The chocolate hazelnut cupcakes came from a cupcake book that I got from my sister-in-law 2 years ago. The book hasn't been too successful in providing good recipes. I've used it to make Rocky Road cupcakes and Purple Velvet Cupcakes. Neither recipes were that great! I decided to give the book one last chance to impress me and if it didn't succeed, then the book was history. The chocolate hazelnut cupcakes were decent. They were edible but nothing to brag over. The cupcake part was a bit on the dry side but it might be because I halved the recipe. I won't even attempt to add the recipe to our blog though since it's not something I'd make again. The book will stay on my shelf from now...
I've been watching TLC's The Next Great Baker for the past 8-10 weeks. It's one of those shows where candidates compete to win money and a chance to be hired on as "The Next Great Baker" in Carlos' Bakery. Every time I watch the show, I get hungry for cake. I'm not much of a cake fan at all. But the cake designs are so appealing and some of the things the candidates bake look delicious. In one episode, Dana makes a Southern Lemon Cake. The judges are blown away by his cake. Since then, hubby has been talking about Dana's Southern Lemon Cake. So for hubby's birthday weekend with his parents, I decided to make a Southern Lemon Cake.
I searched hard for Dana's recipe on the internet, but of course it is no where to be found. I looked up some recipes for southern lemon cake and lemon cake. I ended up using this recipe from All Recipes but with a few modifications based on some reviews and things that I wanted in a lemon cake.
Southern Lemon Cake
3 cups cake flour
(I didn't have cake flour so I used all-purpose flour. 1 cup cake flour = 1 cup all-purpose flour minus 2 tbsp of flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 eggs, separated whites and yolks
2 cups white sugar
1 cup butter, softened
3 grated lemons, zested
1 1/2 lemons juiced
1 small container lemon yogurt
1. Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt together. Set mixture aside.
2. Separate the eggs -- egg whites and yolks. In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add 1/2 cup of the sugar, beating until stiff glossy peaks form. Set aside. (I actually did this all by hand. It was tough work.)
3. Cream butter or margarine and 1 1/2 cups sugar. Add egg yolks, lemon zest, and lemon juice together until fluffy. Add flour mixture alternately with the yogurt to the egg yolk mixture. Gently fold in the egg whites and pour the batter into the prepared pans. (I used 2 8" round cake pans.)
4. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30 to 35 minutes or until cake comes out clean. Let cake cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to finish cooling.
The lemon cake came out dense, almost like a pound cake. The lemon flavor wasn't too tart or overpowering. I might actually add a little more lemon juice or lemon yogurt. Other than that, it was delicious!
On The Next Great Baker, Dana makes his Southern Lemon Cake with a cream cheese frosting and tops it with strawberries. I found a cream cheese frosting recipe on All Recipes that got close to 2000 reviews at 4.5 our of 5 stars.
Cream Cheese Frosting
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1. Cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the confectioners' sugar.
Add vanilla and confectioners' sugar to taste. Some reviewers said this frosting was too soft, too sweet, not sweet enough, not enough vanilla, etc. I followed the recipe exactly because it was just right for my taste. It would be perfect with a carrot cake or red velvet cake as well. To change it up, I might add some food coloring, change the vanilla to almond extract, or maybe add some cocoa powder for a chocolate frosting. It's definitely a recipe to keep.
With the cake baked and cream cheese frosting made, I had my first chance to decorate my cake. I cut off the tops of the cakes to even them out for a flat surface.
I frosted the first cake.
Topped it off with sliced strawberries.
Added the second cake.
And frosted the entire cake, topping it off with a few strawberries.
Let me say, getting the cake to be smooth is a big challenge. It's no wonder people use fondant. It probably makes a difference to have the cake tools to help smooth the frosting, which I don't have.
And Voila! My version of Southern Lemon Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Strawberries.
A huge hit! The cake and frosting tasted great with the strawberries (or any berries). It wasn't too sweet, too lemon-like or anything. And for once, I actually ate all the frosting off my cake. (I usually pick off all frosting from cakes.) My in-laws asked for a small piece of cake, probably because it looked really sweet with the frosting. After their first piece, they immediately helped themselves for seconds. As for my hubby -- Happy Birthday Honey Bunches!