Blueberry Lemon Cake

I don’t know that there are words to express my excitement over the past week. Last Friday my sweet robot and I closed escrow on our first home. It still feels a little surreal or almost like we’re playing house in someone else’s home but I think as we continue to unpack it will begin to feel more real. For the most part we’re still in boxes because some fantastical friends of ours are going to help us pain this weekend but the most important thing was to make sure the kitchen was unpacked. The kitchen almost felt small, for about half a second, but once I cleared off our counters and organized a bit I realized how big my new kitchen really is! I found myself spinning around in the center of the kitchen, my kittens the only eye witnesses to my dork behavior.

The real joy came when I cleared off a bit of counter next to the oven and designated it Alton’s new home. He fits perfectly and because we have so much more cabinet space the cabinets below him are where all my cake pans live (side note: I had no idea just how many can pans I had until I was trying to unpack them. Every time I thought I was done I would turn around and find another box labeled “Kitchen-Pans” or “Kitchen-Baking stuff”. It was usually met with the same frustration one might feel after completely doing all the dishes and then you find that one damn glass you missed.)

I decided to break in my new kitchen but throwing together and Blueberry lemon cake.

I mentioned a few posts ago about how I have yet to find a good white cake recipe. I took a stab at the one from Epicurious, as a lot of their recipes are tried and true. I decided to cut it in half because I only wanted to make it a 6 inch cake but the layers ended up being a little smaller than what I wanted. Oh well, cest la vie and whatnot. It’s probably for the best because with the move we haven’t been eating the healthiest, so a slightly shorter cake is probably just fine.

I have a habit for being impatient when I’m doing things just for myself. This recipe called for allowing the butter and milk to come to room temperature, so I was lucky when my robot told me that he had to turn the gas off to hook up our washer and dryer in the garage. I mise en placed my ingredients and went about putting away a few more items. By the time the gas was turned back on by ingredients were room temperature, had it not been for the distraction I probably would have just jumped right in and been annoyed that I had butter chunks in my batter.

The recipe is self was easy enough. I added some lemon zest to the dry ingredients and then squeezed the juice of the lemon into the batter at the end and merely folded it in until everything was combined. The batter it’s self was pretty delicious, because I filled this cake with the lemon curd from my last post I decided to give this cake to my laxes. So I’ll have to wait to get my brother’s notes before deciding whether or not the white cake was a success. That’s another fantastic thing about my brother, I know that if he tells me something is good it must be. He will never tell you positives just for the sake of being positive. He’s always been that way with anything I’ve attempted. I know that his notes are always constructive and he’ll always tell you his honest opinion because that’s the only way you get better. I’m grateful for that. I’m very lucky to have him on my team.

Easter Sunday

I’m sure many of you spent last Sunday eating copious amount of chocolate bunnies, Reese’s eggs, or maybe some of those little peeps. Despite my being  30 my mother still ensures that I have at least one Easter related treat; and truth be told, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I know I have disposable income and could buy whatever candy I wanted but for some reason it is better knowing that someone picked something with you in mind. We’ve not done much for Easter in recent years; when I was a kid my mother or my tia would create elaborate egg hunts for me and my cousins. My mom once hid clues around the house that led to assigned Easter baskets filled with treats specifically designed to each child’s liking; and I remember one year that my Tia organized the event the eggs were filled with candy, money and sometimes slips of paper that denoting that you had won a larger prize. Yeah, we were spoiled as kids.

My immediate family decided to have an impromptu Easter meal together so with my mother making a lamb roast, my sister-in-law making potato salad and my brother grilling up a steak or two I had to bring something to the table. French macarons are easily one of my favorite things to bring to a party; I’ve tweaked my recipe to where it is nearly fool proof, they can be made in any color or flavor, and I’m not saying my French macarons are the reason that my sister-in-law married my brother but…

Anyways, at any given moment I probably have all the ingredients for at least a single batch of French macarons so when my Snorlax asked if I wanted to come over and watch my nieces run around to find Easter eggs I thought it would be fun to bring over some holiday appropriate French macarons.

I have a habit of saving items for “special” occasions and then never using them (I do this in video games too; end up saving mana potions, health potions, and elixirs then never use them.) I finally bit the bullet a few years ago a bought some gold dust for my best friend’s birthday cake, since then I’ve been hesitant to use the gold dust arguing that it should be save for the most special of occasions. The truth is that any occasion could be considered special enough. I liked the way the speckle came out so much that I decided to try and make the macarons look like gold speckled eggs. I had a bit of lemon curd left over so I filled the egg-shaped macarons with lemon butter cream and, perhaps because I am a bit morbid at times, I filled the bunny shaped macarons with raspberry jam.

If you ever manage to have left over French macarons (not sure that we ever have) my chef from pastry school would always tell us to wrap them with plastic wrap and place them in the freezer. This mainly applies to unfilled macaron shells, it will make the meringue in the center of the shell chewier. As long as there is not too much moisture in your freezer or refrigerator (in which case you have a much larger problem). One of the last bakeries that I worked for had a fridge that leaked, most days it could probably be ignored but the first time Becca (we’ve worked at three bakeries together) and I made french macarons and placed them in that drippy walk in the next day we came in to find that the shells had essentially disintegrated. It’s laughable now, almost anything is funny if you’re far enough away from it, but that morning when we came in and saw our perfect looking shells give way as as soon as we lifted them from the pan we were anything but amused.

This past week I was listening to the Podcast Judge John Hodgman, where they had special guest Alton Brown as the expert on cookies. When discussing the perfect chocolate chip cookies Alton mentioned that because of memories from his childhood he now prefers to freeze his chocolate chip cookies and eat them while they were rock hard. His mother would bake him cookies and freeze them so when he would come home from school and she was at work he would be comforted by a chocolate chip cookie waiting for him. As a child he would never wait for the cookie to come to room temperature and now as an adult the frozen chocolate chip cookie provides him with nostalgia and comfort.

The Easter macarons were delicious, light, with a satisfying crunch from the shell. My youngest niece, Neri, is less than a year old but she seemed determined to get her hands on the plate of treats. She would push herself off from whichever parent was holding her and lunge at the platter with the same look in her eyes that my kitten gets when he chirps at passing birds. She didn’t get any, of course, but there is a sense of pride knowing that she’s less than a year old and already knows that French macarons are the bee knees. I wonder if my nieces will grow up being comforted by french macarons instead of chocolate chip cookies. 20 years from now will Neri and her sister Kataleya be living their adult lives and stop into a small shop somewhere where they see the brightly colored cookies and be reminded of their Tia? Who knows? It is a nice thought.

Home, home again.

Trying to get back into this whole writing thing again, it seems that at any time I have too much going on in my life is when I think to myself ” Pixie, you have got to ignore the hundreds of other responsibilities going on in your life and commit yourself to writing and baking again.” I’m currently in the middle of purchasing my first home so now seems a good a time as any to begin writing again.

A few days ago I packed up my mixer, loving named Alton (side note: it is a tiny bit humorous to see the boxed marked Kitchen: Alton placed against my dining room wall), I figured I had nine days before close of escrow and surely I can go a whole 9 days without wanting to bake something. Since Alton has been packed up I have been struck with inspiration and have been furiously writing down recipes to try, sketching desserts and counting down the days until I can be in my new kitchen.

Last week we had a family get together and family get togethers are always the perfect reason to make something tasty. I’ve been in a bit of a baking funk lately, I’m trying to figure out my go to vanilla cake recipe. I’ve worked in numerous bakeries and it seems that no two vanilla cake recipes would be the same; one calls for buttermilk while another calls for sour cream, I’ve tried creaming method vs melting the butter and folding it in or perhaps cutting butter out all together and replacing it with oil which results in a fluffier cake. One place that I worked for used the dreaded box mix which I know some bakers are against, but it made it easier when you had to make 80 cakes in one shift (which might be another blog for another time). I eventually ended up pulling something called a birthday cake recipe which was just a bit too dense for my liking. My brother, Snorlax, prefers dense cake so he didn’t have any problem with it considering it was lemon flavored.

This cake is my first attempt at a speckle cake, I love spring time because I use it as an excuse to try different decorating techniques that I might not otherwise use…and a great excuse to go down the candy aisle. I figured with the beautiful spring weather that we had been having lemon would be perfection, so I decided on Lemon cake with lemon buttercream (flavored with fresh lemon curd). I started with more of a robin’s egg blue but ended up adding just the smallest bit of lemon curd to the buttercream which tinted it slightly. I go back and forth between American and Italian buttercream from time to time. This cake is decorated with American buttercream, the final product was just a bit too sweet for a cake where I wanted the lemon to be the star.

While I’m not sure I have found my perfect vanilla cake recipe I do know that I have a perfect tried and true lemon curd recipe. In fact, while I have collected recipes from the various kitchens I’ve worked in I found myself bringing this lemon curd recipe along with me.

Recipe:

Ingredients:
  • Lemon Juice- 4.5 ounces
  • Eggs- 1 1/2 ea
  • Yolks- 3.25 ounces
  • Sugar- 6 ounces
  • Butter- 1.5 ounces
  • Salt- Pinch
  • Zest- 1 Lemon
Method:
  1. Heat the lemon juice with half the sugar
  2. Combine the eggs, yolks and remaining sugar whisk until smooth.
  3. When the juice has come to a boil, slowly temper the eggs by pouring the hot mixture into the eggs while whisking vigorously to avoid cooking the eggs. Return the mixture to the heat and whisk continually until the curd is nice and thick. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter, zest and salt. Run the curd through a sieve before cooling.
  4. Once cooled, enjoy!

I will admit whenever I have a family event I try to use lemon because it is usually a crowd pleaser but also it is my brother’s favorite flavor. I don’t think he’s had a lemon dessert of mine that he didn’t like. I especially adore this recipe because it’s easy to make (if you keep whisking) and it’s pretty easy to interchange the lemon juice with another fruit juice (guava curd is amazing).

 

I cannot wait to get into my new kitchen. Alton and I will be baking up a storm.