Let's say you have to take a dessert to a party. Or you're craving something light and refreshing in the way of a sweet. Or it's your birthday and you've done nothing but cook rich foods for other gatherings for the last week or so, and the last thing you need in your house is another cake -- except your child insists that it's not a birthday without cake. What do you do?
Make this Little Lemon Cake, of course.
First of all, it's small (for a layer cake, anyway). It bakes in 8" round pans, and the layers are only about 1" thick. Second, it's light but with a potent lemony taste. Third, it's insanely easy to make. Fourth, if you have to make something for a large party, you can simply double the recipe, bake in 9" pans that are 2" deep (bake approximately 35 minutes), and turn it into Large Lemon Cake. How handy is that? (I am sure about this doubling thing, for those of you who are serious bakers out there, and thus reasonably doubtful, because I have adapted this recipe from another that was twice this size and intended to be baked in just the manner I've described. The 2" deep pans will be a must, however.) Assuming you want a LITTLE cake, though, here's what you do:
For cake layers
¼ cup canola oil
¼ cup applesauce
½ cup vanilla-flavored soy milk
Zest and juice of half a fresh lemon
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
For berry filling
1 cup frozen berries (I prefer raspberries and/or blackberries and/or blueberries)
¼ cup water
¼ cup sugar
1 packet unflavored knox gelatin
2 1/3 cups powdered sugar
¼ cup lemon juice
4 T. butter (softened)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil or spray two 8-inch round cake pans, line each with a circle of wax paper or parchment paper, and then oil/spray the paper.
In a small bowl, whisk together oil, applesauce, soy milk*, and lemon juice and zest until well combined. In separate bowl, stir together flour, salt, and baking powder. In third (larger) bowl, combine eggs and sugar, and mix with electric beaters until creamy (about 1-2 minutes). Add flour mixture and oil mixture alternately to egg mixture in a few installments – starting and ending with flour – beating well after each addition.Divide batter evenly between two pans and bake for 21 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean and cake is beginning to pull away from sides of pan.
*You could use plain soy milk if you don't have vanilla flavored soy milk, and this would be just fine. However, I would not substitute regular milk, as there is enough lemon in the recipe to curdle the milk given this preparationAllow layers to cool 10 minutes in the pan, and then turn them out onto plates or cooling racks to cool completely. (You'll see the cake layers are very pale, and the outer edges are slightly golden. This one was probably baked for two minutes too long.)
Meanwhile, make the berry filling. Combine frozen berries, water, and sugar in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil. When water has 1/2 evaporated, and berries are soft enough to mush up, mush them with the back of a spatula, and then stir in the gelatin. Stir and cook for a few minutes more, and then remove from heat to allow to cool. Allowing the "helpers" to share the licking of the spatula is highly recommended at this point.
Spread berry filling over lower layer of cake once cake is completely cool, and while filling is still room temperature and has not completely set (it should be the consistency of slightly loose jam).
Put the second cake layer on top of the first, so the fruity goodness is the filling between the layers.
Then, make the icing. Stir together all three ingredients until smooth. Then frost the whole cake with a crumb coat (a thin layer of icing -- like the cake version of putting primer on before you paint). Refrigerate cake 1 hour. (Do NOT refrigerate remaining icing.) Then put on the second, nicer, layer of icing. VOILA! Little Lemon Cake:
Time-consuming application of multi-colored wild animals, one for each member of the family (or each guest) is completely optional.
Unless your children are all about input. In which case, wild animals may be mandatory.
Fortunately, wild animals, even when they aren't just made of icing on a cake, can be very very sweet.