Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Birthday Cake Adventure!

We recently visited my in-laws in Colorado.  My sister-in-law's family was there as well, so we celebrated my niece's birthday together.  My mother-in-law had given her a few cake recipes so she could choose what birthday cake she wanted, and she picked the Raspberry Lemon Cake from King Arthur Flour.  When I arrived, my mother-in-law told me the birthday plan so of course I volunteered to make the cake.  Hooey, what a cake!  I mean to say this is ONE DELICIOUS CAKE.  And it became a bit of an adventure, as I will explain in a few moments!

The best thing about this cake though, is that it introduced me to my new favorite baking product - Fiori di Sicilia.  Have you heard of it?  I had never heard of it before my mother-in-law gave me some for Christmas.  And I thought, "ohh, this seems nice - a new extract to try".  Oh, boy.  NOw that I have tried it, words do not even express the amazing-ness of this extract.  It is simply divine.  It is a blend of vanilla and citrus extracts.  Go back to your childhood and think "Dream-sickle".  Now multiply that flavor in your head by making it more pure (as in no artificial taste) and more scrumptious.  Seriously, this stuff is the nectar of the gods!  Give it a try.  You can get it from King Arthur Flour, and I found a DIY recipe to make it yourself by combining 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract with 1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract and 1/2 teaspoon pure orange extract.  I haven't tried this but I might!!  This Fiori di Sicilia is heavenly!

Back to the cake.  There are several components - the cake, the lemon filling, the frosting and the raspberry filling.  Yes, many steps, but SO worth it.

The directions are very specific as to how many seconds you beat after each step.  I personally appreciate this, as I tend to get distracted these days and it is nice to have the reminder to make sure I don't over-beat things.  Anyway, the cake uses milk, lots of egg whites, vanilla extract, Fiori di Sicilia (AHHH), lemon zest, cake flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter.  Since I was making this cake in Colorado, I did all sorts of research as to how to convert things for altitude baking, which did seem to work.  If you are baking at altitude, I suggest you check the King Arthur Flour page about altitude baking

Cakes are done!  On to the lemon filling!

Here is where my adventure began!  The recipe calls for an ingredient called "Instant Clear Jel"  This product is sold by King Arthur Flour but is not something that my mother-in-law had on hand.  She had a package of guar gum and suggested that I use that instead but in a very small quantity.  OK, I thought.  I'll give this a try.  Well, it turns out that guar gum did not do what we needed it to do, at least not in the quantity that I used!  The lemon filling is supposed to be like a thick lemon curd, but mine turned out to be more like a lemon spread.  It was way too thin.  So if you make this recipe, either use the instant clear jel or figure out a different substitution that works better than my guar gum substitution!

The lemon filling contains lemon zest, lemon juice, Instant Clear Jel (or guar gum in my case - NO NO NO!!) sugar, butter, and egg yolks.  Essentially, it is lemon curd.  You could probably buy some lemon curd at the grocery store to use here, but don't tell anyone I suggested that!!

The frosting was made with a method I have never used before.  And I have to say that frosting was seriously delicious, so I will definitely use the recipe again!  To make this frosting, you dissolve sugar in boiling water and then add meringue powder and whip it until soft peaks form.  Then beat in the butter and add vanilla extract, Fiori di Sicilia, lemon powder (I have no idea what this is but I used lemon zest instead) and salt.  This frosting was light and puffy and delicious.  I will absolutely make it again.

Finally, the raspberry filling.  This is the easy step.  Mix some raspberry jam with some of the frosting and voila!  Raspberry filling!

Then you layer the cake!  You slice the cake layers horizontally, so there are now 4 cakes.  On the first layer of cake, spread half of the raspberry filling and then push some fresh strawberries into the filling.

First layer
Press the second cake layer on top, and spread the lemon filling/curd on top.  Here is when I began to suspect trouble.  The filling spread all over the top and poured down the sides of the cake!  NO!  Put the third cake layer on the top of the lemon filling.  Spread the rest of raspberry filling on top, followed by more fresh raspberries.  Put the top layer on and then frost the entire cake with the frosting.  Since I had lemon filling all over the place by the time I put the top layer on, I placed the entire cake in the refrigerator before frosting, to hopefully firm things up.  Once it was well-chilled, I frosted the cake.

All was well until I started to slice the cake!  See how the piece on the right is a bit cattywampus?  As I sliced the cake, my family ran around trying to to hold it together!  First just one side slowly slid off, then the other side started to slide - a cakeslide!  It was actually really funny.  It did not turn out to be the most beautiful cake I have ever made, but it was certainly one of the most delicious cakes I have ever made! 

Raspberry Lemon Cake
adapted from King Arthur Flour
my high altitude conversions are in italics

1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
3/4 cup egg whites, at room temperature (5 or 6 large eggs) -I used 6
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia
1 TB lemon zest
2 1/4 cups cake flour - plus 2 TB
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar - minus 1 1/2 TB
4 teaspoons baking powder - used 2 1/2 teaspoons
1 teaspoon salt
12 TB unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup boiling water
1/4 cup meringue powder
4 cups powdered sugar
2 cups unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon lemon powder (I used lemon zest)
1/2 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia
1/4 teaspoon salt

Lemon Filling
1 TB lemon zest
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 3/4 TB Instant Clear Jel
3/4 cup granulated sugar
6 TB unsalted butter
4 egg yolks

Raspberry Filling
2 TB raspberry jam
1 pint raspberries

Preheat the oven to 350°F (365F for high altitude).  Butter two 8" round cake pans and line the bottom with parchment. Butter the parchment and dust pans with flour.  

Mix the milk, egg whites, flavors, and grated lemon rind in a small bowl, stirring with a fork. Set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the cake flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt low speed.   Add the butter and continue beating at low speed until the mixture is crumbly.  Set aside 1/2 cup of the milk mixture.  Add the rest of the milk mixture to the mixer bowl and beat for 1 1/2 minutes.  Add the remaining 1/2 cup milk mixture and beat for 30 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Beat 20 seconds longer.  Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans and bake until the cakes begin to pull from the sides of the pans and spring back when lightly touched in the center - 20 to 30 minutes (15-25 for high altitude). Remove them from the oven, wait 5 minutes, then invert cakes onto a rack to cool completely. 

Lemon Filling:
Place the lemon zest, lemon juice, ClearJel, granulated sugar and butter in a saucepan.  Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat.  Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  In a small-medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until smooth. Whisk in a small amount of the hot lemon mixture (this tempers the eggs so you don't end up with scrambled eggs).  Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan, and stir until thick, without letting it come to a boil.  Pour the filling into a bowl and press plastic wrap onto the surface to keep a skin from forming as it cools. Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until cold. 

Dissolve the granulated sugar in the boiling water and allow to cool completely.  Using an electric mixer (hand, or stand), combine the cooled sugar syrup with the meringue powder and beat until soft peaks form.  Add the powdered sugar a bit at a time (to save your kitchen from a sugar storm), stirring until thoroughly combined.  Add the butter and beat until creamy. Stir in the extracts, lemon powder (or zest) and salt. 

Raspberry Filling: 
Mix the raspberry jam with 1 1/2 cups of the frosting and set aside.

Cake assembly:  
Cut the two cake layers in half horizontally, to make 4 layers.  If your cake layers got a little domed on top, carefully shave off the dome of one of the layers so it is nice and flat.  This will become your send layer (which gets lemon filling on top).  Place a small amount of frosting in the center of your cake plate.  This acts as glue to hold your cake in place.  Place the bottom half of one of the cake layers on the cake plate.  Spread 1/2 of the raspberry filling on top of the cake layer, and then place about 1/3 of the raspberries on top.  Press the raspberries into the filling.  

Place the second cake layer on top of the raspberries.  Spread the lemon filling on top.  

Add the third cake layer and gently press down.  Spread with the remaining raspberry filling.  Gently press half of the remaining raspberries into the filling.  

Top with the remaining cake layer.  Frost the entire cake with the frosting and decorate with remaining raspberries.

Serve to your friends and family and watch them swoon!
Printable Recipe

If you are a baker, I HIGHLY recommend my new most favorite extract - Fiori di Sicilia.  It is downright amazing!

Happy birthday to my incredible niece!  I am honored to have made a cake for your 17th birthday - and glad we shared the cake adventure together!


  1. Wow, does this sound delightful! Let me know the next time you make this cake;)

  2. looks delicious....just mouthwatering!

    1. Thanks! It was spectacular, just a bit funny looking as the layers slid apart! But who cares? The taste was right on!


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