Year of Cakes...I can't believe it worked Martha!
Last Friday, the day had arrived. The baking challenge was on. Martha vs Tiff & Nicky. From this humble bowl of lemons, we hoped to recreate Martha’s Meyer Lemon Anniversary Cake, or shall we call it Martha’s Meyer Lemon Marathon Cake….cos this really was a test of our baking endurance. 10 hours from start to finish!
What is a Meyer lemon we asked? We weren’t really sure…so we took a bit of lemon licence. All we knew was that we needed a lot of them. And eggs. Two dozen, in fact. 16 egg yolks for the lemon curd alone! We decided early on that this cake was going to be a heart attack waiting to happen. And don’t get us started on the separation anxiety I experienced after separating two dozen eggs! Thank goodness we took some cake licence as well and made only one tier, not the three tiers in the original recipe. Oh, and a bit of shape licence…round not square!
The cake consisted of 5 main components: the lemon cake, lemon simple syrup, lemon curd, Swiss meringue buttercream and candied lemon slices. At 10am, we started with the lemon curd. When a recipe says to whisk “constantly” for 8-10 minutes, much groaning is usually heard. So I start whisking my life away, but wait a minute, the curd’s already thickened and it’s only been 3 minutes, is this right…oh, and what are these brown specks throughout…oops, think that’s the burnt curd from the bottom of the saucepan. Drats! But hey, it tastes fantastic…let’s use it, not gonna waste 16 egg yolks….no one will see it between the layers! Much licking of saucepan follows and blaming of the whisk for not getting into the corners of the saucepan….
Meanwhile, Tiff is working on the lemon cake. We decided to make the two cakes required (to get 4 layers) in two batches for fear my Kitchenaid would choke on that much batter…or was that butter?? Anyways, no real dramas here, apart from some extra cooking time required. Here is a pic of one of the pre-baked cakes:
After a quick break for lunch to re-energise, we started on the lemon simple syrup while we let the cakes cool. And simple it was indeed. Thanks Martha.
Next up were the candied lemon slices. Ok, so here we had a few little hiccups. How do you get paper-thin slices when you have lemons full of pips? Is there such thing as a pip-less lemon? Maybe we should have hunted down these Meyer lemons after all. So, what we ended up with were several lopsided holey slices. We’re sure Martha wouldn’t approve. But they still candied up nicely:
And now to the final component, the Swiss meringue buttercream. Neither of us are big fans of buttercream. Something about the bland way-too-much-butter creamy texture. Ugh. But away we went, whisking our lives away again over the stove, guessing the temperature of the mixture with my finger (not recommended!) and questioning what Martha means when she asks for “stiff, but not dry” egg whites. Not dry….hmmmm. The interesting part came with the yellow food colouring. Having never food coloured anything before, we started cautiously with 1 drop. No change. 2 drops. Still no change. 3 drops, 4 drops, 5 drops, 6 drops, how about another 7 drops etc etc. And so, about 60 drops later, we finally got the pastel lemon shade we were after!
At last…we’re ready to assemble. Thanks to a hot little Martha tip, we cut 4 even layers. Believe me, we thought this alone was a major milestone. Each layer was then soaked with lemon syrup and spread with a generous layer of lemon curd. Check out our work-in-progress:
This was followed by a layer of buttercream all over, which had to be chilled, then a second layer of buttercream which needed more chilling (meanwhile, we have ducked out for dinner @ my local Japanese). Finally, finally…we can decorate with our candied lemon slices and some camellia leaves (ok, so we couldn’t get our hands on lemon leaves, we had to improvise!). Here is our finished masterpiece next to Martha’s:
Martha's perfect 3-tier version:
And our humble 1-tier version - oops, sorry about the crumbs!:
Our slice:And the taste you ask?? Absolute lemony deliciousness!! We can’t believe it worked. We are rather chuffed. We have been quite cynical about dear Martha in the past, but now have a new-found respect for the domestic diva. And a new-found confidence to take on more baking challenges!
At 9pm, the day ended tired and sticky…but we loved this yummy resolution. Can’t wait til next month! N