Saturday, June 11, 2011

Lemon Mascarpone Layer Cake

Have you been over to my place for dinner yet? You should come. The food's good and so is the conversation. It's the getting there that's a struggle. You see, preparations for a dinner party follow a very predictable course chez Mary. Basically a dinner invitation means I want to cook up something I've never made before. I am not one of those people who goes for the tried and true. Once I finally decide on a menu, I procrastinate extensively. The day of the dinner party dawns, and is usually spent in a frenzy of cooking, cleaning, shopping, and just lying around, hoping it all magically gets done on its own. As the afternoon progresses, I look at the clock, wondering if there's anything I can skip. That is why you should never look in my closets. The laundry might fall over and smother you. As the minute of the guests' arrival approaches, I usually jump in the shower and then panic when I realize I've forgotten something crucial, like cleaning the bathtub. What? Well, you never know. The consummate hostess is prepared for everything. 

Last month I had the pleasure of welcoming some good friends from Australia, along with their son and his grandmother, for dinner. I used to work with L in Toronto, where we also had some fun kitchen adventures. I'm giggling remembering the Benriner episode, the double cardamom shortbread fail, and the pumpkin ravioli. Oh, and cringed when I remembered T eating the whole cayenne pepper I had forgotten to fish out of a curry. L and T had also been my guests many times in Toronto and knew the drill. They used to pace outside on my driveway, waiting for the appointed time, not knowing what they'd find if they showed up early. Smart people! I don't mind lateness too much, being chronically late myself, but I think being early is insufferable for all involved.

Anyway, they were most considerately 90 minutes late, and I was pretty well ready when they got here. I had even managed to get a photo of the cake, even though it was a grim, grey and rainy day. L is a photographer, so I stressed about this a bit. We had a simple, but delicious menu of orange and olive salad, chicken, spinach and tomatillo tacos, refried black beans, and this cake. The only thing that wasn't homemade were the corn tortillas, and they were awful--soggy and falling apart. Next time I will be better prepared and make them myself. Ha! No really. I actually had to run to the store to get them, with not much time to spare, and some jerk yelled at me because my umbrella and his wife's caught, soaking us both. 
The cake was nice, but I think it could have been better. The frosting, with the mascarpone and lemon curd was delicious--creamy and not too sweet. The cake seemed a bit floury and didn't rise as much as I would have liked, meaning I couldn't divide the layers. That meant there was a tiny layer in the middle where the syrup didn't reach. I don't think anyone else noticed, but it bothered me. Also, the cake wasn't as lemony as I would have liked. Next time I make this, I'll use a genoise from The Cake Bible and add use passionfruit curd instead of lemon. The raspberries were my addition, and I loved the texture and tart, winey flavour they added.

This cake had a lot of components, but it didn't take that long to put together. Or maybe I was just running on warp speed. Start the day before your dinner party, as the finished cake needs to sit overnight.
Cake recipe after the jump!
Adapted from From The Art and Soul of Baking 
Cake serves 10-12

Lemon Curd
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
1 cup minus 1 tablespoon sugar (6.5 ounces)
¾ cup lemon juice
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed (3 ounces)
zest of one lemon

  1. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and cook over medium-low heat until well thickened and it holds its shape. The temperature will be 180℉/82℃. Stir constantly with a silicone spatula. 
  2. Immediately strain through a fine strainer, press a piece of plastic wrap into the top surface and chill until assembling the cake.
6 large eggs, separated
7 tablespoons + 7 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided (3 ounces+3 ounces)
1¾ cups sifted cake flour (6 ounces)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line two 9" cake pans with parchment paper, but do not grease them.
  2. In a large bowl, whip the egg whites on medium speed to soft peaks. While beating, gradually add 7 tablespoons of the sugar, beating until stiff, glossy peaks form. Set aside. Work quickly now.
  3. Whip the egg yolks with 7 tablespoons of the sugar in a large bowl on high speed for 4-5 minutes, until they are very thick and light in color. 
  4. Fold one-third of the egg whites into the yolks with a spatula, then sift half of the cake flour on top and gently fold it in. Fold a second third of the egg whites into the yolks, sift the remaining cake flour on top, then fold that in. Finally, add the last of the egg whites and fold until everything is mixed together.
  5. Divide the batter between the two pans and bake for 18-22 minutes, until the tops are golden, firm, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the cakes to a rack to cool completely. 
Lemon Syrup
½ cup sugar (3½ ounces)
½ cup water
2 tablespoons Cointreau
2 tablespoons lemon juice
  1. Heat the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is completely dissolved and the liquid is clear. Remove from the heat and stir in the Cointreau and lemon juice. Allow to cool.
Mascarpone Filling
2½ cups whipping cream (20 ounces)
7 tablespoons sugar (3 ounces)
1 pound mascarpone
1½ cups lemon curd
  1. Combine the cream and sugar in a large bowl and whip until soft peaks form.
  2. Combine the mascarpone and lemon curd, and combine. Fold the whipped cream gently into the mascarpone mixture. Do not beat, as it may become grainy. If this happens, add a few tablespoons of (unwhipped) cream to smooth it out. Refrigerate until needed.
  1. Run a small metal spatula around the edge of the cakes and unmold. Peel off the parchment and place right-side up. Level if necessary. Using a serrated knife, divide each cake into 2 layers. I did not do this!
  2. Place one layer, cut side up on your serving plate and brush with ¼ of the syrup. Spread a thick layer of mascarpone filling over the top and dot with raspberries, pushing them into the filling. Top with ¼ cup lemon curd. Repeat with the remaining layers. Place the top layer cut side down. 
  3. Spread the cake with the remaining mascarpone filling and decorate with raspberries. You can also pipe some of the frosting and use the extra lemon curd to decorate, but I kept it simple. 
  4. Chill covered tightly, overnight, to allow the syrup to evenly moisten the layers. Keeps for at least 3 days, refrigerated.


Valerie Gamine said...

Lol! You're not alone Mary. I tend to put things off till the eleventh hour too. Biting into an entire cayenne pepper is soo painful, hopefully you had a lot of milk on hand for your friend. :D
As far as this cake goes, you had me at lemon (and mascarpone.) Where is this lack of rising you mentioned? It looks gorgeous, and it's making me crave a layer cake. :-)

cocoa and coconut said...

I wish I could come to your house for dinner..well for dessert actually if this is being served up! It sounds delightful! I have always loved the combination of mascarpone with citrus (and raspberries too! Great addition there!)

Evelyne CulturEatz said...

I accept the invite...for sure next time I am in Ottawa lol. And you sound a lot like me when hosting. I am exhausted by the time the guests arrive. That is what cocktails are made for...not the guest but the host's nerves. Great menu and that cake with lemon curd and mascarpone sounds great to me.

Unknown said...

Yep, I'm in! I'll come to your house for dinner. It's ok, I'm always late! You sound so much like me. I never use tried and true recipe, I always like to try something new. I think your cake looks fantastic. The texture of the cake is so fine. Lovely!

Anonymous said...

Count me in! I love the look of the raspberries just on one side of the top. So artistic! Great post!

Anonymous said...

I'll come too! Your post is hilarious but so close to home. :) The cake looks lovely, so light and the frosting, delicious!

Mimi said...

I promise not to arrive early! The cake looks fabulous.

Rambling Tart said...

Oh you crack me up! :-) Being too early IS insufferable. :-) Don't guests know we need absolutely every spare second to get things in order? Your cake looks fantastic. :-)

Beth said...

I'm sorry you weren't happy with your cake, but it truly looks beautiful. Raspberries and lemon are a wonderful combination.

Creating Nirvana said...

Beautiful cake. I love the combination of raspberries and lemon.

Chaya said...

You may not have loved this cake but I think it is a beauty.

You asked what I use for gluten-free flour in my date-nut loaf. I use a combination of brown rice flour, tapioca flour and potato starch.

Unknown said...

Gorgeous!!! Ok, so I don't know why I just now "followed" ya--love your stuff! You can check out mine if ya like.