Monday, February 18, 2008

Topsy Turvy Fondant Cake

I should officially be called "She-Who-Always-Finishes-Last." You know that student who is consistently a step behind everyone else? Yeah. That's me. Blame it on the perfectionist gene.

This time I vowed I would not be so slow. In fact, during this particular class my teacher cracked a joke on how irritated he gets with students who stay late after class. Yikes. I was sure he didn't remember me, though (at least he had forgotten my name).

So against my nature, I rushed through my cake. Yet I still managed to be the one who was still struggling with her last piece of fondant while everyone else sat around eating cookies, waiting for me. You know they don't really mean, "Take your time" when they're looking at their watch simultaneously mouthing the words. Bah.

It was fun learning how to create a "Topsy Turvy" cake and how you attach it together. The hardest thing for me is rolling the teeny pieces of fondant. No matter how much powdered sugar I sprinkle on the surface (which is supposed to be as little as possible), my fondant manages to stick to the table while everyone else's peel off gracefully. Go figure.

At least my cake turned out half decently, though it was far from being flawless. Note to self: Thou shall cut nails before working with fondant so the fondant doesn't get nail marks as you're putting the cake into the box.

I also wasn't quite as slow this time. Instead of staying 1.5 hours after class (personal record) I only stayed an extra half hour after everybody else. Still won the trophy for "last student" though. *sigh*

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Affair with Meyer Lemons

My favorite "fruit" may just as well be the Meyer Lemon. It's certainly not a fruit you can eat straight out of the rind, but I love its versatility. I have the fortune of knowing two people with Meyer Lemon trees, and so every time I ask nicely (with a "Pretty please?") I get a good bag full of these sunny beauties.

The first thing I did with these lemons was not to make something out of them, but to photograph them. So here is the brief photo shoot:

Then I decided I was going to try making Alice Waters Meyer Lemon Cake--again. I first tried this recipe last year and it turned out so-so (well, badly in my book but "yummy" in my friends' book so you decide who you want to believe). The flavor was perfect, but the consistency wasn't right; there were lots of lumps and a cake should be lump-free.

Here's the recipe I used:

Meyer Lemon Cake

(makes one 9-inch cake)
  • 8 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup Meyer lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. Meyer lemon zest
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1¼ tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • For the glaze:
  • 1/3 cup Meyer lemon juice
  • 1 2/3; cups confectioners' sugar
  • For the candied Meyer lemon slices:
  • 2 Meyer lemons
  • 2 cups sugar

Preheat the oven to 325° F.

Melt butter in saucepan. Cool and set aside. In a mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, beat egg yolks with 1 cup of the sugar until thick and light in color, about 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in buttermilk, Meyer lemon juice and zest. Sift together cake flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites with an electric mixer until they hold soft peaks. Then add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Fold half the flour mixture into egg-yolk mixture, followed by half the egg white mixture—so you don't deflate the batter. Repeat with remaining flour and egg white mixtures. Take about 1 cup of the batter and stir it into melted butter. Gently fold butter mixture into the rest of the cake batter. Pour into a buttered and floured 9-inch cake pan or Bundt pan, and bake for about 50 to 60 minutes until cake is lightly brown and pulling slightly away from the edge of the pan.

While cake is baking, make glaze and candied Meyer lemon slices. For glaze, combine Meyer lemon juice and the confectioners' sugar in a saucepan. Heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved. Set aside. For the candied slices, cut Meyer lemons widthwise, in ¼ inch slices, and discard end pieces. Remove seeds. In a saucepan, combine 2 cups of water with 2 cups of sugar. Bring to a gentle boil and simmer five minutes. Add lemon slices and simmer about five more minutes, until fruit is soft but not falling apart. With a slotted spoon, remove slices and place on waxed or parchment paper.

When the cake is baked, cool in the pan for 5 minutes, and then invert onto a cooling rack. With a long toothpick, poke the top of the cake to make about two dozen small deep holes. Slowly spoon the warm glaze over the cake, allowing to sink in before adding more. Poke extra holes if needed, eventually using all the glaze. Arrange the candied lemon slices in a random pattern on top. Cool the cake completely and serve.

It was certainly better this time around! I decided to sift the flour and that made a big difference. The cake still had a few lumps here and there, so I'm guessing I need to work on the folding part of the process. I thought I was being really careful, but maybe not careful enough...if any one has some tips, let me know!

All in all, I was rather pleased, and the candied lemon slices went rather well with the cake--tart and sweet. My foodie coworkers liked it too, so that should count for something, right?