The thing about being a baker is that it is an inevitable fact of life that you are involved in the making of your birthday cake. You either make it yourself or you shuffle annoyingly about in the kitchen where it is being made, making suggestions and attempting to become involved. There is no getting around it. You want to be involved in the cake making business. You are a baker after all.
My kind friends gave me a ticket to visit them as a birthday present and on Saturday, after an excellent breakfast (which I will tell you about soon), we got down to the business of cake-making. Lemon poppyseed cake with cream cheese frosting and lemon curd. This is a cake I feel doesn’t get enough airtime and yet, whenever you have it, you are reminded about how good cake can be! There was just no way I was going to stand on by and let others have the fun so I weighed and measured and Sparry beat everything together. I poured batter into the pans (we had to bake in stages) and then brushed them with syrup. At this time in the process I normally loose interest, fortunately Sparry was on hand to whip up some frosting (taken from the Red Velvet Cake recipe which you can read about here.) The cake recipe was adapted from a blog called Always with Butter and you can read it here. Because the cake recipe uses only egg whites, we made some jars of lemon curd and at the last minute decided that lemon curd would go very well in-between the layers too.
Now, here is the lesson we learnt on Saturday: cake cannot be made and filled and iced in the space of 2 or so hours. It needs time to cool. The lemon curd needs time to cool. If you assemble the cake whilst everything is slightly warm, it will result in a very wonky cake that collapses dramatically when you slice it. This is precisely what happened and it was only due to some very skilled hands and clever knife work that we didn’t loose the entire cake to the floor (and Finlay the labrador’s stomach). Wait until everything is cool, particularly when you have many layers. That said, it is excellent when eaten slightly warm. The cake will absorb the lemon curd to some extent and it results in a super moist, light cake with creamy frosting.
Lemon Poppyseed Cake
Adapted from Alwayswithbutter.com
3 cups cake flour
1 and 3/4 cups caster sugar
4 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
220g unsalted butter, softened
zest of one large lemon
splash of vanilla
1 and 1/4 cups buttermilk
3 tbsp poppyseeds
5 egg whites
1/3 cup water
juice of one lemon
1/4 cup sugar
For the Cake:
Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line 3 round cake tins. (Our cake tins were 7in ones which aren’t very big. If your cake tins are bigger than this I suspect it’ll make 2 cakes.)
Soak the poppyseeds in 1 cup of the buttermilk.
Place the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.
Add in the butter and beat until creamy.
Then add in the lemon zest, vanilla, poppyseeds and buttermilk. Beat again. The cake is quite stiff which is fine at this stage.
In another bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff before folding in the last of the buttermilk. Fold this into the cake mixture in two stages. Beat the first stage quite vigorously so that the mixture lightens before folding in the second half of the whites more gently.
Divide the mixture between the 3 pans. (If you only have 2 you can reserve the last of the mixture and bake it once you have a free tin.)
Bake for approximately 35 minutes.
Allow to cool in the tins for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack and allowing to cool completely.
For the Syrup:
Place all the ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 5-10 minutes until the syrup thickens. When the cakes are turned out and cooling, use a pastry brush to brush the cakes generously.
Cream Cheese Frosting
180g butter, unsalted and soft
150g icing sugar
500g Philadelphia cream cheese
Cream the butter and sugar until bright white and soft. Add in the cream cheese and beat until smooth.
For lemon curd we used a Hairy Biker’s recipe. I love them. They’re so good at showcasing small producers and longstanding artisans. You can find their recipe here. It’s super easy to follow and we did exactly what they said (we just strained the curd before adding it to the jars) and it worked perfectly. We got two jars of curd and used about 3/4 of one on the cake filling.
To assemble you cake, slice each in half so that you have six layers. Layer these putting first cream cheese frosting and then curd until the top layer which you can just put cream cheese frosting on.