In following the tradition of baking a birthday cake for my husband every year (a tradition that has only started last year really), I began to starting looking through Pinterest to look for some inspiration a week before his birthday for some inspiration. A picture of an ombre cake piqued my curiosity and then many clicks later, I decided to try making one!
Now, it is most unfortunate that he doesn’t like chocolate and so I had to look for other interesting flavors. I have had good experiences with my Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook and so I decided to play safe and choose an recipe from there. The cake I chose was a lemon curd cake, which I thought, would be a cheery flavor for the colour of the pink ombre cake I had decided to make. You might be thinking now, ‘Really? She’s going to bake a pink cake for a dude?’ You must understand that the cake didn’t look that girlish to be when I saw the demonstration video on Youtube, and it shows a dude making it…and in my excitement..it just didn’t occur to be that it might be more suited to a little girl’s birthday party. And also, with a lemon curd cake, maybe a color palette of yellows would be more suitable. There seems to be a dissonance between the flavor and the color of the cake. And of course, being the amateur baker who has only baked like 5 cakes, these didn’t occur to me until everything was done and I was ready to assemble the cake. By then, it was too late (not to mention, extremely wasteful!) to make another batch of lemon meringue buttercream and color them in graduating shades of yellow. Besides, I have a romantic candle-light dinner to prepare. Yes, in true fashion of the amateur cook, I always underestimated the time I need to make an elaborate meal. Ah well. Next time. By the way, I discovered 2 great recipes while making that dinner. You can find them in my previous post here.
To share a funny moment: when the husband came home and saw me decorating the cake, his first comment was “Why am I getting 10-year-old girl’s birthday cake?”. I paused. Looked at the cake and then burst out laughing. He was right. It was only then that it occurred to me that perhaps this is too pretty and cute a cake for a man in this mid-thirties. 😛 Sorry, dear. I will choose a ‘man-lier’ cake next time.
One other thing I would do differently is to divide the cakes into four layers instead of two like I did, just like what the recipe says. That way, you would taste more lemon curd and the cake will taste more moist as well. I didn’t do it, because the layers already look slim (to me, a novice) and I was so afraid that the cake is going to fall apart when I divide it again.
Here are some pictures of the cake. Recipes and a video on how to decorate the cake follow. Do give yourself more time to decorate the cake. It is rather time-consuming and I did mine in kind of a hurry. 😦
Lemon Curd Cake Recipe (taken from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook)
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
1 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sour cream or creme fraiche
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons (about 2 tbsp)
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 recipes Lemon Curd (see below for recipe)
Lemon Swiss Meringue Buttercream (see below for recipe)
Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Butter two 9 by 2 inch round cake pans; line the bottom with parchment paper. Butter parchment, and dust with flour, tapping out excess; set aside. Into a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a small bowl, combine sour cream with lemon zest and juice; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 1 minute. Add sugar, and continue beating until light and fluffy, 4 – 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition.
With the mixer on lowest speed, add the flour mixture in 4 parts, alternating with the sour cream mixture and beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Beat until just combined, being careful not to overmix.
Divide batter between prepared pans. Bake, rotating halfway, until cakes are golden and a cake tester inserted comes out clean, 30 – 35 minutes. Transfer the pans to a wire rack to cool for about 20 minutes. Run a knife or thin spatula around edges of the pans. Invert cakes onto the rack; peel off the parchment. Reinvert cakes and let them cool completely, top sides up.
Using a serrated knife, trip tops of the cakes to make level. Slice each layer in half horizontally into two layer. Spread curd over the cakes, leaving the final top layer uncoated. Spread a thin layer of Swiss meringue buttercream over the entire cake to seal in crumbs. Refrigerate until well-chilled, about 30 min.
Using an offset spatula, spread entire cake with remaining buttercream. Refrigerate 30 minutes before decorating (if you choose) with lemon curd.
Lemon Curd Recipe (taken from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook)
8 large egg yolks
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/4 sticks (10 tbsp) unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces.
Combine yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice and sugar in a sauce pan. Whisk to combine. Cook over medium-high heat, 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, 8-10 minutes, and registers 160 deg F on an instant-read thermometer.
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. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the curd to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled and set, at least 1 hour or up to 1 day.
Lemon Swiss Meringue Buttercream Recipe (taken 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, room temperature, cut into tablespoons
3/4 cup lemon curd
In a heat-proof bowl of an electric mixer set over a saucepan of simmering water, combine the egg whites and sugar. Cook, whisking constatnly, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch (about 160 deg F)
Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg white mixture on high speed until the it holds stiff peaks. Continue beating until the mixture is fluffy and cooled, about 6 minutes.
Switch to the paddle attachment. With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter several tbsp at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat on lowest speed to eliminate any air bubbles about 2 minutes. Stir in lemon curd.
Video on Youtube demonstrating how to decorate an ombre cake. Credit: The Boy Who Bakes.