Lux Lemon Layer Cake

I needed a cake for a friend’s birthday, and my lemon trees had some beautiful ripe fruit.  I imagined a light textured layer cake with bright lemon flavor completed with silky smooth lemon buttercream.  This cake was the result:  It’s like eating sweet sunshine combined with butter.

Lux Lemon Layer Cake

Lux Lemon Layer Cake

This is a longer recipe than usual, as the buttercream is technique driven.  I think the results are worth the bit of extra effort required.  Enjoy!

Lux Lemon Layer Cake

For the cake:  You will be baking a sponge cake, and when the cake is still warm, pouring a lemon syrup onto the layers.  Adding a tangy syrup to baked cakes is a great technique to add moisture and flavor while keeping a light and airy texture.

Prepare three 8″ round baking pans by spraying with non-stick baking spray with flour.  Use the Hot Milk Sponge Cake recipe, shown below, using the “For Large Cake” version and omitting the 2 tsp. flavoring.  Add finely grated zest of two lemons to batter just after adding the hot milk.
Hot Milk Sponge Cake Recipe
Pour the batter into the three prepared 8″ rounds and bake for about 25 minutes.

Lemon Syrup:
5 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice (from 3 – 4 lemons)
2 oz. water
7 oz. (1 cup) sugar

While the cake layers are baking combine the lemon juice, water, and sugar in a sauce pan.  Heat until sugar dissolves.  After the cake layers come out of the oven, cool in pans for 10 minutes.

three cake layers and warm lemon syrup

three cake layers and warm lemon syrup

Then loosen each layer and return to its pan.  Poke several holes on the top of each cake with a fork.  Divide the syrup onto the three layers, using a tablespoon to spread evenly onto each layer.  After an additional 10 minutes, unmold the cakes and allow to cool to room temp before frosting.  May be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored for a day in the fridge before frosting.

For the Lemon Buttercream:  This is a classic silky european style swiss meringue buttercream flavored with concentrated fresh lemon juice and pure lemon extract.

juice of three lemons (about 4 oz)
1/2 tsp. pure lemon extract
yellow food color (optional)
5 oz egg whites (from four large eggs)
10 oz (1 1/2 cups) sugar
16 oz unsalted butter, room temp.

Pour the lemon juice into a small saucepan and heat over high heat until boiling.  Continue to boil for a minute or two to evaporate 1/2 the water from the juice.  Remove the concentrated lemon juice from heat.  Cool and set aside.

Add 1 inch water to a medium sized saucepan.  Bring to a simmer.  Mix the egg whites and the sugar in a clean heatproof mixing bowl.  While stirring vigorously with a whisk, heat the egg white/sugar mixture in the heatproof mixing bowl over the simmering water for about 3 minutes.  Bring mixture to 140 degrees — or just until all the sugar is dissolved, and the mixture is considerably thinned and slippery feeling on the whisk.

Immediately attach the whisk attachment to your mixer, and beat the hot sugar/eggwhite combo on medium high until very light, barely warm, and smooth.  This will take 5 – 8 minutes, depending on room temp and type of mixer/bowl.

whipped egg whites and sugar, fully fluffy and cooled

whipped egg whites and sugar, fully fluffy and cooled

Switch to your paddle attachment, and, with the mixer running on low, add the unsalted butter one TB at a time.  This can be a tense moment for the new baker — but don’t fear the buttercream!  The buttercream will go through a change from marshmallowy to butter cream, and in between it may look a little curdled.  Just be patient and mix on low until the buttercream begins to come together.  (Great buttercream tutorial here)

buttercream, halfway through adding the butter

buttercream, halfway through adding the butter

When the butter is all incorporated, add the cooled concentrated lemon juice, the pure lemon extract, and the yellow food color to gently color the buttercream a pale yellow.

Flavored, colored lemon buttercream

Flavored, colored lemon buttercream

When the cake layers are cooled, and the buttercrem is ready, fill and frost the cake.  Decorate with some lemon slices and voila — Lux Lemon Layer Cake!

Lux Lemon Layer Cake slice

Lux Lemon Layer Cake slice

Apple Sage Meatloaf

Autumn is close at hand, and that means apples are in season.  My local market has beautiful seasonal apples, and I love to include them in savory dishes – including this fragrant meatloaf.

Apple Sage Meatloaf

Apple Sage Meatloaf

golden delicious apple, fresh sage, yellow onion

golden delicious apple, fresh sage, yellow onion

This twist on classic meatloaf flavors a 1/2 and 1/2 combination of turkey and pork with sweet apple, fresh sage, and onion.

mixture before adding the ground turkey and pork

mixture before adding the ground turkey and pork

I like to bake this meatloaf free form to encourage browning.  Using a loaf pan works as well.  Here’s to the beautiful apple, and delicious, cozy meals at home.  Enjoy!

Apple Sage Meatloaf

1 LB ground pork
1 LB ground turkey
1 yellow onion, diced fine
2 TB olive oil
1 apple, grated (no need to peel skin)
1 piece rustic bread, cubed into small pieces
1 TB minced fresh sage
2 eggs
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

I start by sauteeing the diced onion in olive oil.  (You may omit this step, and instead mix raw onion with the remaining ingredients.)  Mix all ingredients until cohesive.

Option one:  free-form loaf on rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Option two:  place meatloaf mixture into a standard loaf pan

Bake at 400 for about 35 – 40 minutes, or until firm and cooked through.  Cool just enough to slice and enjoy.  Great main dish to make ahead and heat in the microwave.

*for a gluten free version, substitute 2/3 cup uncooked old fashioned rolled oats or gluten free bread for the bread in the recipe above.

Smoky Black-eyed Peas

The beautiful black-eyed pea has a natural affinity to smoky flavors, and so pairs well with a favorite spice of mine — smoked paprika.

black eyed peas, tomatoes, and smoked paprika

black eyed peas, tomatoes, smoked paprika, and onion

Adding the rich sweetness of super ripe late summer tomatoes and diced red bell pepper rounds out the earthy flavor of the black-eyed peas. This is a satisfying vegan main dish, as it is naturally high in protein.  It also happens to pair well with grilled chicken or pork for the omnivores among us.

Smoky Black-eyed peas

Smoky Black-eyed Peas

I love to mop up the deeply flavorful liquid with toasted levain bread.  If you’re in the mood for something spicy, switch out the smoked paprika for chipotle powder.  Enjoy! (for Tad, a fan of smoked paprika)

Smoky Black-eyed Peas

12 oz dried black-eyed peas OR 1 1/4 LB fresh black-eyed peas, shelled
1 yellow onion, diced
3 TB olive oil
1 LB red ripe tomatoes, diced
1 large red bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 tsp smoked paprika OR 2 tsp chipotle powder (more if you like it spicy)
sea salt

If you are starting with dried black-eyed peas, simmer them in 5 – 6 cups water until tender, about 1 1/2 hours.

Heat a large covered pan over medium heat until hot.  Add the oil and the onion, stirring to prevent scorching.  Saute for a couple minutes.  Add the crushed garlic, the tomatoes, and the bell pepper and saute for a couple more minutes.  Add the smoked paprika or chipotle powder, about a tsp of sea salt, and the cooked or fresh black-eyed peas.  If the moisture level is below the level of the black-eyed peas, add just a bit of water.

Simmer, covered, on low heat for about 10 minutes.  Stir and check for moisture.  Add a bit of water if needed.  Simmer another 20 – 30 minutes or until the black-eyed peas are tender and the dish looks and smells great.  Taste, and adjust for salt.