Friday, June 26, 2015

Lavender Cake

There's a recipe for a "summer cake" in the tea book that is very pretty, but has almost no flavoring in it.  I decided to crank it up a notch and infuse it with lavender.

I admit, part of the appeal of this recipe was the naked sides of the cake.  Icing is not my strong suit.  The poured fondant in the cookbook's photo had me nervous until I remembered I have rolling fondant in the pantry.  Not as tasty, but far easier and looks better.

As I was tweaking the recipe for my own uses on a piece of scratch paper, I had an old episode of "Good Eats" on in the background.  Alton was talking about the revolution that happened in cake baking about a hundred years ago when someone realized that oil produced a cake better than butter did.  Betty Crocker soon signed on to the concept and the packaged mix was born.  To me, it explained why I often have better luck with margarine in the batter than butter.  Margarine is mostly solidified oil.

3/4 C sugar
*1 tsp dried culinary lavender
3/4 C margarine
3 eggs
2/3 C milk
*1-1/2 C cake flour
2 Tb baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

1.  The day before, measure sugar into a sealable container.  Add lavender and shut tightly.  Shake to distribute buds and let sit overnight.  (You can also let it sit several days.  There's no real time limit.)

2.  When ready to make the cake, pour sugar into a fine-mesh strainer just large enough to let the sugar crystals through.  Shake gently over the mixing bowl of your stand mixer until the only thing in the strainer is the lavender and maybe the largest sugar crystals.  Reserve those for garnish.

3.  Add margarine to the bowl and beat with the paddle until creamy.  That takes a couple of minutes, so you can prepare two 8" cake pans by greasing them with shortening and lining the bottoms with wax paper.  Might as well start preheating the oven to 350º while you're at it.  I love stand mixers.  They free you to do all sorts of things.

4.  Scrape down the bowl and add eggs one at a time, beating each until incorporated before adding the next.  Add milk 1/3 C at a time.  You will end up with a sloshy mix, but it will keep the finished cake from drying out.

5.  Sift together cake flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add slowly to bowl and mix on low until mostly incorporated.  Scrape down sides, then beat until smooth, about one minute.  Try not to beat until it starts to look stringy.  That's gluten, the enemy of a fine-crumbed cake.

6.  Pour into prepared pans.  The trick to making a two-pan cake come out even is to weigh them.  Both pans should weigh the same if they have an equal amount of batter.  Yes, the layers look thin, but did you see how much baking powder you put in this cake?  Bake until lightly golden and springy, about 25 minutes.  Rotate pans once after 15 minutes for even browning.  Once they pass the toothpick test, allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack and removing the wax paper.  Cool completely before icing.  You can even bake the cake several days before and freeze it once cool until needed.  It's easier to ice.

Filling and Topping
1/2 C butter, softened
1 C powdered sugar
1 tsp lavender extract
*1/2 C prepared fondant

1.  Beat butter until creamy.  Gradually beat in powdered sugar.  Beat in extract and whip until fluffy.

2.  Place bottom cake layer on serving plate or cake circle, whatever its final destination will be.  Iced cakes don't look as good once they have been replated.  Spread filling over top of the bottom layer, reserving 2 Tb.  Go all the way to the edges, so it will peek out from between the layers.

3.  Place top layer on the filling.  Once everything is lined up, spread remaining filling on top of cake in a very thin layer.  This will keep the fondant from sliding around, provide moisture, and make it taste a little better.

4.  Knead fondant until soft.  Roll into an 8" circle, sprinkling with powdered sugar as needed to prevent sticking.  Carefully transfer circle to top of cake and center it.  Brush lightly with water and sprinkle with reserved lavender buds.

Makes one 8" layer cake

Difficulty rating :)

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