When Life Gives You Lemons.

Last week was a full moon. Last week, I was very emotional. Maybe the two are related, maybe not. But either way, I was feeling a little “life is giving me lemons-ish” all week. I tried talking to people about it, and although that helped in the moment, as soon as I was alone again, the lemons returned. Usually, I’d go for a run when I can’t shake that feeling, but I recently was diagnosed with Tendonitis in my left ankle. That means no running. For a while. This might have been the biggest lemon of all. Not being able to run is the most frustrating thing that has ever happened to me. So, what did I do? I started riding my bike and swimming.

A whole new world.

A whole new world.

These things are great, but the problem is that I’m not very good at them, and I was pretty good at running. So it’s like starting all over again. After a few bike rides though, I am really starting to enjoy it. So much so, that I want a new bike now. So maybe this particular lemon can become lemonade after all.

Even so, I still had the full moon blues, as I like to call them. I needed something else to help me break out of this funk. So, I turned to the only other thing I could think of that always helps me feel better – baking. And not just random baking for the sake of baking; this called for the big guns – baking with purpose.

I thought about who might want/need some baking in their life. I immediately thought of two people, and went to work. The first project was a Pink Lemonade Cake. I found the recipe here, however I made a few changes, as usual. I used pink lemonade concentrate, I omitted the lemon juice, and I had no milk in the house whatsoever, so I used the one cream-based product I always have on-hand without a doubt – vanilla ice cream. I used 1/3 cup ice cream blended with 1 cup of water. It worked perfectly.

An experiment in pink.

An experiment in pink.

The cake was well-received and devoured by all. I was feeling happy because others were happy. This was helping.

All that remained.

All that remained.

Baking project #2 was a beer bread. I’ve made beer bread before, and it has yet to turn out anything other than delicious, so I picked up some beer (Chocolate Pumpkin Porter by Evil Genius Beer Company, to be exact), and made yet another good-lookin’ and equally good-tastin’ Beer Bread.

The beer makes the bread.

The beer makes the bread.

The bread was a hit, too, and I was then able to surf the emotional wave right out of the end of the week and safely back to shore.

For now.

Recipe: Madeira Cake with Lemon Whipped Cream.

madeira42

Up until last week, I had no idea what a Madeira Cake even was. I was going through some old magazines, and happened to stumble across the recipe for it in an issue of Cake Craft and Decoration from February of 2012. If you are unfamiliar with this magazine, it’s based out of the UK, and as such the recipes are geared more towards someone doing their baking there. However, this recipe sounded pretty good, and after reading about what a Madeira Cake actually was (a dense sponge cake – close to a pound cake in consistency, usually eaten with tea or sometimes for breakfast), I decided this would be my next project. Truth be told, I think what really excited me was the fact that it called for caster sugar, and I had specifically purchased a bag when I was last in the UK just so I could experiment with it, and finally here was my big chance.

the travelling bag of sugar.

the travelling bag of sugar.

The recipe also called for either margarine or butter, stating that butter gives a better flavor but margarine gives more rise, so a combination of the two would be best.. Because I harbor a vehement hatred for margarine, I had none in the house. I did, however have shortening, so I decided I’d try a butter/shortening combo instead. The recipe also stated that the classic Madeira cake has two to three thin slices of citron peel on top. I really just didn’t want to decorate it that way, so I opted for sifted confectioners sugar.

sifted sugar coat.

sifted sugar coat.

Additionally, I whipped up a batch of lemon whipped cream, and served each slice with a generous dollop on top.

dessert is served.

breakfast dessert is served.

Keeping with the tradition, I just had a slice for breakfast, although I drink coffee, not tea. But either way, cake for breakfast is never a bad thing. Don’t knock it until you try it, my friends. ūüôā

Just one last quick note before I get into the recipe – this cake DOES NOT bake at 350. DON”T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT. It bakes much lower, for much longer. Don’t rush it. It will be worth it, I promise. Good things are always worth the wait.

Madeira Cake (adopted from Cake Craft Magazine).

What you’ll need:

8 oz caster sugar

4 oz butter

4 oz shortening

4 eggs

12 oz flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

What you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, cream together the sugar, butter, and shortening until fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. Mix in the dry ingredients, one third at a time. Do not over mix – once everything is combined, stop mixing, and pour the entire thing into a well-greased 8″ pan. Bake for 1 hour and 25 minutes.

Once cooled, sift confectioners sugar on top. Serve as is, or with the topping of your choice -. lemon whipped cream works really well.

 

A Double Shot of Lemon (with whipped cream).

This past weekend, I was having company over, and I realized I didn’t have much time to make dessert. Knowing that my reputation was at stake, I had to come up with something unique, delicious….and quick.

I had just recently made a batch of lemon whipped cream (to use as a topping for a cocktail – which is another post unto itself), and I had a lot of it leftover. Great – I had the topping, but now what do I put it on? I could make another Key Lime Pie… I had all the ingredients for it still on-hand…but I wanted something else. Something light and lovely. Lemon Sponge Cake. In cupcake form. Genius.

all lemon, all the time.

all lemon, all the time.

Now ultimately, I would have loved to dust the top with the zest of a real lemon, however I only had fresh limes. So in keeping with the them, I decided to use the next best thing – yellow sanding sugar.

just like lemon.

just like lemon.

Anyway, I have to say, the lemon whipped cream was really the superstar of this dessert. So, here’s the recipe – it’s the perfect addition to summer cakes and cocktails alike – it goes wonderfully atop an orange soda spiked with whipped cream vodka, in case you were wondering. ūüôā

Lemon Whipped Cream.

What you need:

8 oz heavy cream (chilled)

1.25 oz confectioner’s sugar

1/2 tsp lemon extract

What you’ll do:

First of all, put the mixing bowl you are going to use in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. Cream whips better in a cold bowl. Using the whip attachment, whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Add the sugar and the lemon extract, and whip until stiff peaks are formed. Do NOT over-whip, or you’ll wind up with lemon butter. Which might actually not be that bad, but you certainly can’t top cupcakes with it.

Long time, no post.

Sorry about that. I’ve been kinda….busy. But I have been baking, albeit not as frequently as I had been in the somewhat recent past. But that’s beside the point. Here I am now, writing a new post, about one of the things I actually did bake – Lemon Pistachio Mini Cupcakes.

little. yellow. different.

little. yellow. different.

I actually made these for the Cupcake Smash competition I participated in a couple of weeks back. Although I did not win, I had a fabulous time, made some new baking friends, and received much positive feedback on the cupcakes themselves!

a winner in my book.

a winner in my book.

As far as what went into them, I started off with my Best Vanilla Cake Ever recipe, but instead of using vanilla extract, I used Lemon. I topped them with my New and Improved Lemon Buttercream. But that’s not all – I filled them each with grape jam, and sprinkled them all with crushed pistachios. I titled them “Pistachi-o-baby,” however, as my setup at the event wound up having a Parisian theme, in hindsight I should have called them “Pistachi-ohh-la-la!” That would have been much more fitting. I probably would have won with that. ūüėČ

sur le table.

sur la table.

The good news was that I wound up with a bunch of extras, so I brought them to work, and everybody loved them. So really, we all win in the end.

Shimmy, Shimmy, Coconut Cake (with Lemon Buttercream).

DSC_1009

My Mom’s birthday recently passed (she share’s her special day with Abraham Lincoln, as a matter of fact), and of course I did what I do best, and baked her a birthday cake. Last summer, I had made a Lemon Coconut Cake that she was particularly fond of, and went as far as saying that I should make that cake for her. So…that’s just what i did. I used my recipe for the cake (you can find it here), but I did something a little different for the frosting this time. Instead of using lemon juice or real lemons, I used lemon extract. I know, it sounds like cheating; but if you had tasted this icing, you’d cheat too. It may have been my favorite icing to date, and I’m not even a big fan of lemon desserts!¬†If you don’t believe me, try it for yourself – the recipe is at the end of this post You can thank me later.

baked birthday bliss.

baked birthday bliss.

Once I had iced the cake with the lemon buttercream and covered it with fresh coconut, I felt like something was still missing. It needed a topper. The cake I made last summer had a cherry on top – that looked great! But I didn’t have any cherries…so I began scanning the kitchen for something that could work. Being it was just before Valentine’s Day, I had a container of conversation hearts just sitting on the table. I scoured them all, in search of the perfect message for the top of my mom’s cake. And there it was: “For You.” ¬†Because, that’s what is was, after all.

pure and simple.

pure and simple.

My mom loved the cake, and just as I ¬†had hoped, she sent me home with about a third of it. Don’t worry, I shared it with friends – only after eating a large piece myself, of course. ūüôā

Anyway, as promised, here is the new Lemon Buttercream recipe. Enjoy!!

Lemon Buttercream (new and improved version!).

What you’ll need:

8 oz butter (room temperature)

4 oz shortening

1 lb 6 oz confectioner’s sugar

1 tsp lemon extract

1/2 oz water

What you’ll do:

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, shortening, and sugar until light and fluffy, using the paddle attachment. Add the lemon extract and water, mix until shiny. If you want a thinner consistency, just add more water.

 

Recipe Sunday: Lemon Coconut Cake.

So¬†I was feeling really guilty that I haven’t posted any recipes in a while. So I decided earlier this week that I would post one today, but I hadn’t decided what and had no real direction. I did however, have this bag of Meyer Lemons which I had picked up because my cousin seemed to like them, and I trust her judgement. They were also cute and smaller than a regular lemon. I’ve used my cat for a size comparison:

note: this lemon was NOT used in the production of this cake.

Anyway, I decided I would put these little fellas to good use and make a lemon cake. As I started crafting the recipe, I thought that it would taste even better as a lemon coconut cake. So, that’s what I went with. Lemon cake, with lemon buttercream, covered in fresh coconut. And topped with a cherry. It makes a lovely light cake, perfect for a summer gathering on the veranda.

refreshingly sweet.

Lemon Coconut Cake.

What you’ll need:

6 oz eggs

2 1/4 oz half and half

2 1/2 oz high-ratio liquid shortening

1/4 oz lemon juice

5 oz sugar

4 oz cake flour

1/4 oz baking powder

1/4 oz salt

Zest of one small lemon (or half of a large one)

What you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 350. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, half and half, liquid shortening and lemon juice. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder and salt. Pour the dry ingredients on top of the wet, add the lemon zest, ¬†and mix for 5 minutes on medium speed, with the paddle attachment. Scrape the bowl to make sure all the dry ingredients are incorporated, and mix on medium speed for 5 more minutes. Makes one 8‚ÄĚ or 9″¬†round. Bake for about 25 minutes.

Lemon Buttercream.

What you’ll need:

8 oz butter (room temperature)

4 oz shortening

1 lb confectioner’s sugar

1/2 tsp bottled lemon juice

1 oz fresh lemon juice

Zest of one small lemon (or half of a large lemon)

What you’ll do:

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, shortening, and sugar until light and fluffy, using the paddle attachment. Add the lemon juice and zest, mix until shiny. If you want a thinner consistency, just add more juice.

Assembling the cake:

Slice the 8″ or 9″ round into two layers.

and one becomes two.

Cover the top of one of the layers with buttercream, and sprinkle with fresh coconut.

halfway there.

Place the second layer on top, ice the rest of the cake, and cover the entire thing with coconut. Top with a cherry in the center.

oh cherry!

they were all yellow.

So this week, two friends had birthdays, so I surprised them each with a box of cupcakes. I love giving folks unsuspected baked goods – it warms my heart and soul, and always brings a smile to the face of the cupcake receiver. Good stuff.

So the cupcakes I gave this week were cookies and cream, with yellow buttercream icing. Not lemon, just yellow. The cupcakes looked good – clean, symmetrical and rounded. The taste passed my taste-test as well. These puppies got the stamp of approval to leave my kitchen.

look how they shine for you.

Pretty nice looking, eh? But if someone were to give you these cupcakes, and not tell you the flavor, what would you think? This was a question posed to me in my class the other night. Of course I know that people “eat first with their eyes.” So although these cupcakes get a 6.0¬†for the technical program, they get a “WTF” for creative, because if someone handed these to me without telling me the flavor, I’d assume they were….lemon.

Don’t get me wrong, I would not complain – nor did any of the recipients¬†of these yellow-but-not-lemon treats. It’s a¬†bit different to get them as a gift. But if you entered a bakeshop, and saw these cupcakes under the glass, you’d get one if you had a hankering for lemon – and then be disappointed that you paid for a cupcake that, although good, was not what you had expected, therefore negating the goodness of the cake entirely.

Marketing: fail.

The moral of the story: you can give people free cupcakes decorated however you want and it won’t matter. But when someone’s money is on the line, they better get what they expect. And when someone sees yellow, they think lemon, and when life gives you lemons,¬†make cupcakes.

cake or pie?

Both. Or at least a happy compromise of the two. The cake vs. pie debate is one that has been waged for centuries and will continue well into the future until solid food no longer exists and we are injecting ourselves daily with a “super compound” of vitamins, minerals and pain killers.

But for now, we argue: which is better? As a known dessert-freak, I have one heck of hard time choosing one over the other. Sometimes, cake is called for (you can’t really put birthday candles in a pie). Other times, you just gotta have that flakey crust and moist drippy filling.¬† And as making decisions is not my strong suit, I’ve decided to create my own compromise: Cake Pie.

Now, I am by no means claiming that I invented Cake Pie. I’m sure some other baker out there has done it too.¬† But I did create my own recipe. originally, I had envisioned Cake Pie to be a pie crust filled with cake. I had no idea what this would taste like, and I also ran into the issue of baking times and temperature – the cake would not be done when the crust was, and the crust would be like shriveled bacon if baked for as long as the cake. What a confectionery conundrum.

a failed equation.

I decided¬†I was looking at this all wrong.¬†Cake Pie¬†was not going to work at all.¬†Pie Cake¬†on the other hand….

the next E=mc2.

This particular variety of Pie Cake is Lemon Meringue, complete with lemon custard filling. the cake is a light lemon flavor, the “icing” is just plain old meringue, edges singed for your pleasure.

I’ve got other ideas for my next Pie Cake adventure. We’ll see where that leads. Although, I really would like to solve the Cake Pie equation.¬†¬†It’s going to drive me nuts, and one day,¬†you’ll find me locked in a shed,¬†surround by pictures of cakes and pies, talking to myself and claiming¬†it was the Russians.

a beautiful mind can't even solve this one.

iron cupcake.

I like to consider myself something of an “Iron Cupcake.” Cute and well-decorated on the outside, yet¬†deceptively tough¬†and able to fend off even the hardest bite. I guess that’s why I’m excited about participating in the Iron Cupcake Challenge.

I took part in this event last summer, and not only was it fun, but it was for a good cause, and is again this year, so come out and support cupcakes and causes. There are so many cupcakes, all free to sample by those in attendance, that you may just be sick of them by the end of the day. But that’s highly unlikely since getting sick of cupcakes is like getting sick of puppies.

Anyway, here’s the 411:

The Iron Cupcake Challenge

Pinsetters Bar and Bowl, in Maple Shade NJ

Sunday, July 24th, 12 pm.

All proceeds benefit Alex’s Lemonade Stand

Each challenge has a theme, and this one’s is summer, with the flavor being, appropriately, lemon. I already have my winning cupcake idea, all mapped out. I’ll be making Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes, with fondant daisies. This particular cupcake of mine is already famous – it was featured in the book “1,000 Ideas for Decorating Cupcakes, Cookies, and Cakes” by Sandra Salamony and Gina M. Brown.

the future champ.

I’m gonna win this thing, baby. Come out and see how a real Iron Cupcake takes care of business. ūüėČ

Soufflé me.

Today marked a major milestone in my dessert-making career: I made a souffl√©. Up until this morning,¬†I feared the souffl√©, with its light fluffy intimidating “puff” and warm gooey interior. For years, I admired it from afar – the way the egg whites need to be¬†whipped into stiff peaks, how it has to be cooked for the exact right time to achieve maximum puffiness. And such a delicate puff it is – one minute of over-cooking or handling with anything less than kid gloves and you’ve got deflation — souffl√©: fail.

deflated; like my fragile ego.

This morning, everything changed. I made a lemon soufflé. It was complicated Рit started off with the base, which was sort of a lemon curd (it reminded me of that lemon filling in donuts). It involved juicing both an orange and lemon (fresh is best) and zesting the lemon too, and boiling and whisking like a mad fool. Then came the whipped egg whites and sugar, which although not a complicated task, it takes like, forever, man. Watching egg whites whip is like waiting for a star to fall and carry  your heart into my arms (or something like that). 

whip it good.

Finally, you fold the lemon into the whites, pour into those cute little ramekins, put them in the oven and wait for your fate to be sealed.

20 minutes later…

rise and shine.

now, unfortunately, i¬†didn’t get to photograph my lovely souffles¬†before my vulture-esqe¬†classmates devoured them. but trust me, it¬†closely resembled ¬†the picture.¬†Well, lets say that’s¬†a¬†celebrity¬†souffl√© playing the role of my souffl√© in a feature film. You get the idea.