Sunday, February 7, 2010

Lemon Ripple Crunch Cake

Lemon Ripple Crunch Cake - made February 6, 2010 from Fearless Baking by Elinor Klivans

I was tempted not to post this entry because, as you can tell from the picture, this cake does not look like one of my successes. No, it's not supposed to be lemon lava cake with the insides pouring out ("um, I meant for that to happen"?). On the other hand, this blog is about my baking odyssey, be it success or failure. And I learn as much from failures as I do from successes. So no sense hanging my head in shame. Although if I were back in culinary school, my chef instructor would probably give me the beady eye if I turned out a cake like this one.

I followed the directions to the letter. This is from Fearless Baking by Elinor Klivans, another baking book that's becoming a favorite of mine because she has so many good recipes in it. The directions said to pour 2/3 of the batter in the tube pan, add in the lemon filling, swirl it around and pour the rest of the batter in. I baked it for the time specified and it seemed done when I took it out. I let it cool the requisite 15 minutes before I took it out of the pan. That's when everything went south - literally. The cake, unable to withstand the onslaught of the filling, literally broke apart and the filling gushed out. I dumped it in a 10-inch square pan before it completely flowed off my counter (fortunately I had foil underneath so not much was lost). I couldn't tell if the lava coming out was really the filling or raw batter since there wasn't the color distinction the recipe said it would have. I put it back into the oven to bake a little longer in the hopes that the raw batter would distinguish itself by baking completely this time. I let it bake another 10-15 minutes before taking it cautiously out. And yes, I baked it as you see in the picture, in the 10-inch square baking pan. You do what you can to salvage the cake.

Despite its appearance, this is good cake. I tried a bit when it was still warm and it tasted nice and buttery but not that lemony. But once it had cooled completely, the lemon flavor really came out. The crunch on top was a nice contrast with the smooth filling and cake. I actually love this cake despite its Quasimodo appearance. Let me put it in perspective for you - yesterday I made 3 batches of brownies which cut into ~12 dozen brownies. I ate one, yes one, small brownie and that was from the batch that I forgot to add vanilla to just to make sure it came out okay (it did). The other brownies I've left untouched - they got packaged up and went straight to the freezer to give out later and I wasn't tempted at all to indulge in more. But this cake? I've probably eaten a good 1/4 of the darn thing since yesterday. I gave 1/3 to my parents today and they liked it too (although my mom made a comment about its appearance too - sigh. Poor thing. It might be ugly but it's delicious!). And don't think I don't have evil designs on the rest of the cake.

So my next project is to make this cake again and try to make its appearance match its taste. There are a few things I would do differently. First, I may try it with a little less filling. The cake batter was rather thin and the filling was heavier than the batter so once you put it in the tube pan, it sinks to the bottom. Second, I would swirl the filling more with the batter. I think it had as much power as it did over the cake because not only was there so much of it but it wasn't really intermingled or marbled with the cake. Instead the filling took over the insides, taking up residence as one lava flow inside the cake. Lastly, I would bake it a little longer and let it cool more in the pan so the cake part isn't so fragile when I take it out. I used a tube pan with a removable bottom (contrary to the instructions) so there's no need to take it out when it's warm. I look forward to making this again and getting it right next time. And if that doesn't turn out, I'll just - cough - keep trying.

Crumb Topping
¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into ½” pieces

Cake batter
2 large egg yolks
One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 ¾ cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup canola or corn oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon pure almond extract
1 cup sour cream
Powdered sugar for dusting the top of the cake

1. Mix the topping: Put the flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Mix just to blend the ingredients together. Add the butter pieces and use a fork, pastry blender or your fingertips to break up the butter pieces, then mix them until crumbs form. Set aside.
2. Mix the cake: Position an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Oil the bottom, sides and center tube of a 9 ½- or 10-inch-diameter fixed bottom tube pan with at least 3 ¾” high sides. Line the bottom with parchment or wax paper and oil the paper.
3. Put the egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk, lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of the lemon zest for the lemon filling in a small bowl, stirring them until smoothly blended. Set aside.
4. Sift the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together onto a piece of wax paper or into a medium bowl. Set aside.
5. Put the eggs and granulated sugar in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for about 2 minutes until the mixture looks fluffy, thickens and lightens to a cream color. This is the stage of the mixing that lightens the cake. Move the beaters around in the bowl if using a handheld electric mixer. Reduce the speed to low and slowly add the oil, vanilla, almond extract, and the remaining teaspoon of lemon zest, mixing until blended together. Mix in the flour mixture just until it is incorporated. Add the sour cream, mixing until it is blended and no white streaks remain. Use a rubber spatula to scrape about two-thirds of the batter into the prepared pan. Leaving about a ½-inch plain edge, spoon the reserved sweetened condensed milk and lemon mixture over the batter. Dipping a spoon about 1 inch into the batter, run it once around the lemon mixture in the pan to swirl it lightly through the batter. There should be dark yellow and marbleized streaks of lemon. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the remaining batter into the pan, spreading it evenly.
6. Bake and serve the cake: Bake 35 minutes. Gently sprinkle the reserved crumb topping over the top of the cake. Bake about 40 minutes more until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. If the toothpick penetrates a large area of lemon filling, test another spot. Cool the cake in the pan for 15 minutes. Run a thin knife around the sides and center tube of the pan to loosen the cake. Turn the cake out onto a plate or wire rack. Carefully remove and discard the paper lining the bottom. Place a wire rack over the bottom of the cake and invert the cake onto it so the cake is crumb topping side up. Cool thoroughly. Dust the top with powdered sugar. Use a large spatula to slide the cake onto a serving plate.

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