Last weekend was my mom’s…29th Birthday. Somehow time has reversed and it’s gotten to the point where I’m actually a year older than her. I’m not an expert, but I’m fairly certain those numbers don’t quite add up, but we’ll let it slide. So my family came to Brooklyn for dinner. Food is always a good way to entice visits. The problem with a late April menu is, while it’s clearly been spring for a few weeks now, Spring fruits and veggies are still trying to catch on. The menu was a bit limited–mixed greens from greenhouse gardens, carrots from last year’s harvest, potatoes (there’s always potatoes) and lamb stuffed with bitter spring greens. On the positive side, I was able to bring some brightness to the menu thanks to my new foraging skills. Over the past few weeks I’ve gone a bit crazy with violets–jelly, syrup, candies–and I might have just one more recipe up my sleeve if I can find some more flowers this weekend. I figured what best to celebrate the awakening of spring than with some edible flowers?
Dessert might have been the highlight of the meal for me. Though in all fairness, it usually is. It was a birthday party, so a birthday cake was in order. Running behind as usual, I was in no position to test a new cake recipe, so I stuck with what I knew. A simple vanilla cake, infused with some lemon powder. To make the cake original and special, I spread violet jelly between the layers instead of extra icing and decorated it with some crunchy candied violets for texture and color.
I’ve made cakes before in my life. Plenty of cakes. Though as I struggled to ice the two towers, spatula and hands covered with the sticky white frosting, I remembered who I made the shift to cupcakes. Two dozen mini cakes to ice? No problem! But putting that together in one massive project? Not so easy. It was only after I frosted my slightly lopsided project, struggling to keep the layers centered as they slid around on the jelly filling, that I remembered a tip for how to keep layers together. Get a few of those wooden skewers and stick them through the cake at various points (3-4 should be plenty). The skewers will keep your cake together while you ice. When finished, simply remove the skewers and make sure to cover up the pinholes created by them on top.
The final product gave no indication to the stress I endured while making this seeming simple cake. The bright lemon flavor contrasted perfectly with the sweet floral jam, and the rich fluffy buttercream was sweet but not overly so. Hopefully next time I’ll remember my icing tip, or stick to what I know: cupcakes. Two dozen cupcakes, filled with violet jam, iced with a candied violet on each? How could you possibly go wrong?
Lemony Violet Birthday Cake (Adapted from Glorious Treats)
- 2 1/2 c cake flour
- 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 eggs
- 1 c sugar
- 4 tbsp vanilla extract, divided
- 1 c canola oil
- 1 c buttermilk
- 2 tbsp lemon powder
- 4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
- 5 oz cream cheese, softened
- 5 c powdered sugar, softened
- 3 vanilla beans
- 1 c violet jelly
- 10-15 candied violets
MAKE THE CAKE: Preheat oven to 350° F. Line two 9-inch cake pans with parchment paper and generously butter and flour both. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer, add eggs, one at a time, beating until blended. Add sugar and blend well. Add 3 teaspoons of vanilla extract and oil and beat until mixture is well incorporated. Reduce speed to low and alternate adding flour mixture and buttermilk (half of each at a time). Beat until just combined. Scrap down sides of bowl and give it a few stirs with a spatula, to make sure the bottom of the bowl is well mixed as well. Divide batter between cake pans and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool layers for 10 minutes in pans, then remove from pans and let cool on a wire rack completely.
MAKE THE ICING: While cake is baking/cooling, combine butter and cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on medium speed until glossy and fluffy, about 5-7 minutes. Scrape seeds from vanilla beans and add to butter/cream cheese mixture. Beat additional minute. Add sugar, a few tablespoons at a time, until desired sweetness/consistency is reached. (For a light and airy icing, the trick is to beat icing longer than you’d think to). Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and blend. Add additional sugar and blend if needed.
ASSEMBLE THE CAKE: Once layers have completely cooled, put bottom layer upside down on a plate. Spread top with violet jelly and cover with top layer (right side up). Insert skewers at various points around cake to prevent layers from sliding apart. Ice cake, remove skewers and cover up holes. Decorate cake with candied violets.
NOTE: My icing is not super sweet and tend to be a bit thin. Add additional powdered sugar to thicken the icing or store cake in the refrigerator to prevent icing from “melting”. Remove cake from fridge 30 minutes before serving to allow to warm to room temperature.