As usual, I took responsibility for the cake. You know me: Every occasion calls for a cake, but most especially BIRTHDAYS. Poor Leslie had to go to school on her day AND she had a major paper due for school on Friday. I tried to make her feel better by reminding her that my bday was the first day of school, and isn't that worse? Apparently not. Maybe she's right. Not even I had a major project due the first week of school. Not even in grad school, and grad school's the worst.
Leslie said she couldn't decide between red velvet cake or lemon cake. If she went with lemon cake, I could not make a loaf cake because that is not a birthday cake. Personally, I have to agree with her. Where we disagree is the proper role of red velvet cake: I think of this cake as a winter cake, not a spring cake. Leslie says it's a year-round cake. Let's put it this way: If you put red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting in front of me, I will eat it. I won't care what month it is.
Ultimately, Leslie said it was ok to do a lemon cake. The one problem? All of my lemon cake recipes are loaf cakes. Most of the recipes that turn up on line when you Google "lemon cake" are loaf cakes too. So, I took a Martha yellow cake recipe that I printed out a year ago and I modified it with fresh lemon. Ok, so this isn't the exact recipe I used ... but it's pretty close. Make sure you read the directions closely. On my print-out, the recipe says that it makes enough batter for ONE 8-inch cake pan. In other words, if you don't pay attention you will make batter for half a cake ... not a whole one. So I doubled my recipe (looks like this one will require doubling as well) PLUS I added 1/4 c. of fresh lemon juice and the zest of one lemon to the batter. (Remember, you want to zest the lemon first THEN juice it.) For the frosting, I did a basic cream cheese frosting:
- 8 oz cream cheese (room temp)
- 1 stick of butter (room temp)
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 3 cups of 10x sugar, sifted
- PLUS, three big tablespoons of store bought lemon curd
The one thing I need to work on with the icing process is to avoid overloading the sides of the cake. Cream cheese frosting is heavy, and if you glop the slightest bit too much on the sides of the cake, gravity will have its way with it. Also, if you later eat too much of the cake ... well, gravity will eventually have its way with you too. Sad, but true.
I do love a cake with perfectly flat, flawless frosting. (ie, Frosting that looks like fondant ... but not fondant because nobody likes to eat fondant. Appearances aside, fondant is totally pointless.) A year or two ago, I learned a cool trick on America's Test Kitchen: take a tablespoon and using the back of the spoon, create circles on the frosting--one after the other--going all the way around the cake. Make sure you do the sides too ... and say a prayer that you don't accidentally pull the frosting right off the side of the cake.
Ina always says that you should decorate the cake with the flavor of the cake. In this case, I should have sliced a lemon, candied the slices, and decorated the top with them. Instead, I sent Ron to Rite Aid and asked him to buy "Those jelly candy things that look like fruit slices and come in all different colors? But I really need yellow ones the most."
Also, don't forget candles for the cake. Apparently, I am all out of cake candles. I think Rick Perry says it best: "oops."
That's why we have votives. Did any of you see The Middle last week when it was Sue's birthday? I literally DIED laughing on the floor when Axl smashed a large scented candle into the middle of Sue's "cake" after everyone forgot her birthday entirely. I laughed because I thought, "Oh, thank GOD my family's nothing like them."
Leslie made out like a bandit: a new iPod nano and earrings from none other than the Diving Cat.
All of this followed dinner at the Blue Pear. If you go, make it a night of hors d'oeuvres: chicken nuggets, calamari, and French fries. And you may as well get the spaghetti chitarra while you're at it. Or the grilled cheese and soup.
Happy Birthday Leslie! I hope 24 is lovely year. Hang in there : )