions were to use a powered mixer, but we don't have one, so I used a tool normally used for making pie crusts. It worked perfectly for mixing my dry ingredients with the butter.

Still good...

I added the wet ingredients to the dry, still using the pie crust tool, still working perfectly.


Yes, I sampled it, and yes, it tasted really good. Now to pour it all in the pan. The recipe called to split the batter in two and use two pans (making two cakes, which would give you four layers), but I only have this one big pan...for now.


So far, so good. Except for the improvised mixing tool and the not-splitting-the-batter part, and using all-purpose flour instead of cake flour, I haven't veered from the recipe or directions.


I made this a couple of days earlier, but had to pause because I didn't have nearly enough eggs for the batter. Then something else interrupted me on the next day, but it kept very well in the fridge and it turned out nicely, too.


Because I put it on one big pan, it took about twice as long to cook (Krista gave me guidance and kept me calm). Nearly an hour later, it wasn't jiggling and the knife came out of the cake clean.


While the cake cooled for a couple of hours, I prepared some very simple icing using icing sugar, vanilla, milk, and butter. Surprisingly easy.

Cooled & cut.

Here we are, pre-assembly, everything still going well, so far. I knew early on that I'd have one big cake with two layers instead of a smaller one with four layers, but I was okay with that.
I spread the lemon curd on the bottom layer on the right and put the top on, making it ready to be iced.


Sure, that icing was surprisingly simple, but I made a rookie mistake: my first (perfect) batch only covered the top, so I made a second batch for the sides...but added a touch too much milk and it got all runny (and I didn't have the presence of mind to just add more sugar to thicken it up). This was the kind of mistake that kept me from baking all these years.

Regardless, various shortcomings aside, I think it turned out okay. The cake itself had a nice sort of crust that concentrates the flavour so well and the inside was soft and...cakey. It was a bit of mess cutting it and plating it, but flavour-wise, it was a success.

Next up might be a chocolate cake...
Maybe pineapple upside-down cake...

*created to cover strange, unusual, dangerous, and potentially catastrophic assignments outside of normal Small Pond operations.

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