Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Second Cake: Mini Lemon Poppyseed Cakes with a Lemon Syrup and a Lemon Glaze (Whew!)


     So we've got half of my mom's birthday cake tale down, right? Right. Well, here's the second half.  The light, summery, more-feminine cake I was wanting to present.  This cake is, as the title implies, very lemon-y.  But frankly, I loved it.  Like, was-kinda-upset-I-didn't-make-more-of-it-and-left-it-with-my-mom loved it.  It's true, lemon-on-lemon-on-lemon (yes, it's a trio!) action does sound a bit blah, bland, and redundant.  Originally, in fact, I was going to do the lemon cake with the lemon syrup and make a delicious, refined lavender glaze, garnished with lavender, of course, of the sort that you only hear about in very dainty, deluxe bakeries and cafes.

     Well, unfortunately, lavender was NOWHERE to be found for this venture.  I mean NOWHERE. Other than the internet.  Which was not going to happen.  So here's the magical triple-lemon threat I came up with instead...and I must say, I was not disappointed at all. No sir-ee.

Not. One. Bit.

     So, I should mention, again with the not so great photos.  I should go ahead and explain that I didn't actually do a test run of this cake, as I did with the chocolate one (linked in the first sentence) and so the day I was driving home, 24 hours before my mom's birthday, was the first time I made this cake.  I was also making the serious batch of the chocolate devil's food cake.  I was ALSO trying to use up my fresh produce because I was going home for several days, so, on the same day as the two cakes, I made a peach & cherry crumble (to be posted soon).

     If you have any idea how much time that took, how many times I had to wash dishes, and how many things I had going on at once, you might understand, then, that my photos were few and far in between...I actually frosted/glazed the two types of cakes when I got to my parent's house too (to prevent disasters during transport) and unfortunately the cakes were eaten rather quickly afterwards rather than posed for 15 minutes as I would have liked.  Actually, I pretty much took one photo of these lemon cakes with the glaze actually applied, and they're in some ugly scenery (on top of wax paper to keep the glaze from spilling everywhere), but frankly, they don't look too much different than they did before the glaze, so I figured it didn't matter.

     As far as the baking went, I really didn't have any troubles with this recipe.  The one thing that was annoying was that, in addition to doing all the math I had to do to cut the recipe, I also had to convert everything--the original creator is from somewhere outside the USA (UK, I'm pretty sure), and thus, everything was in grams.  God bless online converter lists; I found one that just gave some general amounts for conversions of different types of baking materials, and I pretty much worked it out.  I'll link back to the original recipe of course, but if you don't want to do all the math yourself, just double what I have here for a full sized cake.  (Note, I did mini-cakes, she did one in a bread you're on your own for baking times.  Just keep an eye on it.)

     Also, the sugar called for in the original recipe is Caster sugar.  If you don't know what that is, it's basically a sugar somewhere between granulated and powdered/confectioner's sugar in texture.  It's extremely common in the UK for baking, but in the USA, it's very difficult to find.  Sometimes you can find it as "super-refined sugar", but generally out of luck. See below for how to make your own!  However, I found that granulated worked just fine for me!  This recipe also used cake flour...which I didn't have, and frankly didn't feel like buying, since I'd already spent quite a large amount of cash on supplies for these projects...luckily I found a wonderful guide to how to turn all-purpose flour into cake flour here!
     One more thing--the original cake called for a yoghurt glaze, which looked delicious, but I didn't use it given that I was on that whole "must-use-lavender" kick, so the glaze I have is heavily adapted from a glaze that was SUPPOSED to use lavender.  Whoops!  Now, onto the good stuff!

For baking beginners: If you want to make your own caster sugar, simply grind up some granulated sugar in a food processor--just don't let it get to powdered sugar fineness/consistency.  (Also, if you skipped it, go up two paragraphs to learn how to make cake flour out of all-purpose flour!)
For baking experts: Where do you usually get lavender?  When I couldn't find the plant itself (at the grocery store or farmer's market or amongst the pretty purple flowers outside my university's biology building....), I tried to find lavender extract, but no local luck on either count--just expensive products on the internet.

Lemon Poppyseed Mini-Cakes with a Lemon Syrup topped with a Lemon Glaze, cake adapted/halved from Kitchen Wench, glaze adapted/halved from Beyond [the Plate] ...Makes about 4 4-inch mini cakes, or in my case, 3 mini cakes and several mini cupcakes!

For the cake:
3/4 Cup cake flour, sifted (Don't have cake flour? See above for a link on how to make your own out of all-purpose flour!)
1/8 tsp Baking Powder
1/8 tsp Salt
1 1/2-2 Tbsp poppyseeds
1 stick (or 1/2 cup) unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 Cup + 2 Tbsp granulated sugar (or caster, if you actually have that on hand...)
2 Large eggs at room temperature
1 Tbsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
1/6 Cup Heavy cream

For the simple lemon syrup:
1/6 Cup sugar
2 Tbsp water
1/6 Cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the glaze:
1/4 Cup milk (I used 1%, not sure that it makes a difference...)
1/2 Cup confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp lemon extract (if you don't want to buy lemon extract, you can probably skip this and just add more lemon juice)
2-3 tsp lemon juice (essentially, this is to taste. I didn't have fresh lemon juice on hand when I made the glaze, so I used bottled & may have had to use more than I would've just sample as you go!)

  1. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit, and grease/put parchment paper inside your pans.
  2. Sift together (or just mix very well, if you have no sifter, like moi) the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl, and then stir in your poppyseeds.
  3. In a large separate bowl, beat your butter until it is yellow & creamy, about 2-3 minutes.  Then, add your sugar, and beat another 4ish minutes until well combined.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, beating & incorporating after each one.  Once mixture has resumed looking light and fluffy, add in the vanilla extract & lemon zest, mixing until well incorporated.
  5. Alternate mixing in the flour mixture & heavy cream into the butter mixture in thirds, and mix until just incorporated.  Then, pour your mixture into your cake pans, and bake until a toothpick can be inserted & come out clean from the middle. (Confession: I completely forget how long I baked these, because I think it took many additional minutes. Start with 20-25 minutes at the least, I believe, and work your way up from there in increments of 2-3 minutes. Apologies, I'll fix this next time I bake them again...)
  6. When cakes are done, remove and let cool. (Turn upside down onto a cooling rack or wax paper to also flatten any domes that may have developed, if you so desire.) 
  7. For the simple syrup, simply bring sugar, water, and lemon juice to a simmer in a saucepan until sugar has completely dissolved.  Set aside, and when cakes are cool, using toothpicks or a small knife, perforate the cake on both the top & bottom, and brush the syrup over both the top and bottom of the cake for maximum lemony goodness! (Note: You could genuinely stop here. I ate some of the mini cupcakes just like this, and the lemon syrup had just enough tang to make the things taste like heaven!  If you want even more lemon & sweetness, however, continue with the glaze...)
  8. For the lemon glaze, pour milk and lemon extract into a saucepan and place over medium heat, bringing milk to a boil.  (Keep a sharp eye to avoid burning the milk.)  Remove and let cool for about 4-5 minutes.  Then, whisk into the sugar a little at a time until everything is smooth.  Add lemon juice to taste, then pour over the tops of your cakes.  Et voila!

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