Light and zesty lemon cake freckled with poppy seeds and layered with sweet raspberry jam and creamy, luxurious French buttercream. I made this blushing pink cake in honor of my daughter.
I think that is the first time I typed daughter. Wow. What a feeling!!!
I've been pretty quiet here regarding my second pregnancy. There isn't anything wrong, but between book edits and mothering my 3.5 year old, life has been full. I know everyone is busy, so I am going to say "full" instead. But despite how much is going on around me and how behind I feel and how messy the house is, one thing is for certain - this baby is coming very VERY soon.
Becoming a mother has been completely life-chaging. I never knew I could love our son Everett so much. I'm fiercely protective and just about the opposite of easy-breezy when it comes to my sweet, sensitive, strong boy. He teaches us just as much as we try to teach him, and learning to become the parent I want to be isn't always easy. I couldn't be more proud of the little boy he's turning in to, but it comes with a lot of doubt, anxiety, and second guessing on my part.
Did I raise my voice too loudly today?
Was I am too impatient leaving the house when all he wanted was to put his shoes on by himself?
Should I have intervened with that older child at the park or let Everett stand up for himself?
I look at my son everyday and see just how wonderful he truly is. He's smart and creative. He's polite and patient. But he's also 3. Lately, it seems like he's been pushing limits and trying on new personalities - just to see. He gets cranky. He has opinions. And he can cry real tears on demand.
I try to lead by example, but I am far from perfect. I get cranky and impatient too. I raise my voice when he just can't seem to listen, and then I hate myself for it. But at the end of the day, we must be doing something right as parents, because he truly is a gift.
When we found out we were having a little girl, I cried. Pure joy. I've always wanted a little girl, but had already prepared myself for a house of boys - just in case. In fact, gender really doesn't matter and I never knew how much fun little boys were until Everett, but experiencing one of each should be twice as fun.
After the happy tears came more fear and uncertainty. I will one day be a role model for this young woman. Of course I try to set a good example for my son, but I know that raising a girl has its own set of responsibilities. She will be watching my every move.
From work-life balance to body image issues to relationships, I need show her how to be both equally strong and graceful. As a stay at home mom with nearly a full-time job on top, I want to show her that she can do it all (if she wants to). I want to show her that hard work is indeed hard, but the rewards usually justify the sacrifices we make. I want to show that even though mom and dad work, we also value our family more than anything else. I want to show that even though dad is the primary bread-winner, working in the creative industry gives mommy a sense of accomplishment as well as an artistic outlet - but also that being a mom brings me more than enough satisfaction should I ever decide to take time off work.
I want to show her that she is perfect just the way she is. I need to watch my own words about my weight and body image. I need to prepare her for how society looks at women, even if it is wrong and fake. I need to teach her how to protect and respect her own body because the real word is scary and cruel.
I want her to have confidence. I want her to succeed and find things in her life to be proud of. I always did well in school and was a competitive dancer growing up. Even when I had tough times with friends or dealing with the fact that I never got asked out by boys (I was 16 when I went of my first date), I knew in my heart that I was a damn good dancer and worked really hard at school and no sketchy friend or obnoxious teenage boy could ever take that away from me.
At the same time, I want her to be able to count on others and to find like-minded friends and people to surround herself with. I want her to be able to take care of and stand up for herself, but also know that working together can produce beautiful things. I want her to know that friends can come and go, but to never give up on building and nurturing the relationships that matter. I want her to know that wandering through life on your own can be fulfilling, but spending the good times (and especially the bad) can be so much more enjoyable when done so with those we love.
I want her to have soft moments and grace, but I also want her to be strong and proud without being too jaded. I want her to be honest. My own mom tried to keep me honest by showing me that if I can't speak the truth and be proud of whatever I am doing/saying, then maybe I need to assess my own actions/words. I know this new role is a tall order for me (and Brett and all those around her), but I could not be more honored to take on the challenge.
I didn't have a baby shower this time around. If I had, this is the cake that I would have made. Pretty in pink with a zesty, bright filling - because I have a feeling this little girl is going to have a bit of sassiness to her.
The lemon poppy seed cake is soft and fluffy. I like the added texture of the poppy seeds. For extra lemon flavor, I bet a lemon simple syrup to soak the cake layers would be nice. Instead, I opted for tart yet sweet seedless raspberry jam for an extra punch of flavor and color.
Oh French buttercream.... If you've been reading this blog for a while, then you know my love for Swiss meringue buttercream runs deep. But 1) I had a bunch of leftover egg yolks and 2) I wanted to do something a bit different, so I made French buttercream. It is HEAVEN!!!
I occasionally make French buttercream when I want something a bit richer or warmer. I have a recipe in my new cookbook that pairs molasses French buttercream with pumpkin cake that is truly divine. Even though its is super tasty, French buttercream is never the first thing that comes to mind when it's time to frost a cake. This time around, I tried out a new French buttercream recipe and my life will now never be the same.
This recipe comes from the best cupcake cookbook out there - Robicelli's a Love Story, with Cupcakes
I love this cookbook for its honest and witty writing, creative flavors, and solid recipes. In fact, it was this book that directed me towards finding my literary agent (she worked on their book too)! Their recipe for French buttercream uses a different ratio of egg yolks to butter than the one I was used to, and it just makes everything so dreamy. Please give it a try and let me know what you think!
Lemon Poppy Seed Raspberry Layer Cake
makes one, three-layer 8 inch round cake; Serves 12 to 15
For Lemon Poppy Seed Cake
3 cups + 2 tablespoons cake flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons poppy seeds
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
zest 1 large lemon
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
Pre-heat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease, flour, and the line the bottoms of three 8-inch (20-cm) cake pans with parchment paper and set aside.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir in the poppy seeds and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed for 2 minutes. Meanwhile, rub the sugar and lemon zest together in a small bowl between your fingertips until fragrant. Add the sugar mixture and mix on medium-high until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.
Turn the mixer to medium-low and add the vanilla and eggs, one at a time. Mix until combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.
Combine the buttermilk and lemon juice together in a liquid measuring cup or bowl. Turn the mixer to low and add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix on medium for no more than 30 seconds after the last streaks of the flour mixture are combined.
Evenly distribute the batter between the prepared pans. Bake for 26 to 28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Let them cool on a wire rack for 10 to 20 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans. Once cool, remove the parchment paper and discard.
For the French Buttercream
adapted from Robicelli's a Love Story, with Cupcakes
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup water
2 tablespoons corn syrup
pinch cream of tartar
5 egg yolks
1 whole egg
3 cups unsalted butter, cut into thin slices
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
Place the sugar, water, corn syrup, and cream of tartar in a medium-small saucepan. Gently stir to combine. Heat the sugar mixture, without stirring, until it reaches 235F on a candy thermometer.
Meanwhile, place the egg yolks and whole egg in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whip the eggs on high until thick and pale in color.
Once the sugar mixture reaches the correct temperature, remove it from the heat. Turn the mixer down to LOW speed, and slowly pour the hot sugar mixture into the eggs. Once all of the sugar mixture has been added, increase the mixer speed back up to medium-high and continue to whip until the outside of the mixer bowl returns to room temperature.
Once the mixture has cooled, stop the mixer and swap the whisk attachment for the paddle. With the mixer on medium-low, add in the bits of butter, a little at a time. Add the vanilla. Once incorporated, turn the mixer up to medium-high and beat for about 1 minute until smooth and silky. Tint the buttercream with gel food cooling, if desired.
Assemble the cake:
2/3 cup seedless raspberry jam
Place one layer of cake on a cake stand or serving plate. Spread on about 1/2 cup of buttercream with an offset spatula. Dollop on about 1/3 cup of raspberry jam and smooth. Top with the middle layer of cake and repeat. Place the last layer of cake on top, bottom-side up. Crumb coat the cake with the buttercream and chill in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes.
Removed the chilled cake and frost with the remaining buttercream. Decorate with fresh flowers or as desired.
For more info on working with fresh flowers, click here!