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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Fresh Lemon Cake with Raspberry Buttercream

Happy New Year, everyone! My deepest apologies for my inexcusably long hiatus from this neck of the woods. Just as I predicted, the holidays struck with a vengeance, and just as quickly as they arrived, they seemed to be gone in a poof of festively cut-out sugar cookies, shreds of wrapping paper, holiday parties and an embarrassing number of viewings of "Elf." I wouldn't have it any other way, though. To me, that's what the holidays are all about. :)

My family and I ended the year on the beautiful beaches of Marco Island, Florida and indulged in all of the joys vacation brings: family time, fabulous food and drink, sun and sand, more amazing food and drink... did I mention we like to eat? The restaurant tour de Southwest Florida left me feeling a little less than in fighting shape upon arriving back in the real world to kick off 2013. So, while a healthy diet and regular exercise have always been an important part of my lifestyle, I vowed to kick things up a notch this year, not only to recover from our indulgent trip, but also to challenge myself to be a better me in 2013.

I know what you're thinking. This is sounding an awful lot like a new year's resolution. I, for one, think that's just a matter of semantics. Anyone at anytime can decide to make a change for the better; we don't need a new year (hence my idea to add sliced almonds to my greek yogurt this morning -- can't believe I've been missing out on this genius addition all this time!). To me, the idea of a "new year's resolution" comes with a whole lot of pressure and tends to bring out the crazy in people. So, instead, I'm just opting for a better balance in all aspects of life for not only this year, but for years to come. Be it nutritional, social, spiritual, physical, professional, mental or personal balance, I'm aiming for a better balanced me in 2013. Now, doesn't that have a nice ring to it? 

And because I'm all about balance these days, that means I'm not ruling anything out -- specifically, including such beautiful and delicious dessert entities as cake. In fact, I might argue that I am as pro-cake as you can get. Especially when there is celebrating to be done. So, naturally, when I was invited to a dinner party in honor of a variety of celebratory occasions last weekend, I knew it was time for a cake. This decision may or may not have also been heavily influenced by the fact that I received a brand new, raspberry colored KitchenAid mixer for Christmas (OMG!), and so of course, I had raspberries and delicious whipped things on the brain.

Behold, my homemade Fresh Lemon Cake with Raspberry Buttercream. For us folks suffering through the frigid gray of winter these days, this refreshing and spring-inspired dessert is way cheaper than therapy, or one of those crazy UV lamps that are supposed to recreate the happiness of summer within your living room (not that I've considered purchasing one or anything). And, I'm thinking it's much more enjoyable than any of those anti-winter blues options, too. This cake is moist, yet dense in texture, somewhat like a pound cake. Its buttery flavors are perfectly paired with the sweet and light raspberry buttercream to create a match made in fruity cake heaven. So, dust off your mixer, pick up some fresh lemons and raspberries and prepare for a delicious ray of sunshine to enter your kitchen. I have a feeling you won't regret it. 
And, for all of you new year's resolution dieters still going strong, congratulations! Give yourself a break and celebrate with a sliver of cake. Remember: balance. :)

Fresh Lemon Cake with Raspberry Buttercream

Ingredients:

For the Lemon Cake:
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, room temperature
Zest of 1 large lemon
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

For the Raspberry Buttercream:
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar (or to desired consistency and taste)
1 cup fresh raspberries
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Additional fresh raspberries, for garnish-if desired

Directions:

For the Lemon Cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F and place oven rack in the center of the oven. Spray an 8 inch cake pan with non stick cooking spray, and then line the bottom of the pan with parchment or wax paper.

In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer) beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy and pale in color (about 3-4 minutes). Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition (batter will look curdled).

Sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest. Add the flour mixture alternately with the lemon juice, mixing until you have a smooth batter. 

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with the back of a spoon or an offset spatula. Bake about 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (Do not over bake or the cake will be dry.) Place on a wire rack to cool for about 15 minutes, then gently remove the cake from the pan. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Recipe adapted from Joy of Baking

For the Raspberry Buttercream:

In a food processor or blender, puree the raspberries. 

Place butter, half of the powdered sugar, and raspberry puree into mixing bowl. Beat over low speed until well-blended. Add the other half of the sugar, increase speed to medium. Mix until light and fluffy.

Frost cooled cake with the raspberry buttercream and garnish the cake with fresh raspberries, if desired.

Recipe adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod.

Please excuse the iPhoneography in this post. My lovely DSLR promises to make its comeback in the next post. Check back soon!

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