Citrus Cake

This weekend’s theme seems to be “tastes delicious, but the texture needs work.” Yesterday afternoon I whipped up a foam/sponge cake, similar to what you’d use for a jelly roll but without the actual rolling. It’s too chewy, and I’m not really sure why. Did I over-mix it? Under-bake it? It’s not nearly as light and airy as my spice roll was at Thanksgiving, so I’m going to have to get back into the kitchen and see where things went wrong. I actually suspect I under-baked it and didn’t give the cake enough time to rise.

In any case, this creation is one that, had the texture turned out well, I think would have made the judges of the Great British Baking Show proud. My blood orange curd features in both the filling and the frosting, so flavor-wise this is a wonderful combination of citrus and vanilla.

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • zest from 1 blood orange

For the frosting & filling

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 1/2 tablespoons blood orange curd, divided
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 10 x 15 x 1 pan with parchment.

In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat eggs until foamy, then slowly add the sugar, beating on medium speed until the mixture is thick and a light lemon color, about 5-7 minutes; add vanilla and zest just before you stop beating. When the batter is done, it will fall from the whisk in a ribbon, then mound on top of the batter before blending back in. Gently fold the flour mixture in (I used my whisk attachment for easy clean-up).

Pour batter into parchment-lined pan and bake for 12-14 minutes, until the top is golden brown and springs back when you touch it. Remove from the oven and flip onto a cooling rack, then gently peel the parchment away. Allow to cool completely before filling and frosting.

While the cake cools, make the frosting: in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and cream cheese until completely smooth. Add 1 cup powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon curd, beating until smooth; add remaining powdered sugar and curd, then beat until totally smooth.

Place frosting in a piping bag and remaining 1/2 cup curd in another piping bag; set aside.

Trim edges of the cake to create three equal rectangles (you can save the scraps and have them as a snack with some curd later). Place bottom layer on a platter and pipe a border of frosting around the edge, then fill the inside with curd. Repeat with the second layer, then top with the third layer. Pipe remaining frosting on the top.

Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Makes about 8 servings.

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Lemon Almond Yule Log

A traditional Yule log, or buche de noel, is a chocolate sponge cake with chocolate or vanilla filling. As migraine life doesn’t give me the option of chocolate, I decided to make one with my favorite flavors – almond and lemon – and jazz it up with some pine bough piping and almond pine cones.

While the flavors in this cake were delicious, my sponge wasn’t quite as light and airy as I’d like. The best sponge I’ve ever made was the spice roll with caramel sauce from Thanksgiving, so I’ll keep practicing this cake until I get the texture I want. That’s one of the many benefits of baking; you can keep working on something in order to perfect it, and still have tasty treats along the way.

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling and frosting

  • About 2/3 to 3/4 cup lemon curd
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 3/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon almond extract
  • 1/2 to 1 tablespoon milk
  • Brown food coloring
  • Moss green food coloring
  • Flaked almonds, for pine cones

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 10 x 15 x 1 pan with parchment. Place a lint-free tea towel on a heatproof surface (I use a cutting board) near your oven and dust it with powdered sugar.

In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat eggs until foamy, then slowly add the sugar, beating on medium speed until the mixture is thick and a light lemon color, about 5-7 minutes; add vanilla and almond extracts just before you stop beating. When the batter is done, it will fall from the whisk in a ribbon, then mound on top of the batter before blending back in. Gently fold the flour mixture in (I used my whisk attachment for easy clean-up).

Pour batter into prepared pan, spreading with a spatula to create an even layer. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the top is golden brown and you hear a crackling from the surface of the cake. Remove from oven, then quickly and carefully flip your cake onto the powdered sugar-sprinkled tea towel. Gently peel the parchment away, then starting at one of the short ends, roll the cake up in a tight spiral and allow to cool on a wire rack completely before filling.

To make the buttercream, in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter on medium speed for about 1 minute. Add powdered sugar and beat on low speed until the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter, about 3-5 minutes. Add vanilla and almond extracts and milk; continue to beat on medium-high speed for another 1-2 minutes. You can add a bit more milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, if necessary to thin your frosting.

To fill, frost, and decorate: unroll the cake and spread with lemon curd; re-roll and place in the refrigerator for about 20-30 minutes for it to set.

Frost the cake to cover it completely, then use your spatula to make long bark-like markings along the top and sides and swirls on the ends. Tint a small portion of frosting brown and place in a piping bag fitted with a large plain tip, then pipe pine branches. Tint another portion of frosting moss green and place in a piping bag fitted with a medium plain tip, then pipe needles.

To make almond pine cones, pipe blobs of frosting, then place flaked almonds in rows to create the cone shape.

Carefully cover your log with foil and place it back in the refrigerator until about 20 minutes before you’re ready to serve it. Store leftover cake in the fridge.

Makes about 10 servings.

 

Spice Roll with Caramel Sauce

The Great British Baking Show has made me a more creative – and adventurous – baker. I’m on vacation this week, and between errands, cleaning, and yoga, I’ve spent some time checking out the latest season. Inspired by various treats, I made this spice roll and caramel sauce.

While the contestants on the GBBS don’t roll their cakes in towels, choosing instead to cool them, then roll them, this method works best for me. I’ve come a long way from my very first pumpkin roll, achieving a nice spiral (see below). In hindsight, the maple cream cheese filling could have used a bit more maple syrup – it’s not as strong a maple flavor next to the rather strong spices in my cake. The entire treat is still delicious, though.

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon apple pie spice
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup

For serving

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 10 x 15 x 1 pan with parchment. Place a lint-free tea towel on a heatproof surface (I use a cutting board) near your oven and dust it with powdered sugar.

In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and apple pie spice; set aside. In a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat eggs until foamy, then slowly add the sugar, beating on medium speed until the mixture is thick and a light lemon color, about 5-7 minutes; add vanilla just before you stop beating. When the batter is done, it will fall from the whisk in a ribbon, then mound on top of the batter before blending back in. Gently fold the flour mixture in (I used my whisk attachment for easy clean-up).

Pour batter into prepared pan, spreading with a spatula to create an even layer. Bake for 12-14 minutes, until the top springs back when you touch it. Remove from oven, then quickly and carefully flip your cake onto the powdered sugar-sprinkled tea towel. Gently peel the parchment away – I needed to use an offset spatula to prevent some of the cake from sticking to the parchment. Starting at one of the short ends, roll the cake up in a tight spiral and allow to cool on a wire rack completely before filling.

To make the filling, beat cream cheese and butter on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Add powdered sugar and beat on low, then medium speed, until completely combined. Add maple syrup and beat to combine.

Carefully unroll the cake and add filling, then re-roll and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for about 1 hour before serving; serve with caramel sauce. Store in the refrigerator.

Behold, a lovely spiral!

 

Lemon Poppy Seed Layer Cake

Today I turned 41. And while it feels like I was 17 years old about five minutes ago, I’ve never been intimidated by getting older. Not everyone gets to get older, right? And so to celebrate entering my “early forties,” I baked myself this lemon poppy seed layer cake.

This past week I weighed my birthday cake options, considering a caramel cake, a lemon raspberry cake, and a spice cake with maple buttercream. Then yesterday, Mike mentioned something about a lemon poppy cake, and here we are. It’s one of my favorite cakes I’ve ever made. And being a proud Pittsburgher, I do love that it’s black and gold.

Ingredients

For the lemon poppy seed cake

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • zest of 1 small lemon
  • 6 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • About 1 cup poppy seed filling*
  • About 1/2 cup lemon curd*

For the lemon curd buttercream frosting

  • 6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon lemon curd
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

*Truth: I used bottled filling this time, because I’ve never made my own poppy filling and my homemade lemon curd went awry. Even experienced bakers have mishaps in the kitchen, my friends. 

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two 6-inch round cake pans, line each with a parchment circle, and lightly grease the parchment.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until very well-blended. Add eggs, vanilla extract, lemon extract, and lemon zest and beat well to combine, scraping the sides of your bowl a few times.

Add flour and milk alternatively in two batches, beginning and ending with the flour and beating until completely combined. Stir in poppy seeds.

Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 18-22 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow cakes to cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then carefully turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting: in a mixing bowl, beat butter on medium speed for 1-2 minutes. Add 2 cups powdered sugar and beat on low, then medium speed, until the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter. Add lemon curd and beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes, then slowly add remaining cup powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Beat on medium speed for another 2-3 minutes; you want a spreadable consistency that is not too soft or firm.

To assemble the cake:

Slice each cake in half lengthwise to create four layers. Place the first layer on your cake stand – I anchored my cake with a blob of buttercream to help it stay in place. Spread about 1/2 cup poppy seed filling on the first layer, leaving about a 1/4 inch border at the edge of the cake; some of your filling will spread further once the other layers are added.

Top with the second layer, then spread that layer with lemon curd, again leaving a bit of a border around the edge. Repeat with the third layer, topping it with poppy seed filling, then place the final layer on the top of the cake.

Frost the entire cake with a thin crumb coat and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Remove from the fridge and frost to completely cover the crumb layer; you don’t need to put the frosting on too thick, as it will take away from the flavors in the cake itself. I chose to add some flower decorations to the top of my cake because I had a bit of frosting left over.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Summertime Swiss Roll

Having watched a great deal of The Great British Baking Show in recent months, I’m inspired to bake more creative treats. This Summertime Swiss Roll features a delicious combination of lemon almond sponge cake, lemon buttercream, and raspberry filling. I’m not sure how this cake would fare in the tent with Paul and Mary as judges, but it was absolutely delicious.

Swiss roll is another term for jelly roll; it’s a sponge-type cake with jam, preserves, buttercream, pudding, or a combination of fillings. I made a “plain” vanilla cake/strawberry preserves jelly roll earlier this summer and decided to branch out to a lemon, almond, and raspberry creation. I had some extra raspberry sauce that I served on the side of each slice; you could also garnish with fresh berries if you like.

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest

For the filling

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest*
  • 1-2 teaspoons milk
  • About 3/4 cup raspberry filling

*You can omit the zest if you like and use a full teaspoon of lemon extract if you prefer. 

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 10 x 15 x 1 pan with parchment. Place a lint-free tea towel on a heatproof surface (I use a cutting board) near your oven and lightly dust it with powdered sugar.

In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat eggs until foamy, then slowly add the sugar, beating on medium speed until the mixture is thick and a light lemon color, about 5-7 minutes; add almond and lemon extracts and lemon zest just before you stop beating. When the batter is done, it will fall from the whisk in a ribbon, then mound on top of the batter before blending back in. Gently fold the flour mixture in (I used my whisk attachment for easy clean-up).

Pour batter into prepared pan, spreading with a spatula to create an even layer. Bake for 12-14 minutes, until the top is golden brown and springs back when you touch it. Remove from oven, then quickly and carefully flip your cake onto the powdered sugar-sprinkled tea towel. Gently peel the parchment away, then starting at one of the short ends, roll the cake up in a tight spiral and allow to cool on a wire rack completely before filling.

To make the buttercream, in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter on medium speed for about 1 minute. Add powdered sugar and beat on low speed until the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter, about 3-5 minutes. Add lemon extract, 1 teaspoon milk, and lemon zest, if using; continue to beat on medium-high speed for another 1-2 minutes. Add remaining milk if necessary.

To fill, unroll the cake and spread with buttercream, then raspberry filling; roll back up and wrap in plastic; chill for about 30 minutes to help filling set. Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Winter Wonderland Cake

When most people think about Christmas desserts, they probably think of cookies. And while there are some amazing cookie recipes out there, I like to get creative for our Christmas desserts. This year, I wanted to do something peppermint-based, and this little vanilla peppermint cake turned out very well.

I found several recipes for pine tree/winter wonderland cakes online, but decided to make my own from recipes I’ve previously baked. To make the pine trees, I melted some vanilla candy coating (rather than using candy melts, as I don’t really like the way they taste) and tinted them green with candy coloring.  It’s important to use candy coloring, which is oil-based and available at cake shops, rather than liquid or gel-based food coloring. Oil-based coloring will blend into your melted coating very well, while liquid or gel-based coloring will make the coating clumpy.

Ingredients

Candy Pine Trees

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces vanilla candy coating*
  • Green candy coloring
  • 10 lollipop sticks
  • Nonpareils

*I use CandiQuik vanilla candy coating, available at Target.

Preparation

Line two baking sheets with waxed paper; set aside.

Chop candy coating into pieces, then place in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 2 to 2 1/2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds to distribute the heat.

Add green candy coloring and stir well.

Dip the top of each lollipop stick into the melted coating, then place several inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Spoon candy coating into a zip-top bag; carefully snip off one corner and pipe coating onto lollipop sticks in tree shapes.

Sprinkle nonpareils on trees while they are still wet; allow to set completely, then carefully peel off waxed paper. Trim stick bottoms, leaving about 1 inch to insert into the cake.

Vanilla Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 6 tablespoons milk

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two 6-inch round cake pans, line each with a parchment circle, and lightly grease the parchment.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until very well-blended. Add eggs and vanilla extract and beat well to combine, scraping the sides of your bowl a few times.

Add flour and milk alternatively in two batches, beginning and ending with the flour and beating until completely combined.

Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 18-22 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow cakes to cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then carefully turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Peppermint Vanilla Buttercream

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons peppermint extract
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • About 2 tablespoons milk
  • White cupcake pearls, optional

Preparation

Place butter in a mixing bowl and beat on medium speed for 1 minute using a paddle attachment. Add powdered sugar and beat on low speed until the sugar is fully incorporated; this will take several minutes. I cover my mixer with a kitchen towel to prevent a powdered sugar storm.

Scrape the sides of the bowl and add peppermint extract, vanilla extract, and 1 tablespoon milk. Beat until well combined, scraping sides of the bowl frequently; beat in additional milk and continue beating for 1-2 minutes for a smooth, even consistency.

To assemble the cake:

Place the bottom layer on your cake stand and frost the top, then top with remaining layer and frost the top and sides. Place remaining frosting in a zip-top bag; snip off one corner and set aside.

Press trees into cake top, starting at the back, and piping additional buttercream around the bottoms as you work toward the front of the cake. Sprinkle with cupcake pearls.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days.

Vanilla Bean Cake

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m the kind of gal who bakes her own birthday cake. This year I went back and forth between several ideas, and finally settled on a two-layer, 6-inch cake decorated with a buttercream hydrangea. Happy birthday to me, eh?

A while back I’d bought this color swirl piping set, and it was a total disaster. This time, I tinted my buttercream three different shades of purple and blue, then put them in three separate 12-inch piping bags, all of which went into an enormous, 18-inch piping bag. It worked incredibly well; see more photos of the cake below. A word of caution, though: I actually think this cake would be even more delicious without buttercream frosting. The next time I make it, I think I’ll bake it in a regular 8-inch round pan and either drizzle it with a powdered sugar icing or just serve it with fruit and whipped cream.

Vanilla Bean Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped*
  • 6 tablespoons milk

*Save the pod and make vanilla sugar – just add the pod to a jar of white sugar and let it infuse the sugar with vanilla-ness!

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease two 6-inch round cake pans, line each with a parchment circle, and lightly grease the parchment.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until very well-blended. Add eggs and vanilla seeds and beat well to combine, scraping the sides of your bowl a few times.

Add flour and milk alternatively in two batches, beginning and ending with the flour and beating until completely combined.

Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 18-22 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow cakes to cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, then carefully turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Vanilla Almond Buttercream

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups butter, at room temperature
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons almond extract
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • Purple, sky blue, and leaf green gel food coloring

Preparation

In a mixing bowl, beat butter for about 2 minutes. Add powdered sugar all at once and beat on low speed until all of the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter; this will take a few minutes.

Add vanilla and almond extracts and beat on medium, then medium high speed for about 2 minutes. Scrape down your bowl, then add the heavy cream and beat for another 2-3 minutes.

To frost and decorate your cake, place one cake on your cake stand and top with buttercream, spreading almost to the edge. Top with the second cake and frost the top and sides, smoothing the buttercream as much as you can.

Divide your remaining frosting into one small portion (about 1/4 cup) and tint leaf green; set aside. Divide the rest into three equal portions and tint one dark purple, another light purple, and the other sky blue.

Place dark purple, light purple, and sky blue frosting into separate 12-inch piping bags. Fit an 18-inch piping bag with a Wilton M1 tip and place the 12-inch bags inside. Pipe petals in a few layers (I did three, and it was a ton of frosting) to make your hydrangea flower, then pipe petals around the bottom edge of the cake.

Fit a small piping bag with a leaf tip and fill with leaf green frosting; pipe leaves on each side of your hydrangea flower, then pipe a few leaves around the bottom of the cake.

Store in a domed cake stand at room temperature for up to 3 days. Makes about 6 slices.

Here’s a detail of the flower.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you look closely you can see the tiny vanilla seeds in the cake.