Sunday, July 8, 2012

Coffee in the Afternoon, and a Cake for Goodbye...

My oldest niece just turned 13, and I can't believe how grown up she is.  My sister texted me the other day that she came downstairs after getting the baby dressed, and saw that T had made bacon and egg sandwiches for her and R, and was sitting there at the table, eating her sandwich for breakfast and drinking coffee.

I still remember the first time I drank a cup of coffee, somewhere around the age of 10 or 11.  Not just tasted it, but sat and drank the whole thing.  We were at the airport, waiting in the terminal (back when this was allowed) to see my grandparents off.  All the adults were drinking coffee, and I decided that I wanted to be just as grown up as them.  So I filled a Styrofoam cup to the brim, and took one shuddering sip.  And another, and another.

Stubbornly, I finished the whole cup, and hated every single bitter drop.  It took a while for me to acquire a taste for it, first with cream and sugar, although now, I usually prefer it black.  A truly good cup of coffee doesn't need any improvement.

The cup of coffee that I drink in the afternoon at work is maybe even more important than the first...  That first steaming cup of coffee each morning perks me up and gets my stomach growling for breakfast while I settle in for the day.  And when the last drop is gone, I usually convince myself not to drink another, and might have some tea late morning.

The second cup, though, is the one I start thinking about a little after lunch, the one I know I'll need to avoid getting sleepy on the drive home in case the afternoon commute traffic is inexplicably, inexplainably crowded…

Dark, strong and bitter coffee is just the antidote to the post-lunch coma that threatens to set in after staring at my computer screen for too long.  But coffee in the afternoon also makes me want something sweet.  Something sugary.  Sweet things taste so good with hot coffee.

Sweet things like cake.  Soft lemon cake.  Blueberry jam.  Raspberry buttercream.  Oh, my.

Friday was an emotional day at work.  My department has been absolved, utterly and completely taken apart, and that day was goodbye for most of my teammates.  I have until the end of July, until it's my turn to leave, too.  But these people, some of whom I've worked with for almost 10 years, who have become so important to me...  it's the end of this chapter in our lives.

There were things that I wanted to say, and just couldn't.  I hope that they know the words I couldn't express, the feelings that are implicit at this time when the future is so uncertain.  I'm hopeful that all this change is for the best.  Jamie tells me to embrace this chance to try something new, something that I'm passionate about.

And so, for some deliciously sweet comfort, there was cake...

Lemon Cake with Blueberry Filling and Raspberry Butter Cream
printable recipe

  • White cake mix
  • Zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
Raspberry Buttercream:
  • 1/4 cup seedless raspberry jam
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milk, if needed
Filling and Garnish:
  • 1 cup blueberry or seedless raspberry jam (or a combination of both!)
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries and/or raspberries

Cook's Note:
Although I layered whole blueberries between the cake layers, it proved to cause the cake layers to slip and slide a little, since the berries acted a little like ball bearings!  To avoid this problem, I would suggest one of the following:
a. Mash the berries a little if placing between the cake layers.
b. Stir the berries into the cake batter to bake into the cake.
c. Simply garnish the cake with lots of berries on top, instead of placing inside.

Bake the Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Grease the bottom only of two 8-inch round cake pans, and line the bottoms with parchment paper.  Spray the paper with non-stick spray.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine all of the cake ingredients.  Mix on low speed to combine, then on medium speed for 2-3 minutes until smooth and well blended.  Divide evenly between the pans.  Bake for 25-29 minutes until the cake springs back when touched and a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool cakes in the pans on wire racks for 15 minutes, then turn out and cool completely on wire racks, covered loosely with a clean kitchen towel.

Once completely cool, use a sharp knife or cake leveler to level the tops of the cakes, then split each cake so that you have a total of 4 layers.  (Save any leftover bits of cake from leveling to make little mini trifles.)

Prepare the Frosting:
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine butter, powdered sugar and jam on low speed, then increase to medium high.  Whip for 4-5 minutes until very light and fluffy, adding a little milk, if needed, for the desired consistency.

Assembling the Cake:
Place the first layer of cake on a cake board.  Spread with half the jam.
Add the second layer of cake and spread with 2/3 cup of the raspberry buttercream.
Add the third layer of cake and spread with the rest of the jam.
Add the fourth layer of cake.  Frost all over with the raspberry buttercream.
Garnish with berries.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen