Monday, April 8, 2013

Dulce de Leche Lemon Cake

I've been baking for a long time. Each time I try to remember when exactly I first pulled the flour bin out and tried something new, I give up and go do something more useful, like wash the giant pile of dishes that kitchen gremlins keep sneaking into my sink. There has always been an unspoken rule in my family though: I make whatever the heck I want, but mom makes the birthday cakes (except for her own that is, though even then she gets a say in what I make). My older sister has mom's Drunken Cherry cake, without which a birthday is not a birthday, and my younger sister has had mom's "L'ubimiy" (quite literally "The Favorite").  It involved lots of butter, homemade dulce de leche, fresh lemon and fluffy yellow cake layers, and it has been her go to for a long time. That is until a few years ago. I don't recall why, either mom couldn't or she asked me specifically, but I was asked to make my sister my lemon cake instead. I think I mentioned it on here a long time back, it was a cake that involved slightly dense lemon cake layers with lemon curd spiked whipped cream inside and out. I got the recipe from an old issue of Gourmet and modified it slightly over the years based on my family's preferences and it was pretty good. Since then it's been an alternating battle. Does she choose mom's lemon cake or mine?

This year her birthday was going to be celebrated late and while talking over her plans late one night on IM, I typed out loudly "I'm making your cake this year! What do you want?" "I'm sure whatever you make will be lovely. Something with lemon. Or chocolate. Or lemon. Did I mention lemon?" she replied. I reeled through all the different cakes I'd like to try out next in my head before I decided that no matter how crazy I want to get, it's not about what I want to try, but about what she would want. It would be for her birthday after all. And then it hit me! I'd make the ultimate cake for her: I'd combine her two favorites into one giant confection to blow her mind. And this is how the "New Favorite" was born. 

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The process is a little lengthy, and I apologize for the lack of good pictures of the cake (it was the middle of the night when I finished it), but trust me, it came out awesome and the birthday girl was blown away. And yes, I did insist on having the correct number of candles on the cake. I'll continue to do that until she's 93 and the cake looks like a flammable porcupine. I may be a middle child but for a few years I was the little sister, and those lessons are hard to unlearn.

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The New Favorite (or Dulce Lemon Cake)
This recipe is a combination of several sources, including an old Gourmet recipe, but I'd changed so much about all of it over the years and now combining it with my mom's recipe, the result is all my own. Note: Plan to make this over two days because the lemon curd and the dulce de leche will need time to cool down.

For the Frosting/Filling:
1 14oz can of condensed milk

Zest of 2 lemons
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
3/4 stick of unsalted butter (6 Tbsp), cut up into pieces

2 8oz packages of cream cheese, at room temp
1 cup of unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temp

For the cake:
3 cups cake flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
16 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temp
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs, at room temp
1¼ cups buttermilk, at room temp
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Place the unopened can of condensed milk into a deep pot and cover completely with water. Cover the pot and place over high heat until the water boils, then lower the heat to medium high to keep a steady boil going and cook for 2.5-3 hours. Check on the pot every 30 minutes or so and add water as needed to make sure that the can stays submerged. Don't forget about it because if you don't have water in there the can can blow up and you don't want all your hard work splattered on the ceiling. Take the whole pot off the stove, carefully take out the can with tongs and let it stand out until it's completely cool. Don't try to open the can until it's cool or, once again, it will blow up. 

2. In a separate pot, combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar and eggs. Whisk together lightly, add in the chopped butter and cook over moderately low heat, whisking constantly, until the butter has melted and the custard has thickened enough to hold the marks of the whisk for a bit and you start seeing a few bubbles around the edges. Don't let it boil. Once it's thickened take it immediately off the heat and pass it through a strainer into a bowl to remove any bits of cooked egg and the lemon zest. Cover with saran wrap pressed over the surface of the curd (this will prevent a skin from forming) and let it cool to room temp before you transfer it to the fridge to set completely.

3. Once both the dulce and the lemon curd are completely cool, beat the cream cheese and the butter together until fluffy, beat in the whole can dulce de leche until combined and then beat in the lemon curd in several stages. I added the entire batch in, but my frosting came out a little bit on the softer side. You may want to reserve a little of the curd for your breakfast toast if you'd prefer your frosting a bit stiffer. Or you can just chill it for a bit before you use it. 

4. To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350° F.  Grease the bottoms of two 9-inch round cake pans lightly with butter, line the bottoms with parchment paper and then grease and flour the bottom and sides again. I use Baker's Pam, which is oil and flour in one and is awesome.

5. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder and salt.  

6. In a large bowl of your mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter, the lemon zest  and the sugar on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and creamy in color.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for one more minute. Beat in the eggs one at a time until incorporated,  scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.  

7. Combine the buttermilk, the lemon juice and vanilla extract in a liquid measuring cup.  With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients alternately with the wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing just until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for 15 seconds longer.

8. Divide the batter between the prepared baking pans.  Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20-22 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking.  Let cool in the pans about 10 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack and let cool completely.

9. Once the layers are cool, cut each one in half, lengthwise. Place one layer on your serving plate and top with a thin layer of frosting. Top with another layer and repeat until you have all four layers stacked with three layers of frosting between them. Use the rest of the frosting to cover the top and sides and pipe on decorations with anything you have left over. You want to get every last bit of that frosting onto that cake because it's the best part.  

The cake will keep for a few days in the fridge, provided you don't eat it all in one sitting. 



Fly said...

Best. Cake. Ever. Ever. Ever. Forever ever? Forever ever, Outkast. You know it.

Rosie @ Blueberry Kitchen said...

Oh yum, your cake sounds amazing!

Anonymous said...

To verify: boil a can of condensed milk? Or SWEETENED condensed milk?