With all of my attention, love, and affection (for food, at least) directed at bread baking these days, it might seem that I’ve strayed from my first love, pastry.
However, when given the opportunity to spend a Friday away from the bread kitchen, I happily settled back into my own, excited to be working with butter, sugar, and blueberries in season creating something sweet, tall, and delicious to go along with the fortune cookies and send Matthew off to Pittsburgh properly.
So many important milestones in the lives of friends and loved ones are marked by me pouring through cookbooks, searching for a cake that I think will speak to the honoree in a particular way. Sometimes these decisions are ingredient-based, like the cakes that I make for chocoholics, and sometimes the cake is driven by a theme or message, in which case aesthetics will drive the flavor choices that I make.
In Matthew’s case I had nothing to go on. He likes every flavor. He’s a dream of a dinner guest because there’s absolutely no limits to the foods that he’s willing to try.
For a warm August rooftop party, doing something gooey and chocolate just didn’t seem right. Especially when the blueberries are still piled high in the stalls of the farmer’s market. I wanted light airy cake, even lighter frosting, and a cake that would show off the star ingredient beautifully.
Just like so may times before, my quest ended with Alissa Huntsman’s gorgeous book, where I found this. Swirls of blueberry and lemon in a cake as light as air, sandwiching fresh blueberry jam between the layers, and covered in a light, just slightly lemon buttercream.
The results were all one could hope for from a summer celebration cake, delicious, beautiful, and not too heavy.
And like all the other cakes featured in Sky High Cakes, this was perfect for it’s honoree, time, and place. I highly suggest that you run out and get a copy. It’s worth it for the food porn alone.
Marbled Lemon Blueberry Butter Cake
Almost as is from Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 tsp grated lemon zest
11⁄2 tsp lemon extract ( I do not have lemon extract and substituted with an additional tsp lemon zest)
7 egg whites
3 cups cake flour
4 tsp baking powder
1⁄2 tsp salt
11⁄4 cups milk
Fresh blueberries, for decoration
Lemon blueberry preserves (below)
Lemon buttercream frosting (below)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottom and sides of three 8 inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper. In a mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, lemon zest and lemon extract until light and fluffy. Gradually add the egg whites 2 or 3 at a time, beating well between additions and stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Combine the flour, baking powder and salt, whisk gently to blend. In 2 or 3 alternating additions, beat the dry ingredients and milk into the butter mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl several times. Beat on medium-high speed for about 1 minute to smooth out any lumps and aerate the batter.
Scoop 1 cup of the batter into a small bowl. Divide the remaining equally among the 3 prepared pans, smoothing the tops with a spatula. This gives you a smooth surface to work with. Add 21⁄2 tbsp of the lemon blueberry preserves to the reserved batter and blend well. Drizzle heaping teaspoons of this blueberry mixture over the batter in the pans. Use a skewer to swirl the blueberry mixture in short strokes to drag it down through the lemon batter without mixing it in.
Bake for about 25 minutes or until a cake tester or skewer stuck in the centre comes out clean and the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan. Lat the layers cool for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack, peeling off the paper and leaving to cool completely.
Lemon Blueberry Preserves
3 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
11⁄2 tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
Puree the blueberries with any juices that have exuded in a blender. Pass the puree through a coarse strainer to remove the skins. In a heavy medium saucepan, combine the blueberry puree with the sugar, lemon juice, zest and ginger. Bring to a gentle boil over a medium heat, stirring often for 20 minutes, or until the preserves have thickened and are reduced to 1 cup. To check the proper thickness place a small amount of a saucer and put in the freezer until cold. Drag your finger through it. If a clear path is made through the preserve then it is ready. Let the preserves cool before using. (Can be made up to 5 days in advance).
Lemon Buttercream Frosting
1 cup sugar
1⁄4 cup water
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Continue to boil without stirring, occasionally washing down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush until the syrup reaches the soft-ball stage, 238 degrees F on a candy thermometer. Immediately remove from the heat.
In a large mixer bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed, beast the eggs briefly. Slowly add the hot syrup in a thin stream, pouring it down the sides of the bowl; be careful to avoid hitting the beaters or the syrup may splatter. When all the syrup has been added, raise the speed to medium,-high and beat until the mixture is very fluffy and cooled to body temperature. This can take 15-20 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to medium-low and gradually add the softened butter 2 to 3 tablespoons at a time, beating well between additions. As you’re adding the last few tablespoons of butter, the frosting will appear to break, then suddenly come together like whipped butter. Beat in the lemon juice, and the frosting is ready to use.
To assemble the cake, place a layer, flat side up, on a cake stand. Spread half of the lemon blueberry preserves over the top. Place a second layer on top of the first and spread the remaining preserves over it. Finally place the third layer on top and frost the top and sides with the lemon buttercream. Decorate with fresh blueberries and serve.
Makes one 8 inch triple layered cake.