Sunday was Mother's Day. Mama Culinarian lives in Connecticut but my mom and sister are both local and since we were celebrating, I decided that the occasion merited a cake. A girly, fancy confection.
In the moment, the most feminine thing I could think of was the delightful and lovely shade that pink lemonade has (Perhaps I was thirsty? Dehydrated?). And, thus, an idea formed to create a strawberry lemon layer cake, a pink and yellow one dressed up with some fondant icing and some sugar flowers.
This required a trip to a local cake supply store, The Little Bitts Shop in Wheaton, MD. It is crammed floor-to-ceiling with anything a baker could want. I filled my basket with sugar flowers, some fondant (I recommend Satin Ice), and my new best friends, flavor concentrates. Stronger by far than extract, these concentrates will flavor your whole cake with only a few drops (4-6 drops do the work of a whole teaspoon of extract). They rock.
Back home, I went to my standby yellow cake recipe by Judy Rosenberg. It can be found in her utterly shameless book, Rosie's Bakery All-Butter, Fresh Cream, Sugar-Packed, No-Holds-Barred Baking Book, which, to date, has not failed me.
I made the batter, divided it, and colored and flavored 2/3 of it strawberry (pink) and 1/3 lemon (no food coloring). I baked the cakes in 8" round pans, split the strawberry cake in half, and filled and iced the three-layer cake with buttercream. Making your own buttercream is super easy and so worth it. It just tastes better and you only have 3 ingredients -- butter, cream, and sugar -- as opposed to the canned chemical-filled icing you get at the grocery store.
Then came the fondant.
Should you ever feel compelled to use fondant, bear in mind that your first attempts might imperil an otherwise healthy sense of self-worth. The effect is multiplied should you decide (as I did) to ice a cake with fondant while running late to Sunday brunch! You will be humbled in no time. Fondant is...trying. It rips. It fails to roll out evenly. It cracks. Worst of all, it sticks to counter tops.*
But lookie here! Pretend you don't see the slightly wonky, lumpy fondant. Voila: The girliest of Mother's Day cakes for my mom and sister, who are ever-loving and ever-giving to their kids, through the sweet (strawberry) and sour (lemon).
*Full disclosure: This may have happened to me. Numerous times. There may have even been loud cursing in the kitchen, the sort of language you never use in front of your mother, but eagerly direct at her Mother's Day cake. To prevent sticking, use confectioners sugar (a good amount) and save yourself from fondant-tastrophies.
2 1/4 cups plus 3 tablespoons of sifted cake flour (measure after sifting)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature.
1 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar
4 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1 large whole egg, at room temperature
3/4 cup sour cream, at room temperature
Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly grease 2 8-inch round cake pans with vegetable oil or butter, or line them with parchment circles.
Resift or whisk the flour with the baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.
Cream the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Stop the mixer twice to scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula.
Add the yolks one at a time, blending for 5 seconds on medium-low speed after each addition. Scrape the bowl each time. Then add the whole egg and mix until blended, 10 seconds.
Add one-third of the dry ingredients to the butter mixture by stirring them in lightly with the rubber spatula so that the liquid is absorbed. Then turn the mixer on low to blend partially, about 5 seconds. Scrape the bowl.
Add half of the sour cream and blend in with several broad strokes of the spatula. Then fold in another third of the dry ingredients by hand, followed by the remaining sour cream, and then the rest of the dry ingredients. Turn the mixer to low and blend until the batter is velvety, 10 seconds.
Divide the batter into two bowls: 1/3 of the batter in one bowl and 2/3 in the other. In the bowl with 2/3 of the batter, add 10 or 11 drops of strawberry concentrate with a dropper. Add food coloring until you achieve a desired shade of pink. Mix for 10 seconds. In the bowl with 1/3 batter, add 6-8 drops of lemon concentrate. Mix for 10 seconds. Place the strawberry batter in one of the prepared pans and the lemon batter in the other and place them on the center rack in the oven.
Bake until the layers spring back to the touch and a tester inserted in the center comes out dry, 35 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.
Split the strawberry layer in half. If you have a cake splitter, this will be made easier but if not, a serrated long knife such as a bread knife will work as well. If your cakes have domed tops, trim them flat.
Use an offset spatula to fill the cake with buttercream. The layers should be strawberry/lemon/strawberry. Crumb coat the top and sides. This will allow the fondant to adhere to the cake.
Using a good amount of confectioners sugar, dust the surface where you will be rolling out the fondant. Take a chunk of fondant and knead it until it is pliable. An amount slightly bigger than a baseball should be sufficient. Form a disk, then roll it out into a circle, much as you would for pie dough. Once it is rolled, drape it over the cake and smooth it over the top and down the sides. Trim overhanging edges. Add sugar flowers or other decorations and you are done!