best lemon cake + fluffy vanilla icing

Wednesday, May 4, 2011
As I sit here and write this post, I stare out the window at the beautiful sunshine that has returned, after a day of horrible, downpour rain, after a federal election ( third in 5 years ), a win by the Canucks and all I can think about is popcorn.

It's not as strange as it sounds, we have an old-time popcorn machine at work. Fortunately, I work on the second floor so I don't have to smell it all the time. But when I have to venture downstairs, I get this waft of faux-butter, salt laden, half-burnt corn kernels that I can't resist.

I've tried everything to not eat it everyday, chewing gum when I have to go downstairs so I don't get the smell, trying to avoid going downstairs, reminded myself it's not as good as homemade, but nothing seems to work.

What is it about certain smells that you cannot resist? Popcorn is food made by the devil. Why is it so delicious, yet so, so bad for me? I know air popped popcorn can be healthy, if you don't soak it in butter, but really who doesn't ? But this stuff, oh it's deadly. Yellow no. 6 is not a natural ingredient.

While I try and tell my brain that I don't need to eat that popcorn, I have a healthy lunch, I don't need artificial butter flavour, I'll tell you about this cake I made for my dad's birthday.

It's the best lemon cake I've ever made/eaten. I love lemon cakes in general, the sharp, sour flavour of the lemon helps the cake from becoming an overly sweet, icing mess. This particular recipe uses a whole lot of lemon zest and lemon juice, which compliments the cake quite nicely. When else can you eat a lemon cake other than for a spring birthday?

Best Lemon Cake
[ adapted from Ina Garten via Leite's Culinaria ]

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups white sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup grated lemon zest, about 6 - 8 lemons
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease and line two 9-inch round baking pans.

Cream together butter and 2 cups of sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, on medium speed. Once fully combined, add lemon zest and mix to combine.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, combine lemon juice, buttermilk and the vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures to the butter mixture alternately, starting and ending with the flour.

Divide evenly between both pans and tap on counter to remove air bubbles. Bake for 30 - 35 minutes or until tester inserted into the middle, comes out clean.

Invert cakes on to a baking rack and let cool completely before icing.

Fluffy Vanilla Frosting
[ from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes ]

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
4 cups icing sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or an electric mixer, beat butter on medium speed until pale and cream, around 2 minutes.

Add the icing sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well and scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. After every 2 additions, turn mixer up to high and beat for 10 seconds to aerate frosting, then return back to medium. This whole process should take around 5 minutes. and the frosting will be very pale and fluffy.

Add vanilla and beat until smooth. Extra frosting can be refrigerated up to 10 days in an airtight container. Before using, bring to room temperature and beat on low speed until smooth, about 5 minutes.

Don't know how to frost a layer cake ? Check out this tutorial from the kitchn.