Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Lemon Layer Cake with Vanilla Bean Frosting (and my story)

*If you want to avoid a disaster when you only have 30 minutes before guest arrive, and you made the the frosting the night before, please make sure to take the frosting out of the refrigerator 1-2 hours prior to spreading so that you don't end up with THIS

As you saw, my "frosting" was no longer what you would call frosting. It was hard as a rock when I took it out of the fridge.  I added a tiny bit of heavy cream, tried to whip it with an electric hand mixer, but the mixer flew across kitchen. I added moreeeee milk and yeah I could definatly whip it then but my beautiful creamy white frosting with gorgeous black flecks of vanilla bean somehow turned into yellow-butter mush. 

I asked Annie of Annies-Eats what went wrong and she replied, "It’s mostly butter so if you refrigerate it, it will resolidify just as butter would. It would have come back to frosting texture but you need to leave it out much longer than that at room temperature." 

My kind neighbor saved my cake by going to the store and buying vanilla frosting. She hurried back and frosted the cake as I was running around the house like a chicken with her head cut off trying to hang birthday banners for the surprise party and open all windows and doors as my oven went up in smoke. Yeah, disaster #2. Don't remind me.

Sadly, I ran out of time to make the candied lemon, which was the part that I was mostly really excited about other than using a vanilla bean for the first time in the frosting,  so I  garnished with  fresh mint and thin lemon slices. The two parts that I did actually finish were the 3 CAKE layers (the night before) and the lemon MOUSSE filling (day of) and they both turned out perfect!  


For the cake: 
3 cups cake flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
Zest of ½ a lemon
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1¼ cups buttermilk, at room temperature
1 tbsp. lemon extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract

For the filling:
4 oz. mascarpone or cream cheese, cold ( I used mascarpone)
2½ tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1¼ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 tsp. lemon extract
Zest of ½ a lemon
1 cup heavy cream, chilled

For the frosting:
3 sticks plus 2 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. heavy cream

For the candied lemon slices:
1-2 whole lemons, preferably organic
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Mint for garnish

Take out 6 different mixing bowls, 3 cake pans, your electric hand mixer, and get ready for a mess!

To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter and flour the edges of (3) 8-inch round cake pans and shake out the excess. Line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper and lightly coat with cooking spray.

Dry Ingredients: In bowl #1, combine the cake flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk together and set aside.

Wet Ingredients: In bowl #2, combine the buttermilk and both the lemon and vanilla extracts.

In bowl #3, combine the butter and lemon zest and beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and creamy in color. Add the sugar to this butter mixture, ¼ cup at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition. Mix in the eggs one at a time until incorporated. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing just until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for 15 seconds longer.

Divide the batter between the 3 prepared baking pans. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20-22 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. Let cool in the pans about 10 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack and let cool completely.

To make the filling, combine the mascarpone and butter in bowl #4. Beat on medium-high speed until smooth and well combined. Mix in the confectioners’ sugar and beat on low speed until incorporated. Blend in the lemon extract and lemon zest. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. 

In bowl #5, add the heavy cream and whip on high speed until stiff peaks form, being careful not to overbeat. Mix about a third of the whipped cream into the lemon-mascarpone mixture to lighten. Gently fold in the remaining whipped cream until no streaks remain and the mixture is evenly blended.

To make the frosting, in bowl #6, whip the butter on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the confectioners’ sugar and mix on medium-low speed just until incorporated. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean pod into the bowl and add in the salt. Continue to beat on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1-2 minutes. Mix in the vanilla extract and heavy cream on low speed just until incorporated. Increase the mixer speed and whip on high speed until light and fluffy, scraping down the bowl as needed, about 4 minutes.

To make the candied lemon slices, wash and dry the lemons thoroughly. Use a sharp serrated knife to make very thin slices of lemon. Poke out any seeds in the slices with a toothpick. Combine the sugar and water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Heat the mixture until the sugar dissolves. Add the lemon slices to the mixture so that they are in a single layer (none overlapping), reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer about 20 minutes, turning the slices at least once so both sides are candied. Remove from the heat. Store in a container with the syrup until ready to use.

To assemble the cake, place one of the layers on a serving platter. Top with half of the lemon-mascarpone mixture and smooth in an even layer. Place a second cake layer on top of the filling and top with the remaining filling. Place the final cake layer on top. Frost the top and sides of the assembled cake with the vanilla bean frosting. Use a pastry bag with a decorative tip to pipe accents on the cake. Garnish with the candied lemon slices and fresh mint.

Source: adapted from AnniesEats
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