Monday, December 19, 2011

Mini Lemon Cakes

Things have been a bit hectic, this past fall. Adjusting to the quarter system at UC Davis  has taken its toll and I have been unable to keep up with my blog. I do regret this, but I have learned to manage my time better and hopefully I will be able to create more posts during the winter quarter. The course work at UCD is challenging, but I am enjoying it. I am looking forward to finishing Organic Chemistry and starting the upper division biology series required for my major. 

I have been on break for almost a week and a half now. So far its been good and surprisingly productive.   Two Fridays ago, I finally passed my driver's license test which was a huge relief. I also finished my immunizations for my hospital internship next quarter. They were all rather routine, except for the chicken pox immunization record. Instead of being immunized for the chicken pox, I took a blood test to prove I already had the chicken pox. I also got to see my girl, Nanny, the best part so far.

 After a week of winter break, things started to wind down and wanting to do something special for the holidays, I baked 4 inch tall cakes to give away. I made four and gave three away to some of my friends.

I used Martha Stewart's Lemon Cake Recipe, which I found online. The only change I made was substituting the buttermilk for milk and lemon juice. I did this partially because I forgot to buy buttermilk and I liked the idea of adding more lemon juice. To make the substitute I added 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to a 1 cup measuring cup and then filled the rest of the cup with milk. I let the mixture sit for about 7 minutes before adding it to the recipe. 

Baking these cakes was quite tedious, as I did not have small round cake pans. To overcome this problem I used a cookie sheet with a 1 1/2 inch border to bake a long, thin cake. I cut small circle cakes out of the parent cake, much like making cookies. The cakes don't have to be circular, but I found the circle to be easy to work with and it looked better frosted than a square or rectangular shape. I cut out 12 circles so each cake could have 3 layers. 

Next I used buttercream frosting to connect the different layers (The frosting recipes are at the bottom of the post). I added lemon flavor to the icing. After each cake was assembled I colored my frosting with food coloring and frosted each cake accordingly. Since the cakes were hand cut there are a lot more crumbs on the edges, which makes it harder to frost. To over come this problem I started with a lot more frosting than I needed and never let my icing spatula or knife touch the actual cake, only the frosting. The technique is similar rolling out pie dough. This will avoid crumbs appearing in your frosting and allow for a smoother frosting surface. After the cake is completely frosted I remove some of the extra frosting as I smooth out the cake. I admit, I still need practice when it comes to making a perfectly smooth cake, but that is what youtube is for.

In the picture below, notice the vertical lines on the side of the cake. My cakes were actually a bit lopsided, but the vertical lines created the illusion that they were straight by pulling the eye upward. 

After the cakes have been completely covered in frosting I let them sit overnight in the fridge allowing the frosting to harden. Then I made Royal Icing with egg white, also by Martha Stewart. This is the icing I used for the decorations. Unfortunately the icing wasn't as thick as I expected it to be, making it difficult to work with, because the designs would melt together. I most likely added to many egg whites per cup of powdered sugar. 

If I was to bake these cakes again I would change several things. First off I would buy mini cake pans, its just too much work without them. Also I would add more lemon zest to the cake batter and buttercream frosting. Instead of making the cakes three layers I would make them 4 or maybe even 5. I think the tall and thin look for small cakes is more professional. As for the icing, I would do a little more research and find an icing that is stiffer and can accommodate more designs.  I would also try a different icing for the outside coating, something tastier. 

Martha Stewart's Meringue Buttercream Icing
makes 3 cups

  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 5 large egg whites
  • pinch of cream of tarter
  • 1 pound (4 sticks) of butter, cold, unsalted and cut into pieces
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla or lemon juice
"1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring sugar and 1/3 cup water to a boil. Boil until syrup reaches soft-ball stage (238 degrees on candy thermometer).

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, use the whisk attachment to beat the egg whites on low speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar and beat on medium high until stiff, but not dry.

3. With the mixer running, pour the sugar syrup into egg whites in a steady stream and beat on high speed until steam is no longer visible, about 3 minutes. Beat in butter, piece by piece, on medium speed.

4. Add vanilla [lemon juice] and beat for 3 to 5 minutes, until frosting is smooth and spreadable. If it looks curdled at any point during the beating process, keep beating to smooth it out. If it becomes too soft for piping, stir over ice water to stiffen."

Martha Stewart's Royal Icing 
makes about 2 1/2 cups
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 4 cups of confectioners' sugar (powdered sugar)
"1. Place egg whites in an electric mixer (it should be very clean and dry) and beat, using the whisk attachment, until frothy. Add 1.4 cup of sugar and mix well. Gradually add remaining sugar, beating on low speed and scraping down sides.

2. Increase speed to high and continue to beat mixture until soft peaks form, about 5 minutes. At this stage, icing will be very thick. Add water [lemon juice], a few drops at a time, to thin it to consistency of a thick mayonnaise; after that it depends on the kinds of decorating you are doing. As a rule, icing should be stiffer for making petals, more malleable for lettering- but you will need to experiment. Storing icing at room temperature in an airtight container; keep bowl covered while working with icing. It should be used within two days."

1 comment:

  1. Look at all of those cakes! They're beautiful! And, well done on passing your driver's test. x


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