lemon frosting

i should probably stop talking about the weather, because here in l.a. it keeps changing. this city is trying on different outfits: cozy and gray one week, bright and breezy another. it was only a couple days ago that the stifling heat had me sticking to my shirt. but today, the air has chilled again: the roof of my car is beaded in rainwater, and the pavement shimmers under the streetlights, which come on earlier to fight the hanging gloom. but no matter the weather, i don’t think there is a day when this lemon frosting wouldn’t fit right in – it sounds like some kind of wonderful weather phenomenon anyway.

.

.

i’ve made this butter cake quite a few times since i first found the recipe. i’ve put it on repeat, you could say, and each time i’ve topped it with something new (it lends itself well to different outfits too, i guess): simple and wholesome with strawberries and cream, glossy with a slick coating of caramel, and now covered in this bright and fresh-tasting buttercream. so often, my homemade frostings taste more of powdered sugar spackle than anything worthy of gracing a delicate cake. but in this one, the lemon sings the highest notes and the taste is nothing but cool, clean, and creamy.

i have it mentally bookmarked for my birthday in a couple weeks, where i think it’ll be lovely with a little bit of something pink… hopefully summer will come back around again long enough to visit the berries at the market.

.

Lemon Frosting
adapted just a smidge from Whipped
Makes enough to frost a one-layer cake

2 sticks butter, firm but not cold
zest of one lemon
1/8 tsp. salt
3 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
½ tsp. vanilla
3 tsp. lemon juice
2-4 tsp. buttermilk

Beat butter, zest and salt on medium speed until lighter in color and fluffier in texture, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low, gradually add sugar, and beat until blended. Add the vanilla and lemon juice and beat until smooth. Do not overmix or frosting will incorporate too much air. It will be creamy and dense. Add buttermilk 1 teaspoon at a time until frosting has a spreadable consistency.


cake for a summer morning

summer is for unadorned pleasures: an evening stroll without a jacket, sweet cherries straight out of the bowl, bare feet in the grass… a single slice of butter cake to go with the morning sunlight.

…perhaps it’s just me that likes to have cake for breakfast, but seeing this peculiarity resurface is fine by me. this is me feeling like myself again.

i have, as i mentioned, been reading – voraciously now, for i think it may become a favorite – atonement. i am also – as is my other little habit – making my way through a second book, the help by kathryn stockett, which is set in the south in the 1960s. at the narrator’s first mention of caramel cake, my mind was swinging towards a recipe i remembered seeing once on the blog smitten kitchen. suddenly i needed to bake a cake. (which, by the way, is just the kind of whim i am apt to indulge in.) so in between chapters about minny and aibileen, i was setting eggs out on the counter, measuring buttermilk into a cup, and twisting up the knob on our old gas oven – also, i think, from the 1960s.

.


summer fare is best left simple, though. as much as i love caramel and the idea of the stuff sliding down a cake in curtains of amber sheen, it just isn’t the season to be standing over a bubbling pot with a candy thermometer in hand. so for the golden round that was rising and baking in the oven, i had a vision of sliced strawberries on a small pillow of cream.

.


simple as it was, this cake astounded me. its texture was just what i was dreaming of: soft as air and just moist enough to hold its crumb and slice beautifully. perfectly sweet and warmed through with the aroma of butter. i’m not sure i’ll need to try another yellow cake recipe again.

i will find reasons to bake this one again, and dream of different ways to dress it up, and get around to that originally-intended caramel glaze, i’m sure. but for these summer mornings, when i am lucky enough to linger as long as i like at the seat by the window, all i need is this one and an open book.

.

.

.

Softest Butter Cake
recipe for caramel cake, repurposed, Gourmet, January 2008
found via smitten kitchen
Makes one 9-inch round cake

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring)
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature 30 minutes
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan and line with parchment paper; then butter parchment. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  2. Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, and then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture may look curdled). Add flour mixture in 3 batches, mixing until each addition is just incorporated.
  3. Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles. Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes, and then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack and discard parchment; then cool completely, about 1 hour.