A spring cake for a picnic. The slightly tangy and sweet flavors make this a delightfully refreshing combination.
I can bake a cake. A plain simple no frill cake. I also like exploring new flavors and textures, that pop in my head at a sudden strange moment – like this one. I wanted to make a cake that defines spring. Fresh creamy, cool yogurt redolent of lemon zest, sweet red strawberries enclosed within layers of honey colored lemon cake. It paints an impeccable picture of spring, combining all elements and flavors.
But when it comes to fluffing cream and carefully layering and making it look as pretty as it sounds, I miserably fail. I have realized that I am not the kind who feels relaxed whipping cream or just taking delight in patiently and carefully place one layer over another, creating an art form as perfect as the thoughts. I slap the cream, layer the strawberries unevenly and after I am done with only two layers, I want to go out and weed my garden.
The spontaneity that drives me even if I have to cook say about five overwhelmingly large recipes one after another, is missing when it comes to decorating. It is almost like I want it done. Fast. I am not sure if that is to see how it turns out as I am always worried or I want to get done with it and move on.
That is how much we are in discord, the cake and I. So as you can see the end result is far from a pretty spring picture.
Among a lot of other things, desserts have made me realize that I am the kind who do not like to follow traditions. Often I want to end my meals on a savory note, but crave for dessert as a mid morning snack. (one of the reasons I do not make too many desserts). The same reason I wanted layer this cake with thick creamy yogurt than cream. Shrikhand – the creamy, whipped flavored yogurt that makes a side dish or dessert in many Indian households is especially a definition of summer bliss for me. Unlike the cream, there is nothing heavy about it. Its refreshing. It soothes and calms us entirely.
It is imperfect. Spring is not. But thankfully the flavors of lemon and the plump strawberries are perfect – even in their imperfections.
Plenty of lemon flavor.
Generous amount of fresh strawberries
So one day, I decided, as I whipped Srikhand with lemon zest that this sort of thick whipped, lemony yogurt should make a perfect filling for a layer cake.
Thick creamy yogurt with lemon zest…
and now combine the strawberries.
and layer them with the yogurt, and another layer of fresh strawberries topping the yogurt…
Right after I got an opportunity to make dessert for a picnic. And this cake happened.
I got that “must happen” feeling inside me, which means I could not do anything else but this. I realized that the having this dessert outdoors when the temperature here is already soaring past mid eighties might not make it a good candidate for picnic dessert. The fresh strawberries will wilt. The creamy yogurt will turn warm and runny. But I still had to make this. More for myself than the picnic. Such are my obsessing thoughts.
In all its imperfections the cake was delicious. Just as I had imagined. I did not send the cake for the picnic. I chickened out. The melted layers and the sore wilted strawberries definitely would have happened while the cake rode the long distance and sat in the sun. Just as I imagined. Instead, A went and bought a cake and took it.
This one was just perfect for our own backyard picnic. The weather was perfect and so was the cake. For us. (a small part of it was shared with a friend).
I did not have to worry about the uneven layers and the lopsided cake.
Served with a scoop of whipped cream and lots of fresh strawberries. The way I like mine.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there.
As all moms would know, a day dedicated is of little account. Every moment of every day is a celebration; through smiles, tears, tantrums, unkempt hair, mismatched shoes, endless driving hours and then more tireless hours with homework, laundry and food and spontaneous “I love you”s for no reason at all. These are the priceless gifts that nothing can buy. The moments when you see a child sleep, lost in the dreams with the pudgy palm under the cheek and the mouth slightly open, the tiredness melts away. Or you cry when you see a hand print with “I Love You Mommy” comes back in the school folder. Or when after a day of tantrum, the teenager comes down and asks you if she can sleep with you… and she holds your hand and falls asleep. These are my ways to cherish the seconds of my motherhood and celebrate being a mom every day.
Being a parent of two healthy beautiful children, I cannot get this little girl out of my mind. A sparkling child fighting to live a normal life. A child unable to swallow or eat on her own. Check out Twisha’s update on the Facebook Page about Twisha, and all about her in her the Website about her. She has undergone multiple surgeries and now waiting for another one. You can help by donating and also by spreading the word to bring awareness to those who are willing to help. Please help another mom see her child smile. Help her raise the fund for her baby’s surgery. Let the miracle happen.
Lemon Layer Cake with Yogurt and Strawberries
Recipe for the cake adapted from Lemon Blueberry Layer Cake of Sally’s Baking Addiction.
Ingredients: (makes one 5 layer cake)
- 6 cups (leveled) all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup light brown sugar ( I have used Turbinado Sugar)
- 8 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoon lemon extract
- 2 cup (240ml) buttermilk
- 4 tablespoon lemon zest
- 8 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon milk + a small pinch of saffron (for color) – Optional or yellow food color if you want to use
For soaking the cake:
- 1.5 cups of water + enough sugar to sweeten it + 1 teaspoon lemon extract
For the layers:
- 2 lbs fresh strawberries, hulled and very thinly sliced
- plain yogurt/Greek Yogurt + 1.5 cup (preferably ) confectioners sugar (adjust to taste)
- 4 tablespoon lemon zest
For the Glaze:
- 2 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 cup confectioners sugar
- water or cold milk in needed
Note: The use of yogurt to layer the cake is not a must here. If you want, you may whip heavy/double cream until soft peaks from and combine with sugar and lemon zest to layer the cake. This would make it a cake with fresh cream layer.
Baking the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray three 9×2.5 inch cake pans with nonstick spray. Set aside. (if you are making 5 layers, you will have to bake in batches or if you have more pans and if the oven allows you to fit in all of them at one time, you are lucky enough to bake all of them at one time).
Or you have the option to make fewer but thicker layers, like only three.
Sift the flour. Combine half of the zest with the flour. Rub the zest with your finger tips with the flour to release the fragrant oil in the zest. Next combine salt and baking powder with the flour.
If you want a light yellow color for the cake, very lightly toast the few saffron strands in a dry skillet. You may heat the skillet, remove it from heat and place the saffron strands on the skillet for a few minutes. Crush the saffron strands in the tablespoon of milk and allow it to sit for a while until it releases the color. Or you may use a a drop or two of yellow food color.
Using a paddle or hand held mixture, beat the butter on high until creamy, a couple of minutes. Add white and turnbinado sugar and process on medium-high until the sugar dissolves and the mix looks creamy, another 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Add eggs one at a time, lemon extract and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until everything is combined, about 4 while scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as required.
Add the saffron milk if you are using or the food color to the cake mix.
Slowly add the flour mix to the wet ingredients, a little at a time, beating while they combine. Now add the buttermilk, the rest of the lemon zest, and lemon juice. Stir well until everything is well combined.
Divide batter in 5 portions.
Spoon batter evenly into 3 prepared cake pans (or 5 if you are baking them all together). Bake for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If you have more batter, finish baking the rest. Remove baked cake from the oven and place them on wire rack and allow them to cool completely.
Preparing the filling:
Drain yogurt in a cheese cloth or strainer until most of the liquid has drained and the yogurt is a thick lump. The thicker it gets (and the less water it has, it is better. It can be whisked and will be very creamy instead of runny. I usually place the yogurt in a strainer lined with cheese cloth over a bowl to collect the liquid and place it in the refrigerator. Leave it overnight.
Combine sugar and zest with drained yogurt and whisk until there are no lumps and the yogurt is smooth like cream. If the water has drained well, it will form soft peaks just like full/heavy cream.
Slice the strawberries. You may set aside a few strawberries for garnish. Adjust the number of strawberries for the filling. Also if you are making fewer layers, you will need fewer number of strawberries.
To assemble the cake:
Place the bottom/last layer of the cake on a plate/cake stand.
Whisk the water, sugar and lemon extract until sugar is dissolved.
Poke the cake with fork and drizzle some of the water until the cake is wet (not soggy and falling apart). Let it sit for about 5-7 minutes for the water to be well absorbed. Spread a layer of the creamy yogurt (as much or as little) on the pierced cake. Top the yogurt with a single layer of thinly sliced strawberries.
Now place another cake over the strawberries. Poke this cake with a fork and wet it with the sugar water. Repeat the lemon yogurt and strawberries.
Repeat this process with all the layers, until you reach the last one. Soak the top most layer, but do not top it with yogurt. (or you may if you want, instead of the glaze).
To make the glaze:
Whisk lemon juice and confectioners sugar until well combined. If it is too thick add 1/2 teaspoon water or milk at a time, until it is of a slightly runny, drippy consistency. Spoon over the topmost layer of the cake. Some will slice and drip down the sides which is okay. Decorate with fresh strawberries. Chill the cake before serving.
Serve with chilled whipped cream and fresh strawberries. Or just by itself.
Preparation Time: 1 hour + overnight for the yogurt
Cooking/Baking/Assembling: 3-4 hours
Difficulty Level: Intermediate
Serves/makes: 1 layer cake
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