Now that’s a mouthful, both on the page and in real life.
Our friend Marica had another birthday and, as our tradition goes, we had the pleasure of making the annual birthday cake. She usually opts for chocolate cake with white frosting and, as such, we have made Devil’s Food Cake or Red Velvet Cake, rotating between the two, for the past many years. This year, however, she declared that she wanted a white cake. Say what? Since I’m always up for baking something new and different, I was quick to oblige.
She had no thoughts on the type of frosting and left it up to us to surprise her. We polled our friend Justin, who would also be in attendance, and he voted for chocolate, trying to convince us that this was what the birthday girl would prefer. Turns out that this was his choice and the furthest thing from her mind. Nice try and no chocolate for you! It was her birthday after all.
After much deliberation, we decided on white cake with lemon curd between the layers and a lemon frosting. However, the white cake we chose is so much more than just white cake. It is made with brown butter that gets whipped forever in my favorite kitchen appliance, the Cuisinart stand mixer. The recipe comes from The Sweet Life, the Chanterelle dessert cookbook, and honestly is the only white cake that I will ever make. It is moist, light and fluffy.
I then found a recipe for Lemon Swiss Meringue Buttercream frosting. The frosting gets its lemon flavor from lemon curd, which I had never made. The curd is essentially egg yolks, lemon zest, juice and sugar and has a bit of a tart, tangy taste with a pudding-like consistency.
So, we baked the cake, slathered the lemon curd between the layers and then finished it off with the lemon swiss meringue frosting.
Happy Birthday, our dear treasured friend, and we can’t wait until next year.
Whipped Brown Butter & Vanilla Birthday Cake
adapted from The Sweet Life by Kate Zuckerman
makes (2) 9-inch round layers
1 vanilla bean
12 ounces unsalted butter
1 2/3 cups sugar
2 whole eggs plus 4 egg yolks, room temperature
2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups milk, room temperature
1. Split open the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds.
2. Place bean and seeds in a medium saucepan and add in the butter. Cook on medium-high heat until the butter begins to turn brown and smell nutty. Swirl the pan so the butter cooks evenly.
3. When butter is rich brown (you can leave it lighter for a more subtle flavor, but don’t let it get too dark and burn), remove from heat. Take out vanilla bean and place melted butter in a container. Refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours until butter has resolidified.
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.
5. Place solid browned butter in a stand mixer. Beat on medium speed for about 1 minute until it softens and becomes creamy.
6. Add sugar and beat on medium-high speed until the mixture becomes fluffy and almost beige in color, about 8 to 12 minutes.
7. Add in eggs and egg yolks one at a time, beating between each addition until fully incorporated and the mixture looks smooth and glossy, about 1 to 2 minutes.
8. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
9. With mixer set on low speed, add the dry ingredients to the butter in 3 parts, alternating with the milk. Beat the batter on medium speed until just incorporated, about 20 seconds.
10. Divide batter among the two pans and bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
11. Remove and place on wire racks. Allow to cool for 20 minutes. Run a paring knife around the edges and invert pans onto a cooling rack. Allow cakes to cool to remove temperature before decorating.
adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook
makes 2 cups
8 large egg yolks
finely grated zest of 2 lemons
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
1 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter (10 tablespoons), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1. Combine yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice and sugar in a heavy bottom saucepan. Whisk to combine.
2. Cook over medium-high. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon (be sure to scrape the sides of the pan), until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, 8 to 10 minutes, and registers 160 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer.
3. Remove saucepan from heat. Add salt and butter, one piece at a time, stirring until smooth. Strain through a fine sieve into a medium bowl.
4. Press plastic wrap against the surface of curd and refrigerate until chilled and set, at least one hour or up to 1 day.
Lemon Swiss Meringue Buttercream
adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook
makes 4 cups
4 large egg whites
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 sticks ( 1 1/2 cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into tablespoons
3/4 cup lemon curd (take out of the refrigerator 1/2 hour before incorporating, to bring to room temperature)
1. In a heatproof bowl of a stand mixer set over a pan of simmering water (do not allow bowl to touch the water), combine the egg whites and sugar, whisking constantly until the mixture is warm to the touch (about 160 degrees F).
2. Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg white mixture on high speed until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Continue beating until mixture is fluffy and glossy and completely cool, about 6 minutes.
3. Switch to the paddle attachment. With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter, a few tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat on lowest speed to eliminate any air bubbles, about 2 minutes.
4. Stir in lemon curd with a rubber spatula.