Back in the fall I made a cake that I coined the Quintessential Fall Birthday Cake– an Apple Walnut Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting (YUM!) – and recently I made a cake that could quite possibly be the Quintessential Summer Birthday Cake. A 4-tier lemon cake layered with pastry cream and topped with fresh berries (Delish!)
Since the pastry cream needed to be refrigerated for at least 2 hours before using it I began this cake by cooking up 2 batches of it. I gathered up my ingredients (egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, salt, milk and vanilla extract) and whisked together the eggs yolks in one bowl and in another cooked the sugar, cornstarch, salt and milk until the mixture thickened and was bubbling. I then poured about a third of the milk mixture in with the eggs to temper them. Once the eggs were tempered I pour them back into the remaining milk mixture on the stove and whisked the mixture constantly until the cream came together. I removed the cream from the heat and added in the vanilla extract.
Following that I strained the cream through a sieve and then placed a piece of parchment paper right on top of it prior to refrigerating it. I had never made pastry cream before and was concerned this wouldn’t come out well, especially with tempering the eggs, but, it came out perfectly and I probably could have easily eaten the whole bowl it was so good.
While the pastry cream was chilling I began to work on the Lemon Cake – a 1-2-3-4 Lemon Cake. A 1-2-3-4 Cake is an old-fashioned cake that gets its name from the list of ingredients – one cup butter, two cups sugar, three cups flour and four eggs. First up I sifted together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl. I actually sifted the flour twice as I first sifted it to get the 3 cups I needed and then sifted it again along with the other ingredients.
In the bowl of my stand mixer I beat butter until it was softened and then gradually added in sugar until it was pale and fluffy.
And then the eggs.
Next up I added in the flour mixture in 3 batches alternating with 2 batches of buttermilk.
And finally I beat in vanilla extract and lemon zest.
I divided the batter evenly between two 8-inch pans – which I prepped with baking spray and parchment paper – and baked it for about 45 minutes in a 350 F preheated oven, rotating halfway through.
After letting the cakes cool 15 minutes in the pans I then removed them and let them cool completely on wire racks.
In preparation to assemble the cake I split the two cooled cakes into four with a cake leveler and then whisked together the chilled pastry cream.
After assembling the cake – I spread about a cup of pastry cream between each layer – I chilled it in the refrigerator for about an hour so the pastry cream could set and so I wouldn’t end up with a cake that had layers sliding all over the place.
While it chilled I rinsed and dried the berries I would be using – strawberries, raspberries and blackberries.
To make sure the berries would stay put on top of the cake I spread a layer of pastry cream on the top tier and then placed the berries on top of it.
This cake was delicious… The three flavors worked so well together and I can definitely see myself making it again before the cold weather begins to creep in in a few months.
Makes about 3 cups
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
Pinch of salt
2 cups milk
1 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1. Whisk egg yolks until smooth in a large bowl. Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan, and heat over medium. Stirring constantly, gradually ass milk in a slow, steady stream, and cook until mixture thickens and begins to bubble, about 5 minutes.
2. Whisking constantly, slowly pour one third of the milk mixture into egg yolks. Pour mixture into remaining milk mixture in saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture comes to a full boil and is thick enough to hold its shape when lifted with a spoon, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla.
3. Strain mixture through a fine sieve into a heatproof bowl. Cover with parchment paper or plastic wrap, pressing it directly on surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled and firm, at least 2 hours (or up to 2 days.)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups granulated sugar
4 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest of 2 lemons (I used one lemon so the cake wouldn’t be too “lemony”)
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter two 8-by-2 inch round cake pans; line with parchment rounds, and butter parchment. Dust with flour, tapping out excess. (I used two 8-by-3 inch pans and used baking spray instead of butter and flour.) Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl.
2. With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter until softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually add granulated sugar, and beat until pale and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of bowl once or twice. Gradually add eggs; beat until incorporated after each addition, scraping down sides of bowl once or twice.
3. Slowly add the flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with 2 batches of buttermilk; beat until just combined. Beat in vanilla and lemon zest.
4. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans. Bake, rotating halfway though, until a cake tester comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes. Transfer pans to wire racks to cool 15 minutes. Turn out cakes onto racks to cool completely.