Friday, October 21, 2011

lemon, blackberry, and ginger cake [and a happy 21st]

Wednesday evening was spent attempting to familiarize myself with absolutist and utilitarian philosophy, emailing professors about tentative spring courses [oh yes, I'm a dork, and unbelievably excited about class offerings], rubbing my eyes and consequently smudging all the eyeliner around to give me the appearance of a lopsided raccoon, and putting away clean dishes without having realized the smudgy state of my fingers and consequently getting black stains all over the bowls and having to rewash them.

[As a side note, I've discovered that all of my current obsessions are manifested in some of the cookbooks that I own. King Arthur Flour Cookbook (purchased 2009), The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook (purchased approximately January 2011), Dining with Sherlock Holmes: A Baker Street Cookbook (purchased approximately 1 week ago [not a problem]). The amount that I was ecstatic when I made the realization was unprecedented and startling.]

And yet, it was a rather perfect evening, as soon after rewashing dishes, the house was filled with the smells of ginger and lemon zest, and the sounds of unbelievably irritating whistles at a conference meeting during an episode of Arrested Development.

As a note of self-preservation, all shots taken for this particular dessert were done in the absolute worst lighting imaginable. It seems that cloudy mornings and artificial, dinner-table lighting made for oddly colored images. Blast lamplight and clouded sun rays.

It was nice, though, to be baking a cake. I haven't done so in ages, as I haven't had the need, but yesterday happened to be the 21st birthday of one of my dearest, closest, sweetest friends: Matt (and, incidentally, Rhea's as well!). I knew I would be baking something, but I wanted it to be something spectacular. Something new. Something exotic.

And so I asked him what he'd want.

And all he said was "lemon curd."

And that was all I needed.

[Admittedly, he also said "blackberries, preferably," but I'll keep that little tidbit to myself as not to diminish the above drama.]

I have quite some experience with lemon curd, as it's a foolproof way of making a fantastic cake, but for the most part it's always accompanied either a basic vanilla or angel food cake. Seeing as how it's fall and it's Matt, I wanted to try something unexpected.

So, clearly, the fates were calling on me to bake a lemon-ginger cake, layered with blackberry preserves and lemon curd, covered with a lemon-cream cheese frosting.

And you know what, the fates did good this week.

Lemon, Blackberry, and Ginger Cake
Adapted from epicurious and my own tastes.

For the cake, you'll need:
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter, at room temperature
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
For the lemon cream cheese frosting, you'll need:
  • 12 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 sticks butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • blackberry or other fruit preserves, to layer
  • lemon curd, to layer

To prepare the cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line and grease three 9-inch cake pans. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat sugar and butter on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, followed by lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla. In a separate bowl, sift flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add flour mixture into the wet ingredients, alternating with the buttermilk, in three batches, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide the batter evenly among the three pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until set. Turn cakes out onto cooling racks and cool to room temperature before assembling.

To prepare the frosting:
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and butter on medium speed until smooth, 3-4 minutes. Add in lemon juice, zest, and vanilla. Lower speed and gradually add in powdered sugar. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until fluffy, at least 5 minutes. Refrigerate frosting until using.

[Note: frosting can be prepared  a day in advance.]

To assemble the cake:
Place on of the cake layers on a serving plate. Spread a thin layer of the cream cheese frosting over the top as a crumb coating. Spread about 3 tbsp of fruit preserves over the crumb coating, about 1/2 inch from the edges of the cake. Spread about 4 tbsp of lemon curd over the preserves, about 1/2 inch from the edges of the cake. Repeat with the second and third layers. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the rest of the cream cheese frosting. Refrigerate cake until serving, but allow cake to sit for 15-20 minutes before cutting.

Delicious is the only word that comes to mind. I also have a limited vocabulary. But really. The ginger is very understated, but enough to make you realize that there's something more to the cake than what you'd get from a simple vanilla. Which is exactly what I was hoping for.

And then, you can never go wrong with lemon curd.

Like, ever.

So, happy 21st birthday, MattMatt and Rhea! I do hope it was all to your liking :)

In other news, today I find myself settled quite cozily in a little corner of Panera, laptop on the table, empty cappuccino mug to my right, and a stack of Greek mythology and philosophy texts on my lap. All of this is hugely unsurprising, as this is seems to be my default state of existence, but I'm somewhat unnerved at how much colder it is inside this place than it is outside. Unnerved and also slightly uncomfortable. Particularly since it's pretty chilly outside as it is.

But I finally managed to find an empty socket for my laptop cord, so there's no way in hell that I am leaving.

Besides, I like the padded booths.

Even if it means having my scarf wrapped twice around my neck and my sleeves pulled down to my fingertips.

Maybe it's time for a second [third] cup of coffee...

I love autumn.


  1. This looks delicious Sabeen, and I adore recipes with ginger in them. Hopefully I can give this a try sometime.

  2. @Brian: Thank you so much for the kind words, Brian! If you get a chance to try it out, please let me know how you like it! :)


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