Monday, 19 August 2013

Blueberry and Lemon Layer Cake

It's going to be a busy one for posts this week.  I baked four different things this weekend, none of which I've made before and so they all have to be documented.  First up is the cake I made for the fiancĂ©'s birthday, which was Saturday.  It is a creation that has been in the works in my head for several months and for the most part it turned out the way I wanted.  It ended up looking a little sloppy due to over-active fillings causing many a problem but it still got a 'Wow!' when I brought it out so it wasn't all bad.

When I was concocting this cake, I knew from the start that I wanted to do blueberry and lemon, although rather than doing a lemon cake like last year and filling it with blueberries, I wanted to make the blueberry part the cake.  I wanted the sponge to taste of blueberries too, not just have blueberries in it.  Luckily I had freeze dried blueberry powder sitting in my cupboard for just such an idea.  Question was, how was I going to use it.  Last time I use freeze-dried powder I based it off a vegan recipe and whilst the result did taste of strawberries it was a little bit close in texture.  I wanted my cake to be lighter.  So surely I did the research and found an ideal solution?  Nope.  I just decided to go with my gut and do whatever I felt like.  In this case, I added it in to my favourite vanilla cake recipe.  And you know what, it turned out brilliantly!  It was a wonderfully soft cake and rose really well.  This also pleases me because now I know what to do when making the strawberry layer for my wedding cake next year.

Now, originally I was only going to fill the cake with buttercream, as well as cover the whole thing in the stuff too.  However, the closer it got to the day of making, the more ideas I had.  I finally managed to track down a cake recipe I had found a couple of years ago but lost when my laptop was stolen.  Whilst I knew who had made it, they have revamped their site and I was struggling to find it again.  Thankfully Google Images and a Yummly list of fruity cakes helped me locate the page again.  Looking at it again made me want to add some extra layers.  I definitely wanted to do the lemon cream it used.  A bit of extra lemon wouldn't hurt.  And then I decided to add blueberry jam, which turned into making my own blueberry compote instead.

Admittedly, I may have overdone it.  Making all the components for the cake was simple and they all turned out great, until I tried to put it all together.  I had too much filling and it all kept escaping from between the layers, which didn't really want to stay stacked in a straight line but preferred to try and be the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  There was a fair bit of fighting, a lot of wiping up and maybe a little bit of a tantrum when it was being made.  After I stopped the filling escaping, I had to contend with the buttercream suffering under gravity and constantly sliding down.  Clearly I should not have added that tiny bit of milk, it just made it a little too runny.  It had to keep going in the fridge to firm up between coats to finally get it to stay together.

The decorations were also a last minute addition to the plan, after seeing the idea somewhere on the Internet.  I thought it would add a nice bit of alternate colouring to the outside.  It also tasted rather lovely too.

So despite all the nonsense during assembly, the fiancĂ© loved it.  Though he'd been thoroughly stuffed with a birthday lunch of pancakes and a birthday tea of soup, homemade bread and onion bhajis that he didn't have room to eat any until the following day.  When he did though he seemed ecstatic.  The sponge is lovely and light, like I hoped, and despite their attempt to escape (and apparent success as I was struggling to see them), all the fillings could be tasted.  The two different lemon fillings are distinct from one another, as one is flavoured with extract whilst the other uses actual lemons.  Overall, it was quite successful.

For the write up, I made a point to halve the amounts for all the fillings because there was far too much of the compote and the lemon cream and a fair bit went to waste, which is a shame.

Recipe - makes 1 x 15cm/6inch round, 3 layer cake

Cake - inspired by The Good Food Channel
  • 4 large eggs
  • Caster sugar - weight equal to that of the 4 eggs in their shells
  • Unsalted butter - weight equal to that of the 4 eggs in their shells
  • Self raising flour - weight equal to that of the 4 eggs in their shells
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 75g/2.5oz freeze dried blueberry powder
  • 250g/9oz fresh blueberries 
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 and grease and line 3 15cm/6inch round cake tins. 
  2. Wash and dry the fresh blueberries.  Once dry, put some of the flour in a bowl and toss the blueberries in it to coat them.
  3. Beat the sugar and butter together in a large bowl until smooth and creamy.
  4. Separate the eggs and beat the yolks together with the vanilla extract until foamy.  Add to the sugar butter and fold in gently.
  5. Add the remaining flour and the blueberry powder and fold in too. 
  6. Whisk the egg whites into soft peaks.
  7. Add a small amount of the whisked whites to the batter and fold in.
  8. Add the rest of the egg whites and fold in.  When it is almost fully incorporated, add the floured blueberries and continue to fold until no egg white is visible.
  9. Divide the mixture evenly between the three tins, making a small well in the centre of each with a spoon to help them bake level.
  10. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean and they are soft and springy to the touch. (Whilst you wait, I recommend making the lemon cream or the blueberry compote).
  11. Allow to rest in their tins for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.
Lemon Cream - adapted from Sunshine's Kitchen
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 50g/2oz caster sugar
  • 45ml/3fl.oz lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
  • 1.5 tbsp lemon zest
  • 70g/2.5oz butter
  1. Cut the butter into cubes and set aside.
  2. Place a bowl in a container filled with ice water.
  3. Put the eggs, sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice in a saucepan and place over a low heat.
  4. Stir the mixture continuously for at least 10 minutes as it cooks until the mixture thickens.  You should leave a trail when you run your spoon through it.
  5. Add the cubes of butter one at a time, waiting until each cube is absorbed into the mixture before adding the next.  Stir all the time as you do this.
  6. When all the butter in incorporated, pour into the prepared bowl and leave to cool.
  7. Once cooled, cover with clingfilm and leave to set in the fridge for 1-2 hours.
Blueberry Compote - adapted from James Martin via BBC
  • 125g/4oz blueberries
  • 50g/2oz caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp water
  1. Wash the blueberries and place them in a saucepan with the sugar and water.
  2. Cook over a medium heat for about 10 minutes, until the sugar is dissolved, the berries have broken down and the mixture has started to thicken.
  3. Remove from the heat and leave aside to cool and thicken.  Usually about 2 hours.

Lemon Buttercream: 
  • 200g/7oz butter
  • 400g/14oz icing sugar
  • 2 tsp lemon extract
  • Yellow food colouring
  1. Cream the butter in a large bowl until it is smooth.
  2. Add the icing sugar, lemon extract and a few drops of colouring and beat until fully incorporated and you have a nice smooth buttercream.
Blueberry Chocolate Decorations:
  • 100g/3.5oz white chocolate chips
  • 1.5 tbsp freeze dried blueberry powder
  1. Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper.
  2. Melt the chocolate chips in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, being careful not to let the water touch the bowl.
  3. Once melted, add the blueberry powder and mix until fully incorporated.
  4. Put chocolate into a piping bag fitted with a small, round nozzle and pipe shapes onto the paper.  I did stars.
I recommend doing this away from the plate you intend to serve it on due to potential spillage of fillings.  However, make sure you have a way to transfer the finished cake to the plate when you're finished.  I used a flexible cutting board but ideally you'll want a cake lifter (got to get myself one of those).
  1. If the cake layers did not bake flat, first level them off with a serrated knife.
  2. Put a layer of lemon cream on top of the first layer of cake.  Do not overdo it and leave an inch gap around the edge as it will spread when the other layers are put on top.
  3. Next apply a thin layer of compote.  I recommend leaving a bigger gap around the edge as this is the worst offender for spreading and spilling out over the sides.
  4. Cover the underside of the second layer with a thin layer of lemon buttercream, again leaving an inch gap.  Gently place layer 2 on top of layer 1, pressing down slightly and making sure they are aligned.
  5. Do the same for layers 2 (cream then compote) and 3 (buttercream), making sure you still have lemon cream left to go on top.
  6. When layers are stacked and aligned, cover the sides of the cake in a very thin layer of buttercream to act as a crumb coat.  Also coat around the edge of the top but leave a large circle in the middle.
  7. Put cake in the fridge for about 15 minutes to help crumb coat set.
  8. Bring out and cover the sides of the cake in a thick layer of buttercream, making sure to keep some back to decorate the top with.  If you find gravity keeps making it droop down the sides, put it in the fridge for a bit to firm up and then spread it back up the cake.  (You may have to do this a couple of times).
  9. Put the remaining buttercream in a piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle.  Pipe rosettes around the top edge of the cake, followed by a ring around you circle.
  10. Fill the uncovered circle with lemon cream.
  11. Put back in the fridge for 30 minutes.  
  12. Decorate with your chocolate decorations.

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