With the vast amount of flowers on display for Valentine’s Day, there was only one reasonable excuse for me to buy a lovely bouquet: cake. It is nothing extravagant, just a simple lemon layer cake. Four, delectable and moist layers might I add, with the right amount of lemon to them. I about gave up on the recipe, to be honest. Twice it failed on the density and moist scale, with a mouthfeel like cornbread. The lemon flavor was just right, though. The third time was the charm, and with the addition of applesauce, the outcome was just as I wanted: a moist, tender crumb with layers that rose nicely.
Over time I have tried many buttercream methods, from meringue buttercreams to your standard American buttercream. One of my favorites will always be German Buttercream, it’s absolutely amazing. So, I have gotten in the habit of basing most my buttercreams on a flavored custard. It’s easy to infuse with different flavors and is never too sweet. For this lemon cake, I infused coconut flakes into the milk, which then goes into eggs and sugar to create a smooth custard. Due to the presence of egg yolk, I wasn’t able to keep it white in color, instead, it’s a pale yellow.
These warm February days have had me aching for spring to arrive. It was one of the reasons that spurred me to create this very spring-like cake. I’ve already noticed changes everywhere, however small they may be. The days are getting slightly longer and the tulips have begun peeking out from beneath the loose soil; the birds have become even more melodious in song as the days grow increasingly warm and longer. Those may be just a few changes, but they’re enough to fuel me through the remaining days of winter. I love spring as it inspires me to continually change and grow, whereas in winter something seems to die within me, along with the fallen leaves. It’s hard to find inspiration, so I always feel stuck, like nothing can grow. But, come spring or just things that remind me of spring, I find that those parts of me were just dormant, like buds on the trees and shrubs; just by a few days exposure of warmth, they are reminded their time to bloom is near.
On the subject of seasonal change, there will be much change to this blog come summer: a complete renovation, including a new name. It has been in the back of my mind for some time now. When I started this blog, I really needed a name to get things moving, so I pulled one from thin air, and as it turns out, one I’m very unhappy with. To me, ‘The Sticky Spatula’ is a bit hollow. I would like a title with meaning, one that’s flexible with the content I want to produce. I would like to share more of my photography that isn’t strictly baked goods, and I feel my current title keeps me in a box, so to speak. None of this is in the works yet, but it will be in the next month or so, hopefully. I’m excited about these changes, but at the same time frightened as I’ll be switching to a different platform. I can only hope the move will be smooth and without losing any of my current content.
LEMON LAYER CAKE WITH COCONUT BUTTERCREAM FROSTING
260 grams cake flour ( 2 1/3 cup )
30 grams unbleached all-purpose flour ( 1/4 c )
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
300 grams sugar ( 1 1/2 c )
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temp.
2 large, whole eggs + 1 large egg yolk, room temp.
2 teaspoons pure lemon extract
1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
130 mL almond milk, room temp. ( 2/3 c )
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
2 cups whole milk
3 teaspoons cake flour
3 teaspoons cornstarch
1 large egg yolk
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups unsalted butter, room temp.
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
pinch of salt
for the cake
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line with parchment paper two, 6-inch (or two eight-inch) pans.
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric standing mixer with whisks attached, combine the butter and sugar. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 6-7 minutes. Scrape down the bowl with a spatula and add the lemon extract and egg yolk, beating on low until just combined. Add the two whole eggs and beat until combined, about 20 seconds. Add one-third of the flour, half the milk, the applesauce, and lemon zest; beat on medium speed until just combined, then scrape down the bowl. Add the remaining milk and another third of the flour and beat until just combined. Scrape down the bowl once more and add the remaining third of the flour, beating until no flour is seen(about 10 seconds).
- Pour the batter equally amongst the two prepared pans, making sure they’re no more than half full. Spread around evenly. Bake for 30-37 minutes, checking for doneness at 30 minutes. They’re done when the cake springs back up when lightly touched with your finger. Remove from oven and let them cool in their pans for 10 minutes. Then, using a sharp knife, loosen the cake from around the edges of the pan and invert onto wire racks to cool completely.
for the buttercream
- Line a tall baking sheet with plastic wrap and set aside.
- In a medium sized saucepan, add the milk, coconut flakes, and sugar and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, remove from heat and let it sit until cool to the touch. Once cooled, pour into a blender and blend until smooth. Pour the milk through a very fine-meshed sieve or a straining bag over a clean, saucepan. Discard the coconut pieces(or re-use by toasting in the oven). Measure out 1/4 cup of the milk and set aside, then bring the saucepan back to a boil; removing from heat once it begins to boil.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the cake flour, cornstarch, egg yolk, and the 1/4 cup of cooled milk. While whisking the egg mixture, pour in half of the hot milk. Strain the egg mixture back into the remaining milk and continue to whisk over medium heat until thickened and smooth. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread around evenly. Cover with another layer of plastic so it doesn’t form a skin. Place in the freezer until cool to touch(it should not have a hint of warmth to it, nor should it be cold).
- With an electric hand mixer with whisks attached, beat the butter along with a pinch of salt, until smooth. Add the cooled custard and powdered sugar and beat until pale in color and fluffy. It may look curdled in the first stages, but continue to beat until it comes together.
assemble the cake
If the cakes have a dome, be sure to level it off before commencing the second step. Once each cake has been leveled off, carefully halve each cake into two smaller layers. You should have four, equal layers in total. Place the first layer bottom side down on a cake board/stand/plate. Spread about 1/2 cup of the buttercream around evenly using an offset spatula. Place the second layer evenly on top of the first, and add the same amount of frosting. Continue to frost and stack each layer until all the layers are intact. Use the remaining frosting to frost the top of the cake and around the edges. Decorate with fresh flowers and coconut flakes, even dried lemon slices.