Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Coconut Lemon Curd Layer Cake

Baking a cake is like my own little piece of paradise. I know allot of people though, who may find baking and decorating a cake too hard, too time consuming, too much work.  I however, find it to be a joyful and rewarding activity.
It starts with leisurely perusing the web, or flipping through cookbooks, to find that perfectly suited recipe.  Maybe a grocery shopping trip?  Gathering ingredients, far better than shopping for clothes - no need to try anything disappointment in dietary (ahem, waist circumference) progress!
I especially love the process of measuring and adding ingredients then mixing it all together, like a little kitchen scientist.  Maybe being bold enough to substitute one ingredient for another??  So daring!  Then waiting to see how the experiment faired, and turning from scientist to artist!  Creating layer, upon layer of deliciousness, with the flourish of a spatula.  Appealing to both the eyes, and the stomach!
Finally, the best best bestest part; presenting your creation to it's intended with a song:  Happy Birthday You! For He's a Jolly Good Fellow? Er... Hippity Hoppity Easters' on its Way?

I made this particular cake for my Mother-In-Law's Birthday last month.  She has a few food sensitivities that I have to keep in mind during my cake selection process.  She does not have a food allergy, but a serious health condition, which pretty much eliminates any cakes containing nuts, or seeds, or even fruits and berries with seeds!  She suggested a lemon cake, and I was happy to concoct my creation from there.

Perhaps there's no singing involved for your occasion?  Any which way, this vibrantly lemon-flavoured cake would make the perfect addition to your table, no matter the party!

Coconut Lemon Curd Layer Cake
Recipe adapted from: Dorie Greenspan's Perfect Party Cake;  Page 250 Baking: From My Home to Yours

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups whole milk or buttermilk
4 large egg whites (keep the yolks for lemon curd!)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract

Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter & dust with flour two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans, and set aside.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, and set aside. Combine eggs and milk, and also set aside.
Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl, and mix with a fork, so the sugar becomes moist and fragrant. Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or use a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are light. Add the lemon extract, then one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed.
Beat in half of the milk & egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Keep alternating the wet & dry ingredients, until all used up, and finish off the batter with a good 2 minute beating to ensure that it is well aerated.
Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch, or a toothpick inserted into the centres should come out clean.
Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, remove from pans, and allow to cool completely.

Lemon Curd
4 large egg yolks (reserved from cake recipe!)
zest of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup lemon juice, about 1 lemon
7 Tablespoons sugar
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces

Using a small pot set over medium heat, whisk together egg yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice, and sugar. Use a wooden spoon to stir the mixture, taking care to scrape down sides of pot.  Cook until mixture is thick enough to coat back of wooden spoon, about 5 to 7 minutes
Remove from heat and stir in butter, one piece at a time, until consistency is smooth.
Transfer mixture to a small bowl.  To avoid getting "skin" on the top, lay a piece of plastic wrap over top, and press gently onto the curd, before placing in the fridge to cool completely. (Thanks for the tip Martha!)

Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting
1 package of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons coconut extract (optional)
3-4 cups icing sugar

Using a stand up or hand held mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter together until light and fluffy.
Add in the vanilla and nutmeg and continue to mix. On low speed, slowly add in icing sugar a cup at a time, until the frosting reaches your desired consistency.

Put it all together!
Using a sharp serrated knife, slice each layer horizontally in half.  Place parchment paper in-between layers, to avoid them sticking together.
First spread bottom layer carefully with one third of the cream cheese frosting, taking it all the way to the edges. Top that with a spread of the lemon curd, but keep the curd from the edges, so it doesn't smoosh out and get mixed the frosting that will be on the exterior. Top with another cake layer, and repeat. Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the remaining frosting to frost the sides and top.
For that extra something special that also hints to the flavours within, I used about 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut to decorate the exterior sides of the cake; and for the top: a very slim slice of lemon, that I first placed between paper towels to absorb excess moisture and hopefully prevent any lemon juice from damaging the top.


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