People often assume that because I’m a pastry chef, I’m just pumping out sweets for all of my friends and family in my free time. I think we all know the reality is that for the most part, between my work at the hotel and the work I do for this blog, A. There’s not much free time at all and B. I’m not spending it baking. Still, there are times when the mood strikes me to make treats for the people I care about. This week, it’s a close friend Matt’s birthday, and I thought “damn, I should make that assh*le a cake.” Matt loves lemon and cherry which makes things even easier because so do I! So thanks to Matt, we’re making a lemon sponge cake with lemon frosting and amarena cherries!
One thing that always grinds my gears about making cake is all of the ingredients you need to bring to room temp (yes, you really should work with the ingredients at room temperature to ensure they mix well with one another). In terms of butter, there isn’t much of a life hack to share, I just pull it from the fridge before I head to work for the day and then I can make it in the afternoon when I’m back home. Alternately just pull it the night before you plan to bake.
In terms of the other ingredients, there are some corners that can be cut, especially with the cake we’re making today. Thanks to the magic of tempering, I like to heat the milk in the recipe until it’s hot (not steaming or boiling, just hot), then whisk in my sour cream and egg whites. It’s ok, for this recipe all of those things are being added at the same time anyway. The hot milk will warm the cold ingredients which will in turn cool the milk and when everything is well mixed you’ll have a room temp mixture. Neat-o!
This recipe calls for yellow food coloring. It’s completely optional, but I always add it as there have been numerous scientific studies that correlate visual perception to taste, and if making my cake a little yellow will translate into my guests thinking the cake is even more lemony than it is, I’m all for it. *You’ll notice that ironically I did not happen to add it to this cake. I simply ran out of food coloring.
There are a lot of options in adding the cherry flavor to your cake. Really the sky is the limit, with anything from jerry jam or mouse to fresh cherries or anything in between. I’ve chosen to add amarena cherries, a small, dark, Italian semi-candied cherry that is intense in flavor and quite sweet. It’s the cherry you’ll find at the bottom of a great Manhattan. I went this route because for one thing I really like amarena cherries but also because I wanted the cake to be predominantly lemon in flavor with little bursts of cherry, and I thought this would be the best way to accomplish that.
One last thing! The lemon oil I call for is a brand I use at work called boyajian.
lemon cherry cake
lemon sponge cake
yield: 1 x 8” ring at 800g of batter
226g/1# butter unsalted
180g egg whites
162g whole milk
24g vanilla extract
270g cake flour
8g baking powder
30g sour cream
13g lemon oil
5g lemon zest approx. 1 lemon
10 drops yellow food color optional
Before getting started, bring the butter, whole milk, sour cream and egg whites to room temperature (see the recipe notes for a handy trick to make that happen quickly).
Combine and sift the cake flour and baking powder and reserve.
Whisk together the whole milk, sour cream, egg whites (if you haven’t combined those already), lemon oil and yellow food color and reserve.
Combine and cream the room temperature butter, sugar, vanilla extract, lemon zest and salt in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed for 3-5min. or until everything is well homogenized and light.
Add both the liquid and dry ingredients in three additions, mixing for 3-4min. with each addition.
Pour your batter into your prepped cake pans.
Bake at 350F/176C for 10min. then rotate the cakes in the oven and bake 10min. more or until a knife or cake tester comes out almost clean.
Let the cakes cool thoroughly, ideally overnight, before cutting into layers.
345g butter unsalted
700g powdered sugar
5g lemon zest approx. 1 lemon
30g lemon juice
30g heavy cream
6g vanilla extract
3g lemon oil
My favorite kind of recipe! Combine everything together and mix it in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment until the frosting is smooth and light, about 5min (scrape the bowl after 1min. of mixing before continuing).
white chocolate glaze
382g whole milk
125g glucose substitute with corn syrup
15g gelatin 160 bloom
500g white chocolate
500g white compound chocolate
as needed red food color
Hydrate the gelatin in cold water for a minimum of 5 minutes.
Combine the white chocolate, white compound chocolate, gelatin (after squeezing out the excess water) and food color and hold to them until later.
Combine the whole milk and glucose and bring them to a boil. Pour the hot mixture over the chocolates.
Let the mixture stand for 3-5min.
Hand blend everything until it’s fully homogenized.
Let the glaze cool to 86F/30C before using it.
Drain the amarena cherries and cut them into halves. Reserve them to use later.
Slice your lemon cake as desired. I like to cut my cake layers about .5-.75”/1.3-1.9cm thick.
Add frosting to your first layer of cake, measuring the quantity with either an ice cream scoop or by weighing the portion in a bowl (yup, I weigh each layer of frosting. It’s how you get really nice, even layers throughout the whole cake). Spread the frosting evenly over the layer of cake and press the amarena halves into the frosting, evenly distributed.
Repeat the process with the remaining layers of cake.
After the cake is built, add a thin layer of lemon frosting to coat the outside, known as a crumb coat because it binds all of the loose cake crumbs to the side.
Chill the cake in the cooler or freezer until the frosting has set firm.
Add a second layer of frosting and spread until smooth. Save any remaining frosting for decoration.
Place the cake in the freezer to set for glazing. The entire cake doesn’t need to be frozen at this point, just the frosting. I place the cake on the glazing setup (a sheet pan with a layer of plastic wrap and a glazing rack over that) before putting in the freezer.
Glaze the cake and immediately shift it around the grate to remove excess glaze from the bottom edge. I don’t lift the cake up off of the glazing rack during this process, just enough to allow it to move.
Place the cake in the cooler for 5min. to allow the glaze to further set.
Give the cake one more shift to remove excess glaze and place it on your serving plate.
Decorate as you see fit. I like to use some of the lemon frosting for quenelles and then add a few amarena cherries, white chocolate shards and some gold leaf. Happy birthday Matt!