Monday, August 06, 2012

Strawberry Lemon Cake

It has been a while since my last post as I have been spending more time at Home Depot than in my kitchen, and I have been getting ready for the new house and spending as much time as possible with my family in the condo before we say goodbye to our first home. I have dabbled in a bit of baking but have had less time to photograph and write about my goodies. 

This weekend, my husband and I went to a friend's house for dinner and we offered to bring dessert. I wanted to make something summery and fruity. I considered doing a tart filled with vanilla bean custard and topped with fresh berries, but I wanted something that I could decorate a little as I think I've been in a slight cake decorating withdrawal. 

I thought about summer flavours and lemons and strawberries came to mind. If you look up lemon strawberry cakes, they are typically very light cakes with some sort of whipped cream type topping. I am not a big fan of whipped cream toppings. I don't enjoy the flavour and texture as much as frosting or buttercream, they are not particularly heat stable, and you can't do much with decorating those cakes. I decided to make a vanilla butter-based cake filled with fresh lemon curd. I covered it with strawberry frosting which is one of my favourite icing flavours. 

I wanted the decoration to be simple and to give a hint of what was inside the cake. Browsing through my books once again, I came across a quilled paisley cake. I am not a big paisley fan but was intrigued by the quilling. 

Quilling is a paper craft that involves rolling thin strips of paper very tightly around a needle/quill and allowing them to uncoil to various sizes, pinching them into various shapes to make flowers, leaves, animals, etc. There are some really elaborate designs out there. A quick google search on quilled cakes revealed some beautiful fondant cakes - some very simple and some extremely elaborate, typically involving flowers and leaves. I decided to make a quilled gum paste lemon slice. I rolled out my gum paste very thinly and I used my ribbon cutter to make 1/4" wide strips. Normally my type A personality would have ensured that each little wedge of lemon was made exactly the same but I was feeling more relaxed this weekend and rolled each strip until they looked approximately the same. If they didn't, I just readjusted and trimmed away excess gum paste as required. I was looking for overall effect rather than becoming a gum paste quilling master in one day. I thought it resembled a lemon slice, so I was pleased. 

I have made strawberry frosting on numerous occasions but I have never made lemon curd. Whenever I am about to try something new, I refer to my abundant collection of baking books and review different recipes, comparing ingredient ratios and techniques. Some recipes involved cooking the curd on direct heat (increases risk of scrambling your yolks), a few involved heating the curd over a bain-marie and one recipe involved cooking a lemon, sugar and butter mixture and then adding some of that to an egg yolk and sugar mixture to temper and then cooking the entire mixture on direct heat. I decided to go with the bain-marie method as I felt this would be the most fail-proof. 

The problem with reading and comparing numerous recipes is that there is a chance you will get them mixed up and combine elements of different recipes...or perhaps it's just me. I ended up adding twice as much fresh lemon juice to the mixture than I was supposed to. I carefully removed what I could which left me with 1.5x the amount I was supposed to use. I figured that since there was a lot of variation in the amount of lemon juice, egg, sugar, zest and butter from recipe to recipe, I could still salvage the curd. There was no way I was going to toss the mixture and separate another 7 eggs. I added a few more yolks, a little extra sugar and it turned out beautifully. Good to know you can take some liberties with ingredient amounts and it will still work. 

To finish the cake, I piped a shell border around the bottom and top borders. The top border ended up being a bit on the messy side as I did some shells too close to the edge and they were precariously hanging over the side, threatening to flop down the side. I also piped a few dots of lemon curd around the quilled gum paste lemon slice.

In the end, it was a successful marriage of lemon and strawberry. As an added bonus, we have a full mason jar of leftover lemon curd. I think it may be time to whip up some scones. 

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