Monday, May 08, 2006

Sunshine Cake

D is at it again. He spies a girl on the street eating a fluffy lemon poppy seed muffin and crave mode hits. Like a greedy child in a sandbox, another has the object of your desire and it must become yours. Better yet, why have the same toy, when you can make it bigger and better? Why make a lemon poppy seed muffin when a cream cheese glazed cake is that much more seductive? Why inhibit your sweet intake by making wimpy cupcakes when you can increase your serving portions with an entire cake?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of D's overactive food desires, and when he came home the other night researching lemon poppy seed cakes I knew it was time to step back: “I just need to have it!” So I retreated, awaiting the results. He finally found the object of his desire on his old favorite, Martha Stewart Living.

He returned complaining that every found recipe called for something along the lines of “add powdered lemon poppy seed mix.” It was when he found the Martha recipe, calling for three sticks of butter and 7 eggs, that he knew he found gold, or rather, citrus yellow.

A few months back I was dropping a CD off at a bakery for a friend. I was told upon delivery, “get the sunshine muffin before you leave.” When I arrived, every homemade delicacy looked amazing: mixed berry scones, peanut butter muffins and the sunshine muffin. I bagged one of each meaning to eat a little on my way home, bringing the remains back to D. The remains turned into a tasting spec of the peanut butter muffin and the berry scone—the sunshine muffin, or lemon poppy seed, was happily in my belly. This cake would ensure no muffin would be eaten before D would have a taste.

Without further ado, D has done the research for you to find the ultimate lemon poppy seed cake recipe. This one is quite good: terrifically moist, with sweet cream cheese frosting holding the layers together. The recipe below, taken from Martha’s website, was followed with a few exceptions: lesser shiny cream cheese frosting was made and used. We added it between the layers, then thinned it with some lemon juice and added poppy seeds to drizzle over the top. D also wanted a pure lemon cake and we replaced the orange and lime zest for all lemon. I’m sure the original recipe is just as decadent.

Makes 1 eight-inch-round layer cake
So the glaze will be soft and shiny, apply it just before serving.
* 1-½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
* 3-¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
* 2-½ teaspoons baking powder
* ¾ teaspoon salt
* 2-½ cups granulated sugar
* 7 large eggs, lightly beaten, room temperature
* 1-½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
* 1 cup milk, room temperature
* ½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
* ½ teaspoon grated orange zest
* ½ teaspoon grated lime zest
* 1/3 cup poppy seeds, plus more for sprinkling

1) Heat oven to 350°; place two racks in center of oven. Butter three 8-by-2-inch round cake pans; line each with a circle of parchment paper. Butter paper, and dust pans with flour; tap out excess. Set aside.
2) Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Set aside.
3) In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium-low speed until lightened, 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually add sugar; beat until color has lightened, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl once or twice. Drizzle in eggs, a little at a time, beating on medium-low speed after each addition until batter is no longer slick but is smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Stop to scrape down bowl once or twice so batter will combine well. Beat in vanilla on medium-low speed.
4) Reduce the mixer speed to low. Alternately add reserved flour mixture and milk, a little of each at a time, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Scrape down the bowl once or twice. Beat in lemon zest, orange zest, lime zest, and 1/3 cup poppy seeds.
5) Divide batter evenly among the prepared pans. Bake 30 minutes, then rotate pans for even browning. Bake until a cake tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, 5 to 10 minutes more. Transfer to wire racks to cool, 15 minutes. Turn out cakes, and set on racks, tops up. Cool completely.
6) Remove parchment from bottom of each layer. Save best-looking layer for the top. Place one layer on the serving platter. Spread 1 1/2 cups cream-cheese frosting over the top. Place second cake layer on top, and spread remaining 1 1/2 cups frosting over top. Place reserved layer on top. Chill cake, loosely covered with plastic wrap, 1 hour.
7) To serve, stir lemon glaze well, then pour onto center of top layer of cake, letting it run down the sides. Using a single-hole zester, cut long strips of zest from orange and lemon, if desired. Arrange zest in loose spirals on the top of cake, and sprinkle lightly with poppy seeds.

Makes 3 cups
Let this frosting chill for at least three hours before spreading. Use this to frost Citrus Poppyseed Cake or your favorite cupcakes.
* 12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
* 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
* cups confectioners' sugar

1) In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese on medium-low speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add butter, and cream until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add confectioners' sugar on low speed, and mix until completely combined.
2) Beat frosting on medium speed until smooth and fluffy, about 1 minute. Transfer to an airtight container, and chill until firm, 3 hours or overnight

I did not copy the lemon glaze, but you can find it here.

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