I feel a bit as though I've abandoned this recently. I had several ideas for posts in August and then suddenly I looked up and it was September. The air has been cool and crisp these past couple days, promising that autumn is well on its way. Hopefully this means a resurgence in the time I spend in my kitchen. I no longer have the heat as an excuse to stay away.
I was originally going to talk about the lemon curd that I used as a cake filling recently, but then I decided I needed to talk to you about the cake itself. So I'll save the lemon curd for later.
First, I have a confession to make--I don't really like cake. Oftentimes when I make one I rely on other people to let me know if it's good. For me, I take a bite and think well, it tastes like cake, nothing special. And this cake was much the same for me. But other people rave about it.
Also, it bakes up beautifully. This is where I find merit with this cake. The recipe is relatively simple, it bakes evenly, slices smoothly to reveal a gorgeous crumb, and stands up well to being tiered. This was the second time I've used the recipe and it's one that I will continue to go back to when I need a versatile white cake.
The recipe was originally published in the Holiday 2009 edition of Food and Drink magazine. As per usual I changed a few things to suit myself. The recipe provided is complete with it's own filling and icing, which I disregarded in favour of my own. I used a wonderful lemon curd from Anna Olson (who, incidentally, also created this cake recipe) and the Italian buttercream icing that can be found at one of my earlier posts here.
I had fun playing with piping techniques for the decorations around the side of the cake. And then came the flags. I left them for last for obvious reasons and the entire time I was decorating the rest of it I was labouring under the impression that the Canadian flag was going to give me the most trouble.
The British Flag is deceptive in its apparent simplicity. Let me tell you when something is symmetrical both vertically and horizontally it is going to give you trouble. I drew about five or six on parchment paper before I was brave enough to go the cake itself--compared to the two Canadian flags I practiced.
I guess all those years in elementary school drawing the Canadian flag actually paid off. Who knew?
Lady Baltimore Cake
2½ cups pastry flour
1 tbsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
¾ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
½ cup 2% milk, room temperature
½ cup water, room temperature
6 large egg whites, room temperature
¼ tsp cream of tartar
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease the sides and line the bottoms of two 9" round cake pans with parchment paper.
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt (alternatively, mix them together with a whisk because sifting is a pain).
In a separate bowl cream butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in vanilla and lemon zest.
Combine milk and water and add alternately with the flour to the butter mixture, starting and ending with the flour.
With clean beaters (make sure they're grease-free) whip egg whites and cream of tartar to medium peaks. Fold into the cake batter in two additions.
Spread evenly into cake pans and level. Bake for 30-40 minutes. The tops should be slightly browned and spring back when pressed lightly with your finger.
Cool for 30 minutes before turning out of the pans.
The original recipe calls for tangerine zest rather than lemon, but I was going for lemon here, so I changed it. If you're looking for a plain white cake, no citrus to be found, just leave it out altogether, though I would probably throw in an extra teaspoon of vanilla extract in that case. Also, as usual, I didn't use cream of tartar because I just don't have any. Throw in a splash of lemon juice to achieve the same effect.
Another note--whenever I make a cake I use simple syrup on each layer to keep it moist. It's extremely easy to make. Just pour about a cup of sugar (you can eye-ball it, exact quantities are not important here) into a pot and add just enough water that the sugar is covered and completely wet. Bring to a boil then remove from heat and allow to cool completely. You can store it in the fridge and it will keep for several days. When you're ready to use it just add a splash of water to dilute it and thin it out. I used water and lemon juice to punch up the lemon a bit more.
Most importantly: enjoy! Or at the very least watch everyone else enjoy.