Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Happy Birthday, Steve!

My beloved colleague and office mate, Lee Ann, tells a sad tale about her husband, Steve, and his past birthday cakes. Steve, truth to tell, may be the more gifted cook in the household. Lee Ann holds her own, to be sure. In fact, she makes a great pickled vegetable dish a la Emeril that I am obsessed with! But Steve is a REALLY good and quite inventive cook. Last year, he made a remarkable twice-baked (acorn or butternut?) squash dish that was just amazing for Thanksgiving. But of course, one should not bake one's own birthday cake! So he tells Lee Ann what he might like each year, and Lord love her, she does try. But she reports that eventually, he stopped making requests, saying dismissive things like, "Oh, that's okay," or, "Don't worry about it. I don't need a cake." :-( So this year, she turned in desperation to Lindsey's Luscious to save the day. Little did she know that Lindsey's Luscious is still limping along without an oven! BOO HISS! (There are rumors that tomorrow might be the day, but I'm not holding my breath until I see the delivery truck in my driveway! But that's another post for another day...)

Meanwhile, back to Steve's birthday cake. Steve, it should be known, is a great lover of all things lemony. So he requested a lemon pound cake (or perhaps Lee Ann told him that I fancy myself the Queen of Pound Cake and he just specified the flavor...who can say?), but he was quite adamant that it be a very LEMONY lemon pound cake! And no other flavor should adulterate the lemons! So I set about to make as lemony a pound cake as I could muster up. I bought an entire bag of lemons to use, and came right home to begin zesting up a storm. The problem was, my longsuffering next-door neighbor didn't leave the spare key out for me, so I had to wait until he got home from work at 11:30pm (!) to accost him in his driveway and beg for oven time. So the cake wasn't finished until almost 2:00am (ugh!), but nevertheless, I think I may be onto something. It smelled heavenly, and the little bits that stuck to the middle of the bundt pan were quite tasty. But it's really all about the glaze! Wow! My mouth is puckering just thinking about that glaze! And after using the zest of four lemons and a quarter cup of juice in the cake, and the zest of two lemons and a half cup of juice in the glaze, it BETTER be lemony enough for the Birthday Boy! If not, as Lee Ann and I joked this afternoon, we'll just tie him down and start reaming lemons right into his pie hole and skip the cake altogether! Tee hee. Actually, I will make this again--for myself!--and I might do two things to up the lemon effect even more. One, I would like to track down some lemon oil and try adding it to the batter along with the zest and juice. And next time, I will poke holes in the bottom of the cake and soak it with glaze before I even turn it out of the pan, and then coat the top and sides as I did with this one. In any case, this is still one lemony pound cake, and I sure hope it's well-received at the party tonight. If not, next year, I'll buy TWO BAGS of lemons! ;-) HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Steve!

Follow-up: Lee Ann reported today that that the cake was "perfect," according to the Birthday Boy. (That's a gushing review coming from a rather taciturn fellow!) Plus, they have a one-year-old who had her first taste of a lemon dessert, and her reaction was to chuckle not once, but twice, and then do a little dance with her feet--high praise indeed! (Daddy must have passed on that lemon-loving gene.) Lee Ann was also kind enough to bring me a couple of sampler pieces to try, and I actually think it's one of the best things I've ever made! However, I have changed my opinion about adding lemon oil. This cake is PLENTY lemony as it is! Whoo! Pucker Power!

Steve's XTREME Lemon Pound Cake

2 sticks butter, softened
1/3 cup shortening
5 large whole eggs
3 cups sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 cups all-purpose white flour (measure on the 3rd and last sift)

zest of 4 lemons, very finely grated (preferably, with a Microplane/wood rasp)
1 cup whole milk (If you want to live dangerously—and I always do—half and half makes it melt in your mouth!)

1/4 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 325. Spray or grease bundt pan and lightly flour entire surface. (Or the Pam with flour for baking makes it even easier!) Cream butter and shortening together at slow mixer speed. Add sugar and eggs, one at a time, alternating with the sugar. Begin and end with sugar. Scrape bowl often. When all added, set mixer on high speed for exactly four minutes. Sift flour three times, adding baking powder and salt on last sift, then measure three cups. Whisk the lemon zest into the flour mixture and set aside. Add the lemon juice and vanilla to the milk and stir. Add the milk and the flour mixtures to the bowl, alternating ingredients, beginning and ending with flour. Spoon batter gently into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula.

The cake will take about 1 hour and 15 minutes to cook depending on your altitude, humidity and oven calibration. Test by inserting a knife or tester. It's done when it comes out a little oily but no batter. Cool on rack precisely 10 minutes and turn immediately out on a plate. Let it cool a bit, and then glaze with the recipe to follow.

XTREME Lemon Glaze

3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice
zest of 2 lemons, very finely grated
1 tablespoon butter
splash of vanilla, optional

Whisk the powdered sugar and lemon together until smooth. Add the lemon zest and butter and microwave on high for 30 seconds to one minute (until butter is melted). Add a splash of vanilla, and whisk again until smooth. Coat pound cake with every last bit of the glaze (using a pastry brush is very helpful here), then let cool until set before serving.


Domestic Chicky said...

Yum-o! I love a good tart lemon cake. The last one I made was so good, but it was like I had caverns in the top(while still in the pan). I am copying this one and trying it next time.

I always tell friends/family/hubby the kind of cake I like, but I always end up with something obscure...so I make my own *sigh*

JoyBugaloo said...

Oh, I must confess that I usually end up making my own birthday cake, too. Except that I rarely prefer cake. I'd rather have cheesecake or a French silk pie!

Or, even better, I pray that, one day if I'm REAL GOOD, someone will get me a vanilla and chocolate Carvel ice cream cake! YUM! ;-)

Anonymous said...

I always teel friends I want a Kahlua cream cheese pie from Marie Callendars, but the only one to remember was my friend that made them at the restaurant-LOL
My ideal would be a flourless chocolate/espresso torte, or a rum-soaked tiramisu...*sigh*

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Randi said...

I always make my own bday cake too. I just don't trust anyone enough to give up control. This year, since I'm turning the big 4-0, I'll be making peninsula grill's coconut cake.