Friday, March 1, 2013

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

So I was shooting pictures of Audrey at the six week mark (two weeks ago), when my camera suddenly died. I was extremely irritated and had a really bad feeling that it wasn't gonna be an easy fix. I tried finding a camera repair shop in town, but the best I could do was a general electronic repair store in a sketchy ass shopping mall. It took them a week to look into the problem, only to conclude that they didn't know what the problem was. This left me with only two choices: 1) Buy a new camera, or 2) Send it to Texas and pay nearly $300 to have Sony fix it. Neither of these choices sounded like anything I wanted to do, so I decided to think on it. Meanwhile, I posted a message on Facebook inquiring whether anyone knew of a camera rental store. I did get a couple of suggestions about rental possibilities, but I also got a number of kind, generous friends offering to let me borrow their cameras so that I wouldn't miss out on photographing Audrey during the several weeks that I'd be camera-less.

Even though I was sans camera and figured I wouldn't be able to blog about it, I decided that I wanted to make a lemon poppy seed cake for no reason in particular other than I like making cakes. So yesterday between Audrey's wakeful periods and excellent visits with friends, I made cake. [Aside: Baking a cake with a baby is actually better for me because I don't just sit there and wait for the cake to cool before frosting it. No, I am required to wait because Audrey doesn't much care that I have a kitchen project when she wants to eat, play, or poop :)]

After the cake was complete, I hacked off a quarter of it and gave it to Natalie + Carol (who ate it with a shared plastic spoon as they walked home from their visit). I gave a generous slice to my friend and co-conspirator in new motherhood, Rachel. Then I ate a slice myself and thought, This is heavenly. I have got to give more of it away if I ever want to fit in my skinny jeans again. So I put two more hefty slices into two tupperware containers and walked one over to my neighbor, Karen, and the other to my neighbor Ann.

When I handed the tupperware to Ann, she remarked about how she sees me taking pictures of my food for this blog on my back porch periodically (the light in my kitchen makes it really tough to take a decent picture sometimes). I sighed and shared with her that my camera had broken, so I wouldn't be able to post about the cake. Her response? You can have mine. I told her that my friends were going to let me borrow their camera so it wouldn't be necessary. She shrugged me off and said, No, no. Mine just sits in the corner of my room. I haven't used it in ages. Stay right there, let me go get it. Ann is my elder, so I did as was told and stood in her foyer as she went to fetch the camera.

And what a camera it is! In fact, it is a nicer camera than the one I own. I spent the better part of the last two days learning how to use it. And as luck/fate/irony would have it, my best friend, Erica, and her boyfriend, Ben (an excellent photographer), came to visit us today, so I even had a private tutor help me start to figure it out! (Check out Ben's work here.)

I haven't decided the best way to proceed - I can't possibly accept such a generous gift outright - but for now I am going to photograph the heck out of food and babies and be thankful for all the wonderful people in my life.

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake
adapted from Technicolor Kitchen

Preheat oven 350ยบ

In a large electric mixing bowl, combine:
3 cups cake flour
1 3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
zest of one large lemon, minced

Mix for 30 seconds.

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
Mix on low until butter has moistened the dry ingredients.

While mixer is still going, slowly add:
1 cup buttermilk
Increase speed to medium high and beat for 30 seconds. Scrape down sides and bottom of the bowl and beat for an additional minute to aerate the batter.

In a small bowl, combine:
5 egg whites
1/4 cup buttermilk

Use fork to break up whites and mix with buttermilk. In three additions, add egg mixture to the batter. Mix on medium for 20 seconds and scrape down bowl after each addition.

Pour batter into two 9" cake pans that have been greased and lined with parchment paper.

Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Let cool in pans for 10-15 minutes. Remove and let cool completely on cooling rack before glazing and frosting.

Lemon Syrup
In a small bowl, combine:
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
juice of one large lemon

Microwave for 30-60 seconds or until the sugar is completely dissolved.

Lemon Zest Cream Cheese Frosting
In a large electric mixing bowl, combine:
1 8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 cup salted butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
zest of one large lemon, minced

Beat on high until ingredients are well combined.

One half cup at a time, beat in:
1 pound confectioners sugar (This is a rough estimate; I usually just add sugar a couple of spoonfuls at a time until the consistency seems right.)
Periodically, scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Place one cake layer on serving dish. Use basting brush or carefully pour half of the glaze on top of the first layer. Frost first layer using roughly one cup of frosting. Place second cake layer on top of the first. Use basting brush or carefully pour remaining glaze over cake. Frost sides and then top of cake. Garnish with poppy seeds. (I had leftover frosting - about a cup and a half - which I froze for later use.)

Eat up (+ share with your neighbors, of course)!

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