Sunday, April 30, 2017

Lemon Cake

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, and I’ve missed it, but life happens.  Now that things have settled down, I’m excited to get back to cooking and writing.
I would like to discuss one of my favorite subjects – cake.  Recently, some of my sisters visited, and while they were here, one celebrated her birthday.  Since she and I both have grown children, I won’t say which birthday she celebrated, but it’s pretty far up there.  She asked for a lemon layer cake, and since, as an older sister, she’s the boss of me, I decided to figure out how to make a gluten-free lemon cake that we would all enjoy.  What we won’t do for our family, geez.
I looked around on the internet for good lemon layer cake recipes, but didn’t have all of the ingredients, and since the closest grocery store is three hours round trip, I had to adapt.  Thank you, Paula, for making me be creative.

One advantage I had was fresh lemons.  Our daughter-in-law’s parents have a lemon tree, and Bailey had kindly brought me some lemons that week.  Thank you, Bailey.  Your timing couldn’t have been better.
Now, not long ago I wouldn’t have tackled a recipe like this.  It looked like a lot of work, and I’m a pretty lazy cook.  Actually, it turned out to be easy peasy, lemon squeezy (I had to say that). I’ll make it again for my husband’s birthday because he loves all things lemon.
Enough talk; let’s get to the good stuff.
First, put the oven rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 3500F.  Next, you’ll want to grease and flour two 9” round cake pans.  Actually, there is a great mix for greasing pans.  Things seldom stick when I use it.  The mix is: one part Crisco, one part oil, and one part GF flour.  You can store it in your cupboard in an airtight container for up to three months.
Anyway, line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or wax paper, and grease the paper.  This step isn’t absolutely necessary, but it will make your life a whole lot easier.
In a medium bowl, you’ll sift together GF flour, salt, baking powder, and xanthan gum.  You don’t have to sift them together, but I’ve found that baked goods are so much lighter when the dry ingredients have been sifted. 
In another bowl, you’ll stir together milk, oil, vanilla, and the zest of a big, fat, juicy lemon.  Well, the ones I had were big, fat and juicy.  In fact, one could probably have won a prize at a county fair.
Next, using an electric mixer, you’ll need to beat together granulated sugar and eggs until they’re just combined.  Reduce the speed to low and alternately add the flour and milk mixtures in batches, beginning and ending with the flour.  I emphasize turning the mixer to low, because I didn’t.  It wasn’t a pretty sight.
Divide the batter between the two cake pans and bake about 35 to 40 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Once they are finished baking, cool the cakes in the pans for about 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, run a thin knife around the edge of the pan and, laying a cake rack across the top of the cake, flip it over so the rack is holding the cake, and slide the pan off the cake.  Do this for both layers.  Peel off the parchment paper and let those cakes cool.
Time to make some lemon curd.  You know those lemons that you used for zest?  Well, now that you’ve stripped them of their outsides, you’ll want to squeeze out their insides.  Whisk it together with more zest, sugar, egg yolks, a pinch of salt and xanthan gum in a heavy saucepan.  Add butter and cook over a medium heat whisking constantly until it starts to thicken.  Whisk in some lemon extract and immediately pour the mixture into a bowl and cover the surface with wax paper so a skin doesn’t form on top.  Chill the curd in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it.
While the curd is hanging out in the fridge just chillin’, make the frosting and prepare the cake.
Beat some butter with an electric mixer until it’s light and fluffy.  This should only take about a minute.  Turn the mixer to low and add confectioner sugar, lemon juice and a bit of lemon extract to give it a little more of a punch and mix until it’s creamy and smooth.  On a side note, I sift the confectioner sugar before using so it melds more easily with the butter.  It’s not necessary, but makes the frosting smoother.
Next is the fun part.  Using a long, serrated knife, cut each cake in half horizontally so you now have four layers.  Put the first layer on a cake plate.  Spread half the lemon curd on this layer before putting the second layer on top of it.  Spread some frosting on this layer.  Now add the third layer, and spread the remaining curd over this layer.  Finally, top that with the fourth layer.  Now, frost the entire cake.  For the finishing touch, sprinkle the top of the cake with the last of the lemon zest – beautiful as well as tasty. 
Not to brag, but it was so good, we didn’t even stop to get pictures of the cut cake.

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