Saturday, October 10, 2009

Poppy-Seed Lemon Layer Cake

This wedding shower cake also answers to the name "Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue"as it was in honour of my friend April, who is getting married in a few weeks.

Thanks to a series of house visits and random strangers tromping through my (spotless) kitchen, I found myself starting this cake at 8PM on a Saturday without much of a plan. As soon as the last potential buyer stepped out of the house, I whipped out the ingredients and was creaming butter and sugar with the speed of a Top Chef contestant during a quickfire.
The wedding shower brunch was the next morning and I needed a realistic plan that would allow me to get some sleep. So while the poppy-seed lemon cakes baked and cooled, I made the lemon curd and the buttercream, and debated over using rolled fondant for the finish. Around 10PM the cakes were frosted and ready to be decorated--the only trouble was, I was losing steam fast. Normally I'm pretty hard core, but as I looked over at the kit for making sugar paste flowers (bought especially for this cake), all desire to start handcrafting flower petals vanished.

At that exact moment,as fate would have it, I opened a cupboard and a tin fell out onto my workspace. Inside were three perfectly crafted white sugar roses, carefully preserved from my mother-in-law's wedding cake (not made by me) and long forgotten about. I took the discovery as a sign that I should borrow them for April's cake--wait...Borrow...wasn't that something to do with weddings? And poppy seeds are old, right? Lemons can be new...I just needed something blue.

I ended up dying a chunk of rolled fondant a soft blue and rolling it into little 'beads'. I dusted them in sanding sugar and voila, my cake was decorated in about 10 minutes with an appropriate wedding shower theme.

To conclude:The bride loved her cake and everyone lived happily ever after. I don't think I've never seen a cake eaten so fast, right down to the last poppy-seed.

The recipe is definitely a keeper: a soft butter cake, subtly flavored with lemon extract and zest and interspersed with not-too-many poppy seeds. There's a thin layer of lemon curd between the layers and the whole creation is wrapped with a very tasty lemon buttercream and makes for a slice of cake that leaves nothing to be desired.

This recipe is for a 9 inch round layer cake and serves 12 people.

Poppy-seed Lemon Butter Cake

yields two 9-inch round cakes

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans

1 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 3/4 cups sugar

4 large eggs

1 teaspoon lemon extract

zest of 1 large lemon

1 1/4 cups milk

1/4 cup poppy seeds


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 9-by-2-inch round cake pans; line the bottoms with parchment paper. Butter parchment, and dust with flour, tapping out excess; set aside. Into a medium bowl, sift together flours, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then beat in lemon extract and zest.With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour; beat until combined after each addition.
Fold in poppy seeds.

3. Divide batter between the prepared pans, and smooth with an offset spatula. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through, until cakes are golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes.
Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool 20 minutes. Invert cakes onto the rack; peel off the parchment. Re-invert cakes and let them cool completely, top sides up.

Lemon Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Makes about 4 cups, perfect for this cake.

4 large egg whites

1 1/4 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoons

3/4 cup lemon curd (recipe below)

In the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer set over a saucepan of simmering water, combine the egg whites and sugar. Cook, whisking constantly, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch.

Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg whites on high speed until stiff peaks form. Continue beating until the mixture is fluffy and cooled, about 6 minutes.
Switch to the paddle attachment.
With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter several tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. If frosting appears to have separated after all the butter has been added, beat on medium-high speed until smooth again.

(Aimée's Note: I do this every time. It brings the buttercream from a runny whipped cream consistency, to a thick frosting consistency. I prefer to work with it like this!)

Beat on low speed to eliminate any air bubbles. Stir in lemon curd with a spatula until smooth. Frosting is now ready to use or it may be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to three days. Before using, bring to room temperature.

Lemon Curd

I love this lemon curd recipe. It requires you to make it with the zest of the lemon, but at the end the zest is strained out through a fine sieve. This imparts the maximum lemon flavor, but the curd still has a silky smooth consistency. Mmm.

Makes 1 cup--enough for the buttercream with enough leftover for a thin layer between the cakes..

4 large egg yolks

Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 4 lemons)

1/2 cup sugar

5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces

Prepare an ice bath fitted with a medium bowl; set aside. Whisk together yolks, zest, juice, and sugar in a small saucepan. Set over medium heat, and stir constantly with a wooden spoon. Cook until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the wooden spoon, 5 to 7 minutes.
Remove pan from heat.

Add butter, 1 piece at a time, stirring until incorporated. Pass through a fine mesh sieve into prepared medium bowl. Stirring frequently, let stand until cool.

Place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on surface of curd to prevent skin from forming; wrap tightly. Refrigerate until firm and chilled, at least 1 hour. Store refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days.


Place one poppy seed cake onto a platter or cake stand. Spread about 1/4 cup of lemon curd over it and top with second cake layer. Frost with lemon buttercream and smooth sides. Decorate as desired.

To my fellow Canadians: Have a wonderful Thanksgiving long weekend!


Jennifer Jo said...

I'm astounded by how fast you work! The cake is beautiful.

Meegan @ The Harvey Circus said...

Beautiful cake! I'm sure everyone was delighted with it! Now, if only you could ship me a piece to Australia?!

Winnie said...

I love the theme of your cake. Good luck with the viewing and Happy Thanksgiving!

Deeba PAB said...

That's a gorgeous cake. Love that you strained the lemon curd & kept the smoothness & flavour! How sweet about the roses. Good timing!

Ivete said...

That looks awesome! Congrats!

Denise said...

Beautiful cake!! I love lemon & poppyseed. Have only thought of them in muffins together, not a cake. Sounds Yummy!!

Peter M said...

This is one of my favourite cake and muffin flavours and it's so nice to see it appear in a fancy cake!

Hilary said...

What a lot of trouble you went to for this shower - I thought it was a wedding cake! Lucky bride.

Ingrid_3Bs said...

Beautiful cake Aimee can I can NOT believe you "whipped" that together in just 2 hours! Holy cow but you are GOOD!

Cheryl Arkison said...

Now, if only your house would sell that fast...
Looks divine.

sarah said...

Your cake is sooo beautiful! Your blog is always so inspiring!

Abby said...

It's lovely! Those roses look real!

Melissa said...

What a scrumptious looking cake!

Kelsey B. said...

This cake looks delicious and I can't wait to see your new project in 2010!

El said...


Rachel said...

This cake looks great. My mother loves poppy seed. Maybe I'll make this for her birthday.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad I found this recipe. I actually made this cake yesterday for my hubs birthday and it is delicious!!!!! Mine did not look as good ha ha but the flavors were all there. The lemon curd and frosting turned out perfectly. I would like too improve the texture of the cake so if anyone has suggestions for high altitude (6,000 ft) please feel free to share. It was a bit too dense and I'm pretty sure that I need to make adjustments. It's worth the time to make this for the lemon lover in your life. My husband has been telling me all day he's the luckiest man in the world.


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