I haven’t made a layer cake in a while, but for some reason I was feeling it. My lemon tree is dropping lemons like grenades every four seconds right now as it’s time for the ol’ tree to shed all of it’s lemons, so after making what seemed like endless pitchers of lemonade, I decided a lemon cake was in order. This cake is super fun to make because of the speckled decorating part. It’s a bit of an ambitious cake, so by all means make parts of it ahead; such as the filling and the cake a day before if you like. Just make sure to wrap the cakes well in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge. I even brushed the cakes with the syrup the day before and wrapped the cakes each separately in plastic wrap and chilled in the fridge. If you’re not feeling that ambitious you can of course buy a store bought cake mix such as vanilla- and use that (I won’t judge)- but by all means make the buttercream yourself as you’ll want that amazing vanilla flavor that you can’t get from store bought.
For pure white looking layers- use a sharp knife to cut off the browned areas of the cakes from top, bottom and sides.
Speckled Easter Egg Cake: Lemon-Vanilla Cake
yield: 4 layer 6 inch cake or 2 layer 9 inch cake
Lemon Vanilla Cake
1 Cup unsalted butter, room temp (227 g)
1 1/2 C sugar (300 g)
finely grated lemon zest of 2 lemons
6 large egg whites, room temp
3 1/4 C sifted cake flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. pure lemon extract
1 1/3 C whole milk (320 ml), room temp
Optional for finished garnish: toasted coconut and Cadbury mini chocolate Easter eggs
Prepare four 6 inch cake pans with baking spray; bottom and sides (that contains flour) or grease and flour pans. Line bottom of each pan with parchment paper. You can use 2 nine inch cake pans also if you don’t want to make a six inch tall cake.
In a medium bowl sift together flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.
In the bowl of stand mixer place the sugar and lemon zest and rub the sugar and lemon zest together with fingers to release natural oils in lemon zest. Add in the softened butter and using paddle attachment cream on medium speed until fluffy; about 2 minutes. Add in the egg whites one at a time and mixing until incorporated. Stir in the vanilla and lemon extracts.
Add in flour mixture in 3 additions alternating with milk; beginning and ending with flour mixture. Note: I like to fold in the flour mixture and milk with a spatula by hand first then gently turn on the mixer and beat gently- This ensures a lighter cake and avoids over beating the batter and helps that the crumb stays light and soft. Divide the batter evenly between the pans.
Bake the pans in a preheat 350° F oven for 27-29 minutes or until the cake springs back when pressed gently with a finger. The cakes will just start to pull away from the sides of the pans. Do NOT overbake. Cool the cakes in the pans for about 15 minutes, then turn out and allow to cool completely.
1/2 Cup sugar
1/2 Cup water
4 one inch strips of fresh lemon peel (careful to make sure no white pith remains)
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
In a glass measuring cup place the sugar, water, and lemon peel and microwave on high until sugar dissolves. Let lemon peel steep for 15 minutes, then remove. Stir in lemon juice. You can do this a day or two before to save time.
Note: any leftover syrup you can strain to remove any cake crumbs , keep chilled in the fridge and use in iced tea.
Lemon Cream Filling
3 oz. cream cheese, room temp
9 Tbsp. heavy cream, cold
1 1/2 tsp. nonfat dried milk powder
1/2 tsp. vanilla
3/4 Cup purchased Lemon Curd (I like Dickinsons brand)
Beat the heavy cream and dried milk powder on high speed using an electric hand mixer to stiff peaks. Move the whipped cream to a separate bowl and chill while proceeding. and using the same mixer bowl (no need to wash), beat cream cheese on medium speed for 2 minutes. On low speed, beat in vanilla. Add in the lemon curd and beat until well incorporated and smooth. Fold in the cold whipped cream by hand until mostly blended (don’t overmix), and cover and chill while making buttercream. Note: you can make a day or two ahead if desired and keep covered and chilled.
Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream
5 large egg whites
1 Cup + 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
4 sticks unsalted butter
2 tsp. vanilla bean paste or vanilla, or seeds of one vanilla bean + 1 tsp. vanilla
Sky blue gel food coloring
In the bowl of a stand mixer combine egg whites and sugar. Set over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk until mixture is hot and sugar is dissolved. Remove bowl and place on mixer and beat until stiff meringue forms and bottom of mixer bowl is cool to touch; about 5 minutes. Add softened butter one tablespoon at a time until all is incorporated. Add vanilla, then beat until smooth.
Note: Reserve about a cup of the buttercream (before coloring blue) to pipe a dam of buttercream on 3 of the layers to “hold” in the lemon cream layer.
To color the buttercream: Beat in one drop at a time of gel color until desired color is achieved. [I ended up using about 6 drops, but go SLOW and add a tiny bit at a time]. Note: the color of the buttercream will deepen in color about 1-2 shades as it sits.
Cocoa Speckle for decorating
1 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1 1/2 Tbsp. vanilla
small clean brush for decorating (I used a never used clean toothbrush)
In a small bowl whisk together the cocoa and vanilla. To “speckle” lay down wax paper underneath your work area and dip your brush into the mixture and then dab the brush onto the wax paper to remove any excess. You don’t want it too thick- if too thick you’ll end up with huge spots or unattractive drips. Practice first a few times on the wax paper-you’ll want to use your index finger to quickly flick the bristles of the brush about an inch away from the cake. It’s also best to whisk your cocoa mixture from time to time to prevent it from becoming too thick-you may need to add a few TINY drops of water occasionally if needed. If you end up with a real bad boo boo just chill the cake then use a small offset spatula to lift off any spots you don’t want. Note: you WON’T taste any cocoa flavor in the finished product.
To Assemble: Brush each layer of cake with the lemon syrup. Pipe a ring of “dam” of vanilla buttercream on 3 of the layers to hold in the lemon cream filling. Spread the lemon cream inside the dam of buttercream and continue stacking until you reach the top layer. Apply a crumb coat of buttercream and chill the cake for about 30 minutes. Continue frosting the top and sides of the cake.
Make the cocoa speckle mixture and speckle the top and sides of the cake as noted above. (Note- I find it helpful to lay down a few sheets of wax paper as you will get speckles of brown on your work area).
Garnish the top of the cake by toasting small amount of sweetened coconut in the oven at 350° F for about 6 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Top off with a few of mini candy coated Easter eggs.
Happy Independence Day
Raspberry Lemonade Bars
yield: (about 30-32 bars-depending on the size cut)
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
1/2 Cup sugar
2 Cups flour
pinch of salt
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Whisk the flour and salt together, then add to butter/sugar and beat until combined. Prepare a 9×13 inch pan lined with parchment paper with a 2 inch overhang. Press the crust into the bottom of the pan and chill for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350° F and bake for 15-20 minutes until very lightly browned. Place the pan on a wire rack while you make the filling.
2 1/2 Cups sugar
zest of 3 lemons
1/2 Cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 Cup seedless raspberry puree (press fresh or thawed frozen raspberries through a fine sieve).
6 large eggs
1 Cup flour
red and/or burgundy gel paste food color (optional)
Confectioners sugar for serving
1. In a food processor pulse the sugar and lemon zest together several times; about 8-10. Add the lemon juice, raspberry puree, and eggs and combine until smooth. Add in the flour and pulse to combine. The filling is not quite the color that I liked- so I added a few drops of red and burgundy gel paste food coloring.
2. Pour the filling onto the crust and bake in a preheated 350° F oven for about 30 minutes until set; when you jiggle the pan the center should not look loose. Let pan cool over a wire rack. Refrigerate the pan of bars until well chilled before cutting into bars. Sprinkle with confectioners sugar before serving.
You know my obsession for mini desserts, right? The shaker lemon pie is no exception. I love these little dainty lemon pies. Perfect for a shower or garden party or a brunch.
Since Summer is coming, and the last thing you want is a hot kitchen, they are perfect when you don’t want the oven on for too long, as they only take about 20 minutes of baking time. The recipe makes 24 mini pies. If you don’t have a silicon mini muffin pan I highly encourage you to buy one as it will make removing these SO much easier; there is no breaking or tearing of the crusts when you need to remove them, you simply just push them up out of the pan. I purchased mine quite a while ago and I LOVE love love it. If you plan to make a lot of mini muffin sized desserts it is a good investment. I have several silicon pans of different sizes and they are my favorite.
Mini Shaker Lemon Pies
4 organic (preferably unwaxed) lemons
1 1/3 Cups sugar (divided), plus more for sprinkling
1/4 Cup water
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, plus more for greasing pans (if not using silicone pans)
3 large eggs
one recipe fearless pie crust dough (or your favorite pie crust)
flour (for rolling out pie crust)
egg white for topping prep
1. Take 2 of the lemons and slice very thinly; removing seeds as you go along. Place in a medium saucepan with 1/2 cup of the sugar and 1/4 cup water and stir to combine. Heat over low heat until sugar dissolves and lemon slices turn translucent. Remove from the heat and scoop out the candied lemon slices, and place onto a parchment or wax paper lined tray. (Keep the lemon syrup). Once the candied lemon slices have cooled, cut them into quarters and save for assembling the pies; you may wrap them in parchment or wax paper and store in the fridge.
2. Grate the rind from 1 1/2 lemons as well as squeeze all the juice; add to the lemon syrup. With the remaining half of lemon- slice paper thin slices to equal roughly 1/4 cup (I used a mandolin for this) and also add to the syrup. Add the butter and remaining sugar to the syrup and then heat over low heat until butter is melted. Once butter is melted, remove from heat.
3. In a small bowl beat the eggs, then using a strainer- add the eggs to the syrup mixture-a little at a time while whisking after each addition to ensure the eggs do not scramble. Once all the eggs are added, return the pan to the heat and cook gently while stirring frequently until the mixture becomes thickened and the consistency of jam. Increase the heat a little bit if needed, but be careful to ensure it does not get too hot, or the eggs will curdle. Remove from the heat and transfer the filling to a bowl and allow to cool. You may make the filling the day before and store in the fridge if you like.
4. Prepare mini muffin tins by lightly greasing; or as I prefer- use a silicone mini muffin pan. No need to grease if using a silicon pan. Roll out half of the pie dough thinly on a lightly floured surface. Stamp out 24 circles using a 2 1/2 inch cutter. Press each dough circle into prepared pan(s), rerolling trimmings as needed. When pressing the dough into the wells make sure to allow an edge of the dough so there is a bit of ridge around each well; this will help when placing the tops on to adhere to form a seal.
5. Using the other half of the dough cut out 24 circles with a 2 or 2/14 inch cutter with scalloped edge. Cut 3-4 slits in the tops of each of the dough tops. Fill each well of the prepared bottom crusts 3/4 full and top with 2 pieces of the candied lemon slices you made in step one. Brush the top edge of each of the filled pies with beaten egg white (I prefer to use a clean finger as opposed to a pastry brush for this as it is easier), then top each filled portion with the dough tops and press well to seal. Brush the tops of the completed assembled pies with beaten egg white, (rescore your vent slits at this time if need be) then sprinkle each pie with sugar and bake in a preheated oven for about 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool over a rack for about 10 minutes before removing carefully. Serve slightly warm or cool.
I have an abundance of “cuties” (clementines) in my fruit drawer. We love them but sometimes they seem to linger around a bit before we can eat them all. Anyone who knows me, knows I love citrus of any kind. I especially love citrus desserts or snacks. These little cuties were calling me from the fridge to use them in breakfast. So I did. You could certainly make these rolls with just exclusively orange and they would be great. Enjoy~
Orange & Clementine Sweet Rolls
3/4 Cup milk
1/4 Cup unsalted butter, softened
3 1/4 Cups all-purpose flour
1 package (1/4 oz.) fast rising yeast
1/4 Cup + 1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 Cup water
1. In a small sauce pan scald the milk, then remove and add in the butter and stir until melted. Add the water. Set aside to keep lukewarm.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer whisk 2 1/4 Cups of the flour with the yeast, sugar and salt. With the paddle attachment add in the milk mixture and blend. Add in the egg and beat well. Add in the additional cup of flour a bit at a time until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Note; depending on the humidity you might have to add an additional 1/4 to 1/2 cup more of flour. Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough using the mixer for about 5 minutes until the dough comes together in a ball.
3. Coat a large bowl with a little oil and place the dough inside the bowl and cover with a tea towel and let dough rest for 15 minutes.
4. Roll out the dough into a rectangle about 16 x 13 inches. See recipe below for filling. Prepare the filling by using your fingers to spread the 1/4 Cup of softened butter all over the surface of the dough except leave a border about 3/4 of an inch on all sides. Combine the sugar and zests well in a small bowl and sprinkle evenly over the butter. Scatter the candied orange zest over the sugar mixture. Using your hands pat the filling mixture down into the butter. Roll the dough into a log starting at the bottom edge. Pinch the seam down the length of the dough. Trim the ends of the log if necessary if too thin. Using a sharp serrated knife cut the log in half then each half cut into 6 equal pieces so you have 12 equal pieces. Spray a 9 x 13 inch pan liberally. Place the rolls cut side up 3 across. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and let the rolls rise for about 30 minutes or until doubled in size.
5. Spray a piece of tinfoil (large enough to cover the pan) with non stick spray. Cover the rolls loosely with tinfoil. Bake the rolls at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes, then remove the tinfoil and continue to bake for another 15 minutes or until light golden brown. Let the pan cool slightly on a wire rack while you make the glaze.
6. For glaze: whisk together all the ingredients in a medium bowl until combined. Pour over the warm rolls. Serve warm or at room temperature. Once glaze sets cover rolls with tinfoil to keep from drying out.
1/4 Cup unsalted butter, softened
1 Cup granulated sugar
zest of one large orange
zest of one clementine
1/4 Cup finely diced candied orange peel
2 Cups confectioners sugar
2 clementines, (cuties) juiced
zest of 2 clementines
**Note: If you like, you could use orange cream cheese icing instead of the clementine glaze. For the recipe click here:
It’s no secret I love citrus desserts. Frankly I like citrus anything. Anytime I can make a dessert wrapped around a piece of citrus I’m happy. These cakes pack a very bright citrus punch but the syrup balances out the cakes so they are not too tart. This is the recipe you make when limes are on sale. Limes were on sale the other day so I grabbed a bag and walked home thinking about how to impart them into a dessert. If you like you can make one standard size loaf cake. I happen to have a silicon bundtlette pan that I like to use for individual minis. These cakes are bright in taste and perfect after a spicy meal or after a meal where you want something not too heavy.
Lime Syrup Cakes
yield: 12 mini (1/4 cup capacity) bundtlettes OR one regular 9×5 size loaf cake
1 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Cup thick yogurt
1 Cup sugar
3 Lg. eggs, room temp
zest of 2 1/2 large limes
3/4 tsp. vanilla
1/2 Cup vegetable oil
1. Preheat oven to 350° F or 180° C. Prepare a mini bundtlette cake pan by brushing with melted butter and dusting with flour.
2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside. In a medium bowl whisk together the yogurt, one cup of sugar, eggs, zest of 2 limes (reserve the rest of zest for decoration), and vanilla until combined. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and whisk until combined. Using the whisk, fold in the vegetable oil until combined. Fill wells of bundtlettes to 3/4 full.
3. Bake at 350° until toothpick inserted comes out clean. My bundtlette pan size is a bit smaller than most-the wells hold a 1/4 cup filling and my baking time took 18 minutes, so check often until done as I’m not sure the standard size. If using a standard loaf pan the time will take about 45-50 minutes.
4. While the cakes are baking make the lime syrup by placing the 1/3 cup lime juice with the 1/3 cup sugar in a small saucepan and heating until sugar is dissolved, and simmer for 1 minute.
5. Allow the cakes to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove and place a piece of parchment paper under the rack. Pokes holes in the top of the cakes with a toothpick about 1/2 inch apart. Dunk the cakes into the lime syrup by dunking all of the cakes except the very bottom. Turn the cakes upward so the tops are facing up. After 30 minutes, dunk the cakes one more time and sprinkle lightly with remaining lime zest. Allow cakes to cool completely. If making a large loaf-poke holes in the top of the cake and pour the syrup over and down the sides of the cake; after 30 minutes repeat the process using all of the syrup and sprinkle with lime zest.
1/3 Cup fresh lime juice
1/3 Cup sugar
Sometimes you crave something sweet, but you can’t place exactly what it is that you want. You start running through your mind all the options for a sweet tooth fix but nothing sounds right. This is the time I usually go for something sweet and tart. I love tangy and citrus desserts. I never met a lemon dessert I didn’t like. These cheesecake bars are really easy to whip together and they fulfill the sweet but tart craving. I had a jar of lemon curd in my pantry I had to use up, so I went with that rather than homemade, but you could make homemade lemon curd if you like. Enjoy~
Lemon Cheesecake Squares
recipe adapted from Fine Cooking
1 (5 0z.) pkg. Pepperidge Farm “ginger-man”cookies, (or other gingersnap type cookies) ground to a fine crumb (to equal 1 Cup of crumbs)
1 Tbsp. sugar
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1. Combine the ingredients in a bowl until well combined. Prepare an 8 inch square pan lined with tinfoil to allow a 2 inch overhang on all sides. Lightly spray the foil with baking spray (nonstick spray). Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of the pan and bake for 10 minutes at 350° F. Remove from the oven and lower the temperature to 325° F. Make the filling as below.
2 (8 oz.) bars cream cheese, room temp
3/4 Cup sugar
zest of two lemons
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Lg. eggs, room temp
1. Cut the cream cheese into one inch pieces and place into a food processor along with the sugar, zest and lemon juice. Process for about 30 seconds until smooth. Add the eggs and process again about 20 seconds. Pour onto the crust and bake at 325 degrees for about 40 mins. or until the center appears dry and the edges become slightly puffed. Allow the cheesecake to cool about 10 minutes. Take the jar of lemon curd, spoon it into a bowl, and microwave for about 20 seconds to become warm. Gently pour the curd over the cheesecake, and spread evenly with an off-set spatula. Allow the bars to cool to room temperature then place the pan in the fridge to chill for several hours or overnight. Once chilled and set, remove the entire pan of bars using the tinfoil and peel away the foil and cut into squares.
(about 1 generous Cup purchased) jar of lemon curd (I like Dickinson’s)