I miss cake. A lot. I gave up candy and anything that might be considered a decadent dessert for Lent this year. Try as I might, I can't find a way to classify cake as anything but decadent. Even though sometimes it seems so necessary.
I'll try to channel my cake longing into this post about pink lady cake, which I made for my 30th birthday (a year and a half ago). This cake is so good, it should be a sin. And for me -- during Lent -- it is.
Since, back in the summer of 2013, I had recently moved into a house on a lake, throwing a lakeside birthday party seemed natural. I loaded up on flowers from Pike Place Market in bright, happy shades of magenta, purple, and orange, and placed bouquets throughout the house and yard. I needed a cake to match the feel -- something bright, happy, light, and airy. Pink lady cake -- strawberry cake, lemon curd filling, and vanilla bean buttercream frosting -- was perfect.
Like every party I've ever thrown, I spent a little too much time making sure the house was just right and was in a rush to finish the last few items on my to-do list. Thus, my frosting job is a little rough. Let's call it casual.
At least the cake made it to the party. All the ingredients for Greek slaw (for 30!) stayed in the fridge because I didn't quite get around to making that. But with the summertime menu of beer brats, grilled peppers and onions, homemade potato salad, and an array of fresh veggies, I don't think anyone went hungry.
The weather for the party was beautiful. A bit too chilly to spend much time in the lake, but perfect for basking in the sun, drink in hand, and chatting with friends. A few drops of rain in the afternoon did little to dampen the mood. As evening set in, we pulled on jackets, huddled around the patio heater, and continued to enjoy the pleasure of good company, surrounded by the warm glow of 20 or so multicolored glassybaby. It was one of the loveliest birthdays I've experienced. And it certainly had the best cake.
This cake takes a bit of time, but it isn't difficult. You can prepare your strawberry puree and lemon curd a day or two in advance, and measure out your dry ingredients for cake and frosting the night before to save time. Pink lady cake pairs well with cream cheese frosting, but I opted to use this vanilla buttercream frosting because it's my favorite. And it was my birthday, after all.
[Note: This recipe is designed for three 8" cake pans, but I used three 6" cake pans so my cake would be extra tall and impressive looking. I also make another batch of batter and used two 10" cake pans to make a second cake.]
Pink Lady Cake
A recipe from Sky High: Irresistable Triple-Layer Cakes
Makes one 8" triple-layer cake
1 1/2 pounds frozen strawberries, thawed, with their juices
4 1/2 cups cake flour
3 cups sugar
5 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
8 egg whites
2/3 cup milk
1-2 quarts fresh strawberries, washed, for decoration (optional)
A recipe from Martha Stewart
Makes 1 1/2 cups
3 large egg yolks, strained
Zest of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup lemon juice
6 Tablespoons sugar
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces
To Make the Lemon Curd:
Combine yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice, and sugar in a small saucepan. Whisk to combine. Set over medium heat, and stir constantly with a wooden spoon, making sure to stir sides and bottom of pan. Cook until mixture is thick enough to coat back of wooden spoon, 5 to 7 minutes.
Remove saucepan from heat. Add butter, one piece at a time, stirring with the wooden spoon until consistency is smooth.
Transfer mixture to a medium bowl. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd to avoid a skin from forming; wrap tightly. Let cool; refrigerate until firm and chilled, at least 1 hour and up to 2 days.
To Make the Cake:
Working in batches if necessary, put the strawberries and their juices in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. No need to strain. Set aside 1 1/4 cups of the puree for the cake. (Freeze or use the remainder for another delicious treat.)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter three 8" cake pans and line with parchment paper. Butter the paper.
Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the electric mixer bowl. Blend on low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter and strawberry puree and mix to blend. Raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. The batter will resemble strawberry ice cream at this point.
In another large bowl, whisk together the egg whites and milk to blend. Add the whites mixture to the batter in 2 or 3 additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl and mixing only to incorporate after each addition. Divide the batter among the 3 prepared pans.
Bake the cakes for 30-34 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cook in the pans for 10 to 15 minutes. Invert the pans onto wire racks and peel off the paper liners. Let cool completely before assembling.
To Assemble the Cake:
Use a cake leveler or large serrated knife to level your cake layers. Place the first layer on your cake plate/stand. Cover the top of the layer with lemon curd. Place the second layer on top of the first. Cover the top of the second layer with lemon curd. Place the final layer on top of your cake.
Spread a thin layer of your desired frosting over the top and sides of the cake. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour to set. (This is your "crumb coat.")
Spread a thicker, final layer of frosting over the top and sides of your cake. Decorate with fresh strawberries and frosting swirls as desired.