Summer has only just begun and already we have had two long trips! This past week, we headed back out to my parent's home where we left our two eldest children before heading to the wedding of Paul's first Notre Dame roommate in Chicago. We had a lot of fun reconnecting with old friends and enjoying the wedding festivities. The highlight of the trip for both me and Paul was the rehearsal dinner where the groom's parents rented out an outdoor park that included a train and a carousel. Paul and I took several carousel rides just the two of us, glasses of wine in hand. It was kind of fun to enjoy something so simple and nostalgic without the children. The fun abruptly ended when the mosquitoes started biting rabidly, leaving gigantic residual welts from their feasting from which we continue to suffer.
When we finally headed back towards home, we added one additional person to our party. This is my little sister Amy (holding little Lucy).
She is sixteen years my junior and is also my sweet goddaughter. She is serving as my indentured servant for half of the summer and I could not be more thrilled. I just hope she does not end up running from our household when she discovers how incredibly energetic (aka annoying) my children can be! However, Amy is a natural with little kids - so patient, so nurturing. She is truly a baby whisperer! She's been at our house for two days now and Lucy has already started saying her name ("May-mee"). It's ridiculous how much every single baby and young child loves my sister Amy.
Mom also instructed me to condition Amy for her high school soccer tryouts this fall and I gladly accepted the challenge. However, I fear she is already beginning to hate me since she has already described me as being "crazy" with my workouts. Might have to slow it down a bit so I do not completely exhaust her.
We will just have to make some cake. Then I am certain I will be forgiven. The girl is obsessed with cookie dough, which means this cake might be happening in the very near future.
While on the subject of cake, I have so many delinquent recipes to share with you but have been unable to do so because I just have not had the time to blog over the past month! The trips have been crazy in terms of preparation and coming home has been almost worse because of the laundry, the exhaustion, and the reestablishment of a routine with the kiddos. My computer time has been minimal and as a result my little hobby that is this blog has very much taken a backseat - and by "backseat" I mean the very back of the freight car of a huge semi-trailer. This is the pathetically sad reason why I am sharing the recipe for my birthday cake over a month late.
|Emma with her current favorite - Uncle Mark!|
But this cake is so worth sharing for it was one of the most incredible creations! I had been toying with making a blueberry lavender cake for my birthday and suddenly, two weeks before the blessed event that was the completion of my 30th year, Annie from Annie's Eats shared this recipe for a Wild Berry Lavender Cake constructed in the spirit of a Momofuku Milk Bar cake. I was sold. I immediately began to plan the baking of it for my birthday. When Paul heard "lavender", he was more than excited since he is really into eating flowers for some reason. While I enjoy lavender in confections (especially macarons!), I am much more wary of the possible overuse of it, resulting in a soapy taste in whatever it is you are attempting to make. I was a little nervous about the amount of lavender called for in the recipe, but I just added it gradually and tasted as I went along and did not find it to be overwhelming at all. Once everything is assembled together, the lavender serves as an interesting background flavor that enhances the natural flavors of the tannin in the blueberries.
|Doesn't everyone use a blowtorch to light the candles on a birthday cake?|
If you are a fan of berries, this cake will make you swoon - the white cake is full of raspberries and blueberries. The raspberry curd is buttery, smooth, and not a bit too sweet. The berry sauce layered on top of the curd adds a sweet contrast to the tart curd and functions as a moist, complementary sauce to the cake. The cake, curd, and sauce are layered on top of each other to create a staggeringly tall, show-stopping concoction whose exposed sides proudly display the bright colors of the berries in varying shades of purple. It's a beauty.
Although normally a chocolate gal, this cake was the perfect choice for my birthday.
Wild Berry Lavender Cake
from Annie's Eats
For the cake:
240 grams (2 cups) cake flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
264 grams (1 1/3 cups) sugar
1½ tsp. finely ground culinary lavender buds
1 vanilla bean, split
146 grams (10 1/3 tbsp.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
182 grams (¾ cup plus 1 tbsp.) buttermilk, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
255 grams (1½ cups) fresh blueberries
180 grams (1½ cups) fresh black or red raspberries
For the sauce:
255 grams (1½ cups) fresh blueberries
180 grams (1½ cups) black or red raspberries
74 grams (6 tbsp.) sugar
1 tsp. ground culinary lavender buds
2¼ tsp. cornstarch
27 grams (2 tbsp.) water
14 grams (1 tbsp.) freshly squeezed lemon juice
For the curd:
100 grams (½ cup) raspberry puree (black or red)
65 grams (1/3 cup) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. water
½ tsp. powdered gelatin
170 grams (12 tbsp.) butter, very cold
2 grams (½ tsp.) kosher salt
½ cup heavy cream
2 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar
Splash of vanilla extract
Freeze dried raspberries, ground (optional)
Additional fresh berries (optional)
To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter and flour the edges of a quarter sheet pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the cake flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk together and set aside. Place the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the lavender and the seeds scraped from the vanilla bean to the bowl of the mixer with the sugar. Mix 1-2 minutes, until the sugar is fragrant. Add in the butter. Beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and creamy in color, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Mix in the eggs and egg yolk one at a time until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Combine the buttermilk and the vanilla extract in a liquid measuring cup. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients alternately with the wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing just until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for 15 seconds longer. Gently fold the berries into the batter. Spread the batter in an even layer in the prepared baking pan. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 32-36 minutes, rotating halfway through baking. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack.
Combine the blueberries, raspberries, sugar and lavender in a nonreactive saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the berries begin to release their juices. In a small bowl combine the cornstarch with the water and lemon juice and whisk until smooth. Stir the cornstarch mixture into the blueberry mixture. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 1 minute more. Remove from the heat. Cover and chill.
To make the curd, put the raspberry puree in a blender with the sugar and blend until the sugar granules have dissolved. Add the eggs and blend on low until incorporated. Transfer the contents of the blender to a medium pot or saucepan, and clean out the blender canister. Place the water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the top to bloom the gelatin. In the saucepan, heat the raspberry mixture over low heat, whisking often. It will begin to thicken as it heats up. Once it boils, remove it from the heat and transfer to the clean blender canister. Add in the bloomed gelatin, butter, and salt, and blend until the mixture is thick, shiny and very smooth. Transfer to a heatproof container, cover and refrigerate until completely cool, at least 1 hour.
To assemble the cake, invert the cake from the sheet pan onto a work surface. Use a 6-inch cake ring to cut out 2 circles from the cake (these will be the top two layers.) Wipe off the cake ring and place it in the center of a sheet pan lined with clean parchment. Use a strip of acetate to line the inside of the cake ring. Use scraps from the leftover cake to place in the ring and tamp together in a flat, even layer. Spread a heaping ½ cup of the berry sauce over the cake. Spread half of the raspberry curd over the top of the berry sauce gently, into an even layer. Gently tuck a second strip of acetate between the cake ring and the top ¼-inch of the first strip of acetate. Set a cake round on top of the curd, and repeat the layering process once more (heaping ½ cup of berry sauce, remaining half of the curd.) Place the remaining cake layer onto top of the curd. Use a mixer with the whisk attachment or an immersion blender to whip the heavy cream with the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla until medium-stiff peaks form. Spread a final heaping ½ cup of berry sauce followed by the whipped cream in an even layer over the top. Garnish as desired.
Transfer the assembled cake to the freezer and freeze for a minimum of 6 hours to set the cake and the filling. At least 3 hours before you are ready to serve, remove the pan from the freezer, pop the cake out of the cake ring, and peel away the acetate layers. Transfer to a cake platter and defrost for at least 3 hours before slicing and serving.