The cake lady is at it again! Here is yet another, in the unfolding series of birthday cakes for family members enjoying those special zero-year milestones….
…and this one, made for my brother-in-law, Ted’s 50th, is tangy beyond measure, thanks to the rhapsodic pairing of lemons and raspberries.
Tart, cooling…It’s a summery dessert, to be sure. Lemons and raspberries each have assertive, zingy notes that don’t require a load of sugar to sing. And, really, who wants the burden of sticky-sweet, especially in hot weather?
The cake batter has lots of lemon juice and zest, and plain lowfat yogurt lends rich body without heaviness. The cream cheese-buttercream icing, flecked with lemon zest, takes on a pretty, light yellow hue. The raspberry filling is simple to make, divine sitting on top of the icing, as well as over some vanilla ice cream, should you decide to make extra.
The recipe that I’ve given you will make 2 9″ layers, or fill a bundt pan, if you’d like to make a simple glazed lemon bundt cake.
Because there were close to 50 guests at his party, I doubled the recipe to make the 3 10″ layers for Ted’s cake. And, because his party was held at their country home close to 50 miles from my house, I assembled the cake in my kitchen, and put on the finishing touches once I delivered the cake to my sister’s kitchen.
With heat and humidity being factors, Summertime Cakes have their distinct challenges, especially when a 50 mile drive is involved. But, a trip across town can be just as risky!
One of my first Big Summertime Cake endeavors, (over 25 years ago!) involved a multi-tiered orange-scented spongecake for a wedding. It was an ambitious effort, with each layer having a different filling: chocolate, apricot cream, strawberry-vanilla. The bottom tiers were stacked; the top tier was to be supported by three crystal glasses. Peach tea roses and small clumps of white hydrangea would adorn the cake.
The wedding was held outside at nearby home, on the absolutely hottest, most sultry, dripping August evening. Working at home, in and out of the refrigerator–and a chest freezer I had at the time–I filled and iced the layers, stacking the 14″ and 10″ rounds (and securing them with dowels pushed through the layers) , leaving the 7″ topper separate.
My car at the time was a 1963 Valiant convertible (no a/c, needless to say)—a most improbable vehicle for transporting wedding cakes. I had the sizeable base propped on the backseat, the topper on the front floorboard, and somehow managed to make a safe delivery. The site was only 2 miles away—but felt like 20!
That hurdle crossed, I then assembled the cake in the foyer where it was to be served. I piped simple borders to unite the layers, balanced the top tier on the three crystal cordials, garnished with fresh flowers, and took a deep breath. Success!
But the a/c was not cooling the foyer effectively. So, the host decided that the cake should be moved into the dining room with the other food. Two men in linen suits gingerly shifted the cake across the hallway and onto the dining room sideboard. Phew. Success, again.
Post-backyard-ceremony, the wedding party and guests came into the house, sweat-drenched and delirious. Champagne and heat had gone to everyone’s head. After partaking of more bubbly and the dinner buffet, the host decided that the cake would be more dramatic if it were cut and served from the round table in the foyer as originally conceived.
Our two linen-suited men stepped in, once again, to make the move. It all happened so fast. I remember hearing a groan and then seeing a creamy-white form fly across the room, a spray of flowers and greenery, followed by the crashing of three little crystals….
To be fair, It did supply the Drama. I must report that all was not lost—it was the topper that went sailing. The base layers–the majority of the cake–were undamaged, mostly. And still quite delicious.
LEMON YOGURT CAKE
2-3 Lemonsâ€”2T. Lemon Zest and Â½ cup Lemon Juice
1 Â½ sticks soft Butter
1 Â½ cups Sugar
1 cup Plain Lowfat Yogurt
3 cups All-Purpose Flour
2 t. Baking Powder
Â½ t. Baking Soda
Â½ t. Salt
Sift dry ingredients together in a separate bowl. Cream butter and sugar together, add juice, yogurt, zest. Then add eggs, one at a time. Add dry ingredients. Pour into 2 9″ cake pans that have been coated with baking spray.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Cool on rack before removing.
1 1/2 cups Raspberries, or Mixed Berries, rinsed
1/4 cup Water
1/2 cup Sugar
Place a saucepan on medium heat and add berries, water, sugar. Stir until dissolved. Cook the mixture for 15 minutes, occasionally stirring. The berries will break down, releasing their juices, and a sauce will begin to get a glaze and thicken.
LEMON CREAM CHEESE ICING
1 lb. Cream Cheese, softened
1 stick Unsalted Butter, softened
1-2 Lemons, for Zest and Juice
1 1/2 cups Confectioners Sugar
In a mixer, cream together the softened butter and cream cheese. Add the juice and zest of the lemons and mix well. Add confectioners sugar and beat until well incorporated. Taste for sweetness—and tartness—and adjust.
ASSEMBLING THE CAKE
With cool but workable icing, put a “skim-coat” on your first layer. If your kitchen is warm, put the iced layer in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to set up. Then, spoon your raspberry filling on top. Spread it across–but not to the edge. You don’t want the raspberry to bleed through. Place the next layer on top and skim coat it.
Again, let that set up in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes. (30 minutes is better!)
Ice the cake in its entirety. Pipe with simple bordering, stars, and decorate with fresh berries, and a little reserve of raspberry filling. Lemon basil leaves make a nice garnish, too.
Just don’t move it more than twice.