I think something is off with my oven. It took a few tries to get these cakes to work; I had two come out underdone, even when the skewer test seemed fine, the top sprung back, and the cakes were in far longer than their recommended baking times. I don’t think it’s the fault of either recipe, as both worked fine when I baked them earlier, but I wonder if my oven is displaying the correct temperature. Luckily, everything worked out in the end (and the cake scraps from my two failures were still edible, if not totally structurally sound), but it was a bit stressful getting these two cakes together!
I started with a lemon cake, using this lovely recipe (halved to fit a 6″ cake tin). I didn’t have sour cream, so I substituted with plain yogurt, which seemed to work pretty well. I made the first two layers with bottled lemon juice and the second two layers with fresh lemon juice, and I noticed that the second layers actually had a reaction between the baking soda and lemon juice. These second two layers turned out a bit lighter than the first two, so I think fresh lemon juice is key here. The layers with bottled juice also turned out a little more tart (though no less delicious) than those made with fresh juice.
To pair with this, I made a tart raspberry goo by heating blended raspberries over medium heat with lemon juice and sugar, then strained to remove the seeds. I swirled this into a lemon buttercream with a little lemon curd (store bought, not homemade – it was on sale!).
I originally intended to have a cake iced mostly in white with streaks of pink and yellow, but once the icing was on the cake it blended to a bright pink:
I made four more layers, then covered the top and sides in the same buttercream. I didn’t have a specific design request for this cake, so I decided to try the rustic look, produced by smearing the icing with a small spatula. I finished off with a shell border in the plain white lemon icing.
On top, I piped eight small rosettes around the edge, then topped them alternately with lemon curd and more raspberry goo. I finished off with a sprinkle of candied lemon zest on top of each rosette.
The final product ended up looking like this:
For the second cake, I made a chocolate cake. I had a request for one of the cakes to be gluten-free and I chose the chocolate cake because I’ve found these cakes to turn out really well. I tried the same cake as for my last 6″ gluten-free cake, though this time something went wrong and the first cake deflated, for lack of a better word (after baking for something like 10 minutes over the recommended baking time, it was still quite soft in the middle). I don’t think it’s the fault of the recipe, but something seems to be going on with my cakes lately (also the recommended internal temperature is 140, but at 140 the center was still almost completely liquid, so I’m a little puzzled). I was able to salvage one layer, so took a second try at the cake to get a three-layer chocolate cake.
I used my usual chocolate buttercream and made a ganache that was just under a 1:1 ratio of chocolate to cream so it would drip nicely down the cake. For this cake they specifically requested a chocolate drip, which I really enjoy making. Unfortunately I don’t have as many process photos of this cake, as the cake mishaps really ran me down to the wire on this one!
I recently got a great bench scraper that comes with a few different types of grooves so you can make patterns in the side of a cake. As you can see from the picture below, I’m still getting used to it, as the pattern isn’t totally even. But I do like the texture it gives the cake.
The ganache turned out very thin so it made nice long drips down the side of the cake. As this cake was for a grandmother’s birthday, I added a “Happy Birthday Grandma” to the top. I finished it off with some stars, piped with a jumbo star tip I just bought. I’m not entirely pleased with how the stars looked, but I was running pretty close to my pickup time for the cakes so I didn’t quite let the ganache set enough (once it’s set it makes a much better base for piping). You can’t quite see it in the photo, but there’s some chopped chocolate and cake crumbs also sprinkled around the edge.
I just got a text and email saying that both cakes were delicious, so I’m glad they turned out after so many things went wrong in the baking process. Plus, now I have lots of leftover cake scraps to snack on over the next few days 🙂