This week's recipe is from Baking with Julia, and is part of the blogging group Tuesdays with Dorie. As the old saying goes... "When at first you don't succeed, try, try, again"! Or how about, "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right". So I did. Again.
My first attempt at the Lemon Cake didn't go very well. It was my fault. I know exactly why. I didn't give the ingredients the attention they deserved. The cake was dense, but not in a good way, and a little tough. My redo was much better. I'll try to explain the details.
The recipe has the usual cast of characters. Eggs, sugar, flour, baking soda, heavy cream, and butter.
The first time, I read through the recipe and tossed the eggs & sugar in the mixer. First mistake. While it was ok and the right thing to do to add them together, it was way too much power. A gentle whisk was the ticket. I mixed the second batch with a balloon whisk. Remember that when you add eggs to sugar, you should start whisking right away. The chemical reaction that occurs when they mix is heat. You want the cake the be tender, and not have little bits of microscopic scrambled eggs making the texture - well... rough.
Attempt one had no sifting. What was I thinking? Any good sponge or simple cake like this should be sifted. I got out my sieve and sifted the baking powder and cake flour together for a much lighter and well-combined mixture. If you don't have a sifter, just take your whisk and whisk the flour to fluff it and break up any clumps. Time for true confessions. The first time, I threw caution to the wind, and used all-purpose flour. The second time, I used real cake flour. Want to know the difference? Cake flour has very low protein. When you add the liquid and start to mix, very little gluten is created. Therefore, there's very little chance of creating elasticity and rubbery cake. For a cake with such simple ingredients, and only lemon zest for flavor, this is really important. Don't get me wrong, all-purpose flour is great for some cakes, cookies and muffins. Just be careful not to overmix.
Now on to the butter. This is a very picky point, but to make a great cake in this category (madeleines, pound cake, etc.), you want to be sure your butter is melted and cooled; and separated. Let the butter rest in the clear container. Allow the milk solids to settle to the bottom. When you pour the butter into your recipe, make sure those milk solids stay in the container and don't end up in the batter. This will also help with a tender, light pleasing texture. Here's a photo of the butter as it settles. See the milk solids on the bottom?
I was going to scratch up this recipe to just average, when I realized it was me being average about my approach. It's a really gentle, sweet, cake perfect for any brunch, coffee, or present for a friend. I think it would be great grilled or toasted.
Just one more quote for Eleanor Roosevelt, "It takes longer to explain why you did something wrong, than to do it right". From now on, no rushing, no shortcuts, and more happy endings! Thank you for listening to my long explanation!
Please try this recipe and let me know what you think. Truc and Michelle, are the two hosts for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie - Baking with Julia and have the recipe posted on their blogs. Coming up, a great recipe using coconut from Around My French Table. Talk to you soon!