Sunday, November 15, 2009

Woody's Luxury Lemon Layer Cake

I must admit that 90% of most of my baked goods contain chocolate (not white chocolate, either).  I'm sure I am missing out on some fantastic desserts, but I know what I like and most of the time it's chocolate.

In the wake of my oblivion disaster and since there was no chocolate cake in the forecast, I decided to plunge into the Woody's Luxury Lemon Layer Cake (from this point known as WLLLC).  I was actually excited to make this cake for 3 reasons:
1)  I had a schwack of lemons -- I repeat SCHWACK -- to use up.

2)  I had never made Rose's lemon curd before.  I actually feel guilty about this as it has received so many rave reviews, but I've never had the occasion to make it.  I've made orange curd, raspberry curd, and even devised my own rhubarb curd recipe -- but no lemon curd.
3)  I love custard and the thought of a custard based buttercream is very intriguing.

Lemon Curd

This is a very simple recipe and I was also able to use up some egg yolks in the freezer...just had to reduce the sugar by 1/2 tsp. or 4 g per yolk.  Now my one peeve is that I always end up using more eggs or juice from more lemons than indicated in a recipe.  I don't know if I have brutal extraction technique, but I rarely match up to the recipe's guidelines.  However, Rose is a genius and tells you how much by volume/mass you should have regardless of the number of lemons/eggs used.  The curd came together nicely and is very thick (which is a good thing -- provided it's not curdled), but I have one small request...having used Rose's recipes and having developed her high standards, I was surprised that she didn't indicate the temperature to bring the curd (which I am sure is in The Cake Bible -- I was in a rush and did not pull it out).  Mind you, she gave several detailed visual cues...I am always second guessing myself and always like to know when I've gone too far.

I am also not sure if I like the texture of the lemon zest in the curd.  The flavour is fantastic, but I was surprised by the texture (even though I knew I put it into the curd).  I wonder if substituting a small amount of lemon oil would work if you didn't want the zest in the curd?

Lemon curd has the most gorgeous color:

I also adore how the spoon leaves marks in the can tell that it is thick, but still a spreadable soft consistency.

The Cake

The cake was simple and just a variation of her white luxury butter cake.  It is a good thing I got the batter into the pans and oven before I sampled it...too yummy.  I use the Chicago Metallic pans recommended by Rose.  I always check at the minimum recommended bake time as cakes baked in them usually finish at the earlier time.  I checked if the cake would spring back, and it didn't, infact it still seemed wet under the crust.  I must admit that baking with a toddler can be a bit of a challenge...of course, as I was watching the cakes during the last minutes (looking for the slight dip) he was into something and I thought...well, I've got a bit of time (as the cake seemed underdone just seconds ago) I'll check on him...and voila when I came back (literally a minute or 2 at most) the cake had pulled away from the sides of the pan -- just as it wasn't supposed to.  Arrghh I had an overbaked (although mildly) cake.


Alright, here's where the fun starts...the custard.  I didn't use Green and Blacks, but added 1 Tbsp. of Neilsen Massey Vanilla Beans.  I was not prepared to deal with the clumps of vanilla bean seeds, so this worked out very well.  It sounds like a lot, but the jar says 1 T = seeds from 1 pod.  I loaded up a sauce pan with white chocolate and butter and on LOW used my induction cook top to melt the two.

Here is the embarrassing part...about halfway through I decided to take some photos, but I wasn't able to stir as well as usual and I got a curdled mess and blurry pictures.  Think ... think... think....  I was not about to give up on 300 g of white chocolate...I figured if it was bad enough, I would redo it and waste 4 extra eggs at this point.  I really wish I would have taken a shot of the curdled goo...just so you could see it.

To the rescue.....

Lo and behold it started to come together.  It looked more or less like chocolate plastic right after it's mixed, but it was smooth and not grainy. 

Adding the eggs proved to be a bit more difficult.  I decided to add some of the mixture to the eggs as it was quite warm and then the eggs back to the chocolate.  I brought the mixture to 140F and upon licking the spoon the sweet vanilla flavour was joined by ultra smooth texture.  Whew!

This was cooled in the refrigerator and stirred at 15 minute intervals.  I took up running this past summer and now that I'm doing the Heavenly Cake Bake Through, I'm VERY glad I did...but what's cool is my watch timer works awesome for 15 minute interval warnings:

For some odd reason, I never get things to cool as fast as the recipe indicates -- even though I know my fridge is very cold (1-2C).  This took much longer to cool...

Alas, whip the butter, and then add the custard gradually.

Let the buttercream set for about 1.5-2 hrs and get spongy (I can't say mine really got spongy), but even so, I added the curd after that:

What you get is the most divine tasting substance known to man that isn't chocolate.  This stuff is good and it alone warrants Rose naming her new book Rose's Heavenly Cakes.  One word of caution, I found it to be very soft even though it was at the indicated temperature.  I would suggest refrigeration before frosting a cake with it (unless I missed this in the directions...quite possible). 

I don't have any pics of the process, but here is my rather sloppy end result.  The frosting was soooo soft, I could barely get it to stick on the cake, but it managed to gather crumbs quite well.  Anyway, I didn't have loads of time, so this was the birthday cake for my hubby (made him a pie too -- since he's not crazy about cake...or at least prefers pastry). 

The verdict on the WLLLC:

As I suspected, my overbaked cake was dry, but OMG!!! The curd and frosting were fabulous.  I need to redo this cake with a moister base...I really should have syruped it, but of course, I can't do that now.   Here's the bday pie too.


  1. OMG!

    You too had a disastrous curdled, stuck white chocoloate? I thought I was the freaky unlucky one. But it righted itself right afterwards.

    I for one, completely forgot to add the vanilla seeds and only remembered while I was whipping the butter. Better late than never eh? BTW, nice simple deco for the cake and the pie.

  2. Great post! I like how you did the 32 on the cake!

  3. Rhubarb curd? You gotta share that recipe! By the way, I did pull out the Cake Bible when making the curd (didn't prevent mine from getting lumpy!) but she does day that if you don't want the zest in the curd at the end you can cook it with the other ingredients so that it still imparts the lemony flavor but gets strained out. What a lucky husband to get cake AND pie for his birthday!

  4. Raspberry curd? Now that's something I'd like to try!

    Happy #32 to ???. I love your pie crust - so cute! How in the world did you keep the crust from distorting when you transferred it from the counter to the pie plate?

    I look forward to trying this cake sometime when it's a bit warmer out.

  5. Lovely cake and lovely pie! Happy birthday to your hubby.

    I think Rose gives temperatures for her curds in The Pie and Pastry Bible. (My memory could be playing tricks with me, though.) However, I've never found the temperature very useful. Mine never seems to get up to temperature even when it is very thick. Visual cues work better for me -- maybe that's why Rose went with them in this book.

    My white chocolate/butter mixture curdled too. But it came out fine in the end!

    Yay for you and for all of us for completing this complicated recipe!


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