Thursday, November 24, 2011

Blueberry Lemon Cake

Right now I'm out in Connecticut for Thanksgiving, staying with my fiancé's family. I thought I'd try winning their love by making this bread for breakfast on Thanksgiving morning (haha). Anyway, everybody loved it, it was super delicious, and definitely a good appetite-whetter for the big meal to come this afternoon. (PS Sorry these pictures are crummy, I took them with Sam's phone after half the loaf had been eaten. And we were watching Star Trek, so maybe I was a little distracted by my visceral connection to Zachary Quinto's eyebrows.)
I made it the night before and it was still scrumptious by morning. I'd also like to thank my fiancé Sam for his help in doing the little tedious bits like zesting lemons and coating pans and such. Gracias!
Blueberry Lemon Cake

For the Loaf:

1 1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided (the 1T is to coat the blueberries later)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (Pace I think makes yogurt cups just this size)
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (approximately 2 lemons) (When Sam was zesting, he got through less than one lemon and was like "Ok, that's enough," and my citrus instinct kicked in and I said "NO!!! WE MUST HAVE MORE! CONTINUE THE ZEST! WE SHALL NOT BE CONQUERED!!!"...or something. So he did two whole lemons, we had lots of zest, and it turned out super lemony and delicious. You're welcome, family)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil (we used corn oil)
1 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen, thawed and rinsed (we had about half that or less, because the blueberries were unknowingly munched on throughout the day. Oh well. It was still berry good.)

For the Lemon Syrup:

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar

For the Lemon Glaze:

1 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease bottom and sides of one 9 x 5-inch loaf pans; dust with flour, tapping out excess.

2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sugar, eggs, lemon zest, vanilla and oil. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix the blueberries with the remaining tablespoon of flour, and fold them very gently into the batter.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake 50 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing loaf to a wire rack on top of a baking sheet.

5. While the loaf is cooling, make the lemon syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir together the lemon juice and sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved. Once dissolved, continue to cook for 3 more minutes. Remove from the heat; set aside.

6. Use a toothpick to poke holes in the tops and sides of the warm loaf. Brush the top and sides of the loaf with the lemon syrup. Let the syrup soak into the cake and brush again. Let the cake cool completely. (Don't be overly methodical about this. I started out poking holes in a grid pattern and ended up just going to town poking it wherever. And there was no brush available, so we used an old painting sponge, complete with the remnants of dried red tempra paint. And it was fine and dandy.)

7. To make the lemon glaze, in a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and 2-3 tablespoons of the lemon juice. The mixture should be thick but pourable. Add up to another tablespoon of lemon juice if the mixture is too stiff. Pour the lemon glaze over the top of each loaf and let it drip down the sides. Let the lemon glaze harden, about 15 minutes, before serving. (Or overnight. Whatever.)

Three-Layer Chocolate Strawberry Mousse Cake

Preparing for the wedding has been a tough exercise in patience. Things don't go right. A couple of weeks ago, our cake maker decided to have surgery the day before the wedding, which is in another couple of weeks. Terrible timing. So then I was on the hunt for another cake maker with a tight timeline and a very specific cake outline.

I decided I'd make it myself just to be sure my dreams weren't completely ridiculous. So I got my best chocolate cake recipe, my best chocolate ganache frosting recipe, and looked up a mousse recipe that actually started out as an espresso recipe, but I just replaced the coffee powder with cocoa, and planned to fold in diced strawberries.
And lo, it was the greatest cake I've ever tasted, hands down. The other 9 people I tested it on thoroughly agreed. It was amazing.
Fortunately, I've since found a cake maker that will do it exactly as I want (minus the ganache-- buttercream is less rich, and therefore apparently better for the common palate). But here, for your baking pleasure, is the recipe to the best cake ever:

Chocolate Cake
Also, I made this cake before for the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake, where you can go to see better pictures mid-production, etc

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cakepans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper. Somehow when I read this, I read it as "butter and flour the paper," which is something that you do sometimes. Anyway, it didn't really need to be done I suppose, but I like that there was absolutely no stickage, so I'm going to recommend you do it, but it's apparently not necessary.

2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Divide among the 3 prepared cake pans.

3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes (although two of mine were done in that time and the other needed probably another 7 minutes, but apparently my granparents' oven is a little weird), or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely. These cakes are very, very soft. I found them a lot easier to work with after firming them up in the freezer for 30 minutes. They’ll defrost quickly once assembled. You’ll be glad you did this.

Dark Chocolate Ganache Frosting (which I used in this chocolate cake recipe)

2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 pound bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped

In a large saucepan, bring 2 cups heavy cream, 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt to a boil. Remove from heat; add 1 pound bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped, and let stand, without stirring, for 1 minute. Whisk just until combined. Refrigerate, stirring occasionally, until spreadable, about 1 hour.

Mousse (I googled mousse recipes and this one-- which was originally an espresso one-- seemed like it would work best)

6 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup (62.5ml) whole milk (or, if you're me, 2% lactaid milk)
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1/2 stick butter
1 egg yolk
1 cup heavy cream, cold

1. In a bowl set over a pan of simmering water (known in the more poorer people's world as a makeshift double boiler), melt together the chocolate, milk, cocoa powder, and butter. Remove from the heat and let cool to lukewarm. Whisk in the egg yolk. In a mixer, whip the cream to medium peaks and fold it into the chocolate mixture (a handheld egg beater works great for this).

2. Dice a bunch of fresh strawberries (I just did a regular strawberry box from the store). Fold them into the mousse. Refrigerate for a bit (while the ganache frosting is cooling, per example).

Putting it together

This is super easy. You take a layer of cake, spread a bunch of mousse on, throw on another layer, more mousse, another layer, do a crumb layer with the ganache, then spread on the rest of it thickly so that it looks nice and pretty. Mine didn't look pretty because I didn't freeze the layers beforehand, but man was it tasty. Man.
Ignore my face. I wasn't aware it made it into the picture.

For more tips on perfect cake assembly, you can go to my post on said subject.