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Friday, May 2, 2008

Little Lemon Cake

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

For icing
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 preparation

Allow 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.


MIQuilter said...

This little lemon cake sounds like the PERFECT dinner for me tonight! I am hungry though - maybe I should go for the larger version......

Cocoa said...

I need to make this for my hubby. He loves lemon desserts, and he wouldn't have to share.

Huckdoll said...

I'm going to make this he next time the parents are over...impress them with my mad baking skills :)

Thank you!!

Nicole said...

I don't know what the cake is like, but those kids are sweet (and adorable!)

Steph said...

Yummy I love this, what a great sumer cake! thanks

Kimmylyn said...

Oh my goodness those pictures are adorable !!! The cake sounds delish too!!

Feener said...

yum and so cute

foolery said...

Cut, pasted, saved, printed -- now have to work on MADE and ET!

mommypie said...

Holy cow ... you ARE Superwoman! And an artiste!

I'm definitely trying this one :)

OHmommy said...

This sounds like the most PERFECT summer cake.


MultiplesMommy said...

Nuthin' like the lemony goodness of wild animals. Mmmmm, giraffes....

You are too cool. And your kids rock. :-)

Mrs F with 4 said...

Guess what Mrs F is baking tomorrow?! It sounds SO good! I'm a bit dubious about the soy milk, as the smell of it is enough to gag a goat, but perhaps it's better when cooked? I'll bow to your superior experience on this one.

It should be the perfect compliment to the Bitter Chocolate Custard Muffins I'll be baking at the same time...... thank goodness (that's my hips talking again) for Mrs H to help me devour it all while the 7 (yes, seven again) sprats are otherwise occupied.

foolery said...

I gained three pounds just carrying the recipe in from the car.

MommyTime said...

Mrs F -- if you want an even simpler version, you could skip the jam in the middle and make muffins or sheet cake instead. If you don't want to do the soy milk, you could mix the lemon zest in with the regular milk/oil mixture, and then add the lemon juice to the batter at the end. But the time you've got the flour and everything else mixed with the regular milk, it won't curdle.

Foolery, you crack me up every time.

OHMommy, thanks for the compliments on my very silly kids.

Mommypie, I don't know about Superwoman, unless it's Super-Wide-Woman from all the baking I've been doing lately!

MommyTime said...

Oh, and, Mrs F -- lemon cake and bitter chocolate muffins??!? What a stunning combination. Can I come over for a playdate?

Mrs F with 4 said...

Mommytime - come on over anytime - but be sure to bring the children! The more the merrier around here. Besides, they keep each other occupied!

Thanks for the alternatives to soy milk - I've bought some now, so am just donning an apron ready to bake (am I the only woman in the world under the age of 60 who still wears one to bake?! Not to imply that I'm anywhere near that advanced age, Still clinging to the end of the 30's...).

McMommy said...

Can I make a request??? Can you bring that to my party? I am a LOVER of all things LEMON!!!

MIQuilter said...

Mrs F with 4 - just so you know, I NEVER enter the kitchen without an apron on - whether I'm cooking or cleaning (or both, which is often the case). And I can still claim to be in my mid thirties (this year anyways) :) Of course, they don't look like something my grandmother would wear. My favorite apron is a crazy print of jungle animals (tigers, lions, giraffes, elephants, antelopes.. well you get the idea). Just because I want to keep clean, doesn't mean I have to look old fashioned :)

I actually made most of my aprons 'cause really, where can you BUY one with crazy animal prints, right? If you sew at all, let me know and I'll pass along the pattern and instructions (takes less than an hour to whip together).

Also, if you're adverse to soy milk, rice milk should work too (and has a different smell). I think the main point is that you should use "regular" milk with extreme caution so that you don't curdle it.

Happy cooking!

Tara R. said...

That cake turned out so cute and the kids are adorable. I'm keeping that recipe for later... thanks for sharing.

Mrs F with 4 said...

Dear MIQ, I should LOVE your apron recipe! Sorry, pattern / instructions. Mine are plain white, left over from my long-ago days in catering college, and are most definitely coming to the end of their life.

The cake, however, was just scrumplicious... and there is just the tiniest smidgen of leftovers (four adults, seven children, hmmm....) which will go very nicely with the solitary remaining Bitter Chocolate Custard Muffin. No, really, those aprons are worn-out, not outgrown!

Maureen said...

Oooh... love anything lemon...

The cake and the kids are both cute, cute, cute!

Blog Hoppin'

MommyTime said...

Mrs F, I'm delighted the cake turned out well -- it's always a worry when you pass on a recipe you like that the next person to make it will hate it... So I am thrilled that you liked it.

I have a website you should definitely check out: www.rickrackattack.com -- I am HUGELY in love with this apron here, and I just can't decide if it's too silly to buy one with sheer on it or not. What do you think? I LOVE this one. And there are so many other that are lovely on this site too. Can't beat the prices either.

Mrs F with 4 said...

MT, you absolutely definitely HAVE to buy that apron!! Before I do...... how could you resist?

LceeL said...

Oh, good. Thanks. I've just finished lunch and you're showing me this obviously very tasty and not too filling (Goddess, I HOPE it's not too filling) lemon cake and I DIDN'T HAVE DESSERT because all that Polish food sits in there like a BRICK and there was just no room but it's been like half an hour and some space is starting to open up in there and did I mention I DIDN'T HAVE DESSERT? And that lemon cake looks ssssoooooo goood?

And now it's Monday and somehow I never finished this comment. Better late than never.

MommyTime said...

Lceel, you crack me up. I hope you got some dessert.

Mrs F: I bought it!! I hope you got something lovely from them too.

Mrs F with 4 said...

Mommytime - I KNOW you bought it! I went back this morning and it had gone. There was a rather fetching entirely sheer scarlet one with gold polka dots though... I'm tempted, though where would one wipe one's sticky paws?


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