Celebrating Mother’s Day

In a few days it will be Mother’s Day, a celebration of mothers throughout the United States. The Sunday holiday has rituals of making mother breakfast in bed, going out to eat and perhaps a family get-together of some type.

There are no traditional foods associated with Mother’s Day, but a very special celebration cake is always welcome.

Cakes at high altitude are tricky. There are many schools of thought about the perfect way to adjust the cake for our 6,000-7,000 foot altitude. The majority of adjustments are complicated, and some work better than others.

The “richer” the cake, meaning the greater the amount of ingredients like eggs, sugar and butter, the harder the cake must work to rise properly in the thinner air at our elevation—and to stay risen and not sink in the center as the cake cools.

The simplest and most effective adjustment for any cake, of any type, is to reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe. If the cake calls for 1-1/2 cups try using 1 cup. You will find the difference amazing and no one will be able to taste the reduced sugar difference. It will improve the rise of your cake; prevent the cake from slumping or falling in the center; taste just as rich and yet have fewer calories. You may reduce the sugar by 1/4, 1/3 or 1/2. The reduction will depend on the richness of the cake. I usually start with a 1/3 reduction. Try with any cake recipe! It will work.

The recipes today are for a golden cake, a lemon curd filling, buttercream frosting and how to sugar edible flowers to use as the decoration on the cake. Start preparing your cake soon and surprise yourself (and your mother).

Golden Cake Layers

Recipe adapted from Nick Maligeri’s Perfect Cakes.

“The words gold, or golden usually signify a cake made with egg yolks rather than whole eggs. These layers may also be split and used for shortcake.”

Cake Layers

2-1/2 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

12 Tablespoons (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

1-1/3 cups granulated cane sugar (I use less, maximum 1 cup)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon lemon extract

6 large egg yolks

1 cup whole milk

Prepare two 9-inch round cake pans (buttered or sprayed and lined with parchment paper) or three 8-inch round cake pans. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350℉. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Mix well. Set aside. Place butter and sugar in bowl of stand mixer and beat with the paddle attachment on medium speed for 5 minutes, until very soft and light. Add extracts, then beat in egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Reduce mixer speed to low. Add 1/3 of flour mixture, then 1/2 of the milk. Repeat adding flour mixture and milk until all ingredients are used up. Scrape well after each addition. Pour batter into prepared pans; smooth tops. Bake layers 30 to 35 minutes, until well-risen, firm, and a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool layers, on a wire rack, still in their pans for 5 minutes. Then remove from pans to finish cooling.

If you are going to use the layers the same day, wrap in plastic wrap and keep at room temperature. To use later, double wrap and freeze.

Dried Sugared Edible Flowers

Be very careful as many plants with edible flowers have poisionous stems, leaves or other plant parts. Use only edible flowers which you have grown yourself or know for a fact to be free from pesticide sprays or fertilizers. Edible flowers may be purchased from the herb section of speciality grocery stores. Many growers at farmer’s markets do not use pesticides or fertilizers and their flowers are safe to use.

Squash Blossoms, Violets, Roses, Pansies, Nastursiums, Lilies, Johnny Jump-Ups, Clover, Calendula, Borage, Orchids and many others are eaten. The best blossoms to use are Violets or Johnny Jump-Ups or Pansies. These flowers hold their color and their shape and size. Violets and mini rose buds are perfect for cakes and special desserts. These flowers hold up well and do not wilt or turn brown when used on cakes or other desserts.

Use only clean, dirt-free flower blossoms. Then you will not need to wash and dry the blossoms, an unneeded extra step which often harms the petals. Snip the blossom off one to two inches below the stem. I find it very helpful to have the short stem to hold the flower while sugaring.

You will need one egg white for 60 to 80 Violets or 40 Pansies, plus one cup extra fine sugar. This can easily be made by pulsing granulated cane sugar in the food processor to achieve a very fine sugar. Beat egg white with hand mixer until frothy, but not stiff.

Use a small paint brush to lightly coat the petals of the flower. Do not soak the flowers as then there will be too much liquid and the sugar will coat the petals too heavily. Brush all excess egg white off. Sprinkle sugar lightly over petals. Shake off any excess sugar. Place blossoms face up on cooling rack and allow to dry at least 12 hours. Two or three days is best. To store, place in air tight container on and between layers of wax paper. The flowers should keep up to 2 months.

Lemon Curd

From David Lebovitz’s Improved Lemon Curd and Martha Stewart’s Lemon Curd recipes as adapted by kitchenconfidente.com.

3 egg yolks

1 whole egg

3/4 cup granulated cane sugar

1/2 cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons)

Zest of 2 lemons

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick) cut into small cubes

In a small saucepan whisk together the egg yolks and egg until completely combined. Place over low heat and whisking continuously, add sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest. Continue whisking until mixture is creamy and well mixed—one minute more.

Increase the heat to medium. Using a wooden spoon, stir constantly until the curd is thickened and coats the back of the wooden spoon, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Add butter cubes, one at a time, stirring with wooden spoon after each addition. Strain curd into a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap placed directly on the surface of the lemon curd. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before using. Store well covered in the refrigerator for up to one week. This Lemon curd is delicious and easy to prepare.

Tip: Changing to the wooden spoon is important. A whisk will incorporate air into your mixture. Using a wooden spoon will allow you to stir, yet not add air to the curd. It is easier to see the line drawn through the curd using a wooden spoon. A heat-proof spatula will also work well.

Very Best Buttercream Frosting

4-1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 pound unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into 2-inch chunks

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3-4 Tablespoons heavy cream

Combine powdered sugar and butter chunks in a stand mixer. Mix, using the paddle attachment, at very low speed until combined, then increase mixer speed to medium and whip for 3 minutes. Add vanilla extract and heavy cream. Beat 1 minute more. Frosting should be smooth and easy to spread. Add more heavy cream by teaspoonfuls if needed to spread perfectly.

For flavor, add juice and grated peel of lemons, 2 large per recipe; lime, 3 or 4 per recipe; oranges, 2 large per recipe; white, milk or dark chocolate ganache, 1/4 recipe weight (If the frosting weighs 1 pound, add 4 ounces ganache, to taste. Whip on medium speed until fully blended and add additional heavy cream if needed for a smooth, spreadable frosting); cream cheese or Neufchatel cream cheese, 8 ounces per recipe; peanut butter, 8 ounces per recipe (Do not use organic peanut butter); 2 or 3 fresh peeled peaches or apricots, chopped fine and stirred gently into frosting; 1 cup fresh or frozen strawberries or raspberries, mashed with a fork and stirred in (Use less heavy cream as the fruit will be juicy); 4 or 5 crushed candy canes and 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract; 1/2 to 1 teaspoon mint extract with coarsely grated chocolate mint candies. Or add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon coconut extract to the frosting and coat the sides of the cake with lightly toasted flaked coconut—or any other flavor combination you like!

How to Assemble a Cake

Have all your cake items prepared and ready to use. You will need cake layers, baked and completely cooled; lemon curd (or any other filling) at room temperature; buttercream frosting, prepared and ready to use; sugared flowers, prepared and dried.

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Trim off the domed top of any cake layers so they are completely flat. Choose the most perfect layer for the top. Place the first layer on a cardboard circle; first smear a tablespoon of frosting on the cakeboard before placing the first layer. This will help keep the cake layer safely anchored on the cardboard. A purchased cake cardboard may be used, or trace a circle the size of the cake layer from any heavy cardboard and cut out neatly.

Spread the first layer with a very thin layer of lemon curd. If you use too much, it will be impossible to spread the buttercream frosting over the lemon curd. The same is true if you are using a jam or ganache for the filling. Spread the first layer with buttercream frosting, completely to the edge of the cake. Place the second layer of cake on the first, centering the layer. Spread the second cake layer with a very thin layer of lemon curd, then spread the second cake layer with buttercream frosting, completely to the edge of the cake. Place the third cake layer, with the flat bottom on top, centering the layer. Spread the third cake layer (top) with a very thin layer of lemon curd. Spread the third cake layer (top) with buttercream frosting, again to the edge and over and down the sides. Spread very thinly, and without perfection—this is a crumb coat or skim coat layer.

Wrap wax paper around the outer edge of the cake. Place cake in freezer for 20 to 30 minutes. Remove cake from freezer and frost. The cold cake will allow the frosting to spread smoothly, easily and evenly. Using a bench knife or spatula, smooth the cake top and cake edges. Pipe any decorative cake top edge decorative border. Place sugared flowers as you like, to one side, or all around. Smear a tablespoon of frosting on the cake plate or cake stand. Carefully, using the cardboard, move the cake to the cake plate or stand. Pipe a decorative border at the bottom of the cake. Enjoy.