Lemon Layer Cake with apricot and honey

Light, lemon-scented cake layers spread thin with sweet apricot jam and frosted in pastel swirls of floral, honey buttercream.

Lemon layer cake with apricot honey - Style Sweet CA

The start of our new kitchen remodel will commence in just three short weeks, and I’m kind of freaking out.  Who remodels their kitchen while they are in the middle of recipe testing for a new cookbook?  My kitchen is my office.  If my oven were to be out of commission at any point, I would definitely spiral into a deep, dark place.  But now?  Voluntarily?  In the middle of a busy summer?  Yup.  We are doing it…

And by we, I mean the contractor and my amazing mother.  The boys and I will actually be out of town the first week of the renovations, so at least I won’t have a heart attack watching the workers disconnect my oven and start tearing down cabinets.  And to be honest, it’s a very, very small remodel.  A face-lift, if you will.  Including a new oven that I am equally excited and dreading baking cake in.  It took me months to learns the little quirks of my current oven, so I am borderline terrified of having to adjust to a new appliance.

But you know what?  If not now, then when? 

Lemon layer cake with apricot honey - Style Sweet CA
Lemon layer cake with apricot honey - Style Sweet CA

We’ve been living in our home for exactly four years this month.  When we moved in, I had just entered my second trimester with baby Everett and had my first manuscript due in 5 months.  If I could adjust to a new house and kitchen with all of that chaos around me, then I should certainly be able to do it now.  Right?  But that’s not even really my point here.  At that time, I made a promise to myself that I would not freak out over the unfurnished dining room or bare walls.  After getting settled in, my priorities were the book and the babe.  Decorating would have to wait…

Four years, a book, and a toddler later, our master bedroom walls are still blank, my dining table is mostly used as a dumping ground for lose items, and Everett’s closet is the most disorganized storage unit that I’ve ever seen (I don’t know what we are going to do when he decides that he’d like to hang his clothes in there).  Now is the time to make this house a home.

If not now, then when?  I love our home.  I love the layout and the location.  It’s not very big nor very fancy, but I know we probably won’t ever be able to find anything else like it if we want to stay in downtown Vancouver.  And if/when we do decide to sell it, it needs some upgrades.  At this point, the only reason for moving would be to find a larger place to support a growing family (we aren’t there yet, but hopefully some day).  So then when?  When I am pregnant again and we need to move?  That hardly seems like a good time for a remodel.  At least if we do it now, then we can enjoy the new space ourselves instead of just making it pretty for someone else to fall in love with.

Lemon layer cake with apricot honey - Style Sweet CA
Lemon layer cake with apricot honey - Style Sweet CA
Lemon layer cake with apricot honey - Style Sweet CA
Lemon layer cake with apricot honey - Style Sweet CA

As I write this and contemplate the notion of “if not now, then when?,” it feels like a reoccurring theme.  Many aspects of my life can be traced back to this.  Like opening my custom cake boutique and filling an empty spot in the market for fancy wedding cakes before anyone else in town beat me to the punch.  Or making the huge decision to move to Canada before buying a home or starting a family.  And even our upcoming trip – if not now, when else might we be able to have a real family vacation just the three of us?

Of course, not everything needs to be as life changing as a new career or big move.  I also have a tendency to hold onto things, waiting for “the best time” to use them.  Like not wearing my favourite dress so I don’t ruin it.  Or letting the gift card for the Dry Bar become a permanent fixture in my wallet because I don’t want to waste it.  Or holding on to a recipe idea until the right season….

I made this cake months ago for The Cake Blog, but I’ve been waiting for the “the best time” to share it here.  What does that even mean?  I love how beautiful the watercolor frosting is and how airy and ethereal the photos turned out so much that I’ve been saving the images.  But why?  And for whom?  So can look at them by myself? 

Even before submitting the recipe to The Cake Blog, I had been sitting on this flavour combination for a while.  I love the way the sweet apricot is balanced by the floral honey and light lemon cake.  The swirly pastel buttercream mimics the fresh yet subtle flavors.  However, while we are in the middle of a season packed with berry cakes and stone fruit desserts, this cake doesn’t really scream “summer.”  Out of fear of having to compete against mystical ice cream creations and the most impressive latticed pies, I thought I’d hold onto this cake for bit. 

But if not now, then when?  In the fall when pumpkin reigns supreme?  Or in the winter when everyone is baking family heirloom recipes for the holidays or items for this year’s cookie platter?  Then next year?  Get outta here. 

Life is too short, Tesssa.  Make the cake.  Eat it.  Share it.  Enjoy =)

 

Find the full recipe over on The Cake Blog

Sweet Iced Tea Lemon Cupcakes

Frills of lemony iced tea buttercream on fluffy lemon-scented buttermilk cupcakes.  It's like sunshine in every bite!

Sweet Iced Tea Lemon Cupcakes

I know some of you are still recovering from the cupcake craze of 2004 and probably either cringed or rolled your eyes at first sight of this post.  Yes, I know... cupcakes.  But who doesn't love a cupcake?  I get.  The world went overboard between Cupcake Wars, cupcake boutiques on every corner, and the place that started it all (the tiny Magnolia Bakery in the West Village) began multiplying around the country.  But hey, don't you think we should give cupcakes another chance?

There was a time where I too snubbed the thought of adding yet another cupcake recipe to the Internet.  I even remember the feeling of my clenched jaw when my bridal clients at the bakery circa 2012 would come in and tell me how trendy cupcakes for a wedding cake were... But most trends come for a reason; the original is top notch.  And you know what?  Cupcakes are damn delicious!  And I bet 9 out of 10 of you would take a bit if I put one of these Sweet Iced Tea Lemon Cupcakes down in front of you.  So who cares if the fad is long gone.  Cupcakes were tasty when we were kids, well before Sex on the City put Magnolia's on the map, and they still are now.  So let's enjoy 'em!

**on a side note, I'm totally not hating on Magnolia Bakery, BTW.  Their banana pudding is TO DIE FOR!  The cupcakes, too.  I would not turn one down if one happens to fall onto my lap.

Sweet Iced Tea Lemon Cupcakes

Anyways, these Sweet Ice Tea Lemon Cupcakes are like sunshine in every bite.  The base is a fluffy lemon buttermilk cupcake with just enough zest and zip to nearly beat the summer heat.  The frosting though...So good.  I simply reduced bottled lemon iced tea into a syrup before adding it to lemon-scented buttercream.  I have a similar recipe in my book Layered, but using bottle iced tea really cuts down some of the process.  

I posted a video of me piping the two-toned buttercream here on Instagram if you'd like to check out how I created the ruffle effect.  Using a 104 petal tip with the narrow end facing away from the center of the cupcake, I piped concentric circles of petals on the tops of each cupcake.  For the two-toned effected, I simply striped the piping bag with a bit of yellow buttercream in a line directly up from the narrow end of the piping tip before adding in the plain buttercream.  You can also pipe in the different shades like I've done here.

Sweet Iced Tea Lemon Cupcakes

Lemon Buttermilk Cupcakes
makes about 12 cupcakes

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a muffin tin with cupcake papers and set aside.

Whisk together the dry ingredients and set aside.

Using an electric mixer, combine the butter, sugar, and lemon zest until pale and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until smooth.  Add in the vanilla and mix until combined.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.

With the mixer on low, gradually add in half of the dry ingredients.  Slowly stream in the buttermilk and mix until combined.  Add in the remaining dry ingredients and mix until the last streaks of flour disappear.  Mix on medium for no more than about 30 seconds.

Evenly distribute the batter using a mechanical ice cream scoop into the lined pan.  Do not fill the cupcake liners more than about 2/3 of the way full.

Bake the cupcakes in the preheated over for 8 minutes.  At 8 minutes, turn the heat down to 350 degrees and continue to bake until done, about an additional 12 minutes (20 total minutes).  When done, they should be slightly golden on top and toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.

Cool cupcakes in the baking tin for 5 to 10 minutes, then continue to cool on a wire rack before frosting.

Lemon Iced Tea Buttercream
small recipe Swiss meringue buttercream 
1 cup lemon iced tea
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Pour 1 cup of lemon iced tea into a small saucepan.  Place on the stove and bring to a simmer.  Reduce the heat and continue to simmer for about 1 hour, or until the tea reduces down to about 1/4 cup.  Set aside to cool.

In the meantime, prepare the buttercream.

Once the tea syrup has cooled, mix 3 to 4 tablespoons into the buttercream.  Add in the fresh lemon juice and adjust to taste.  Depending on how sweet vs lemony you'd like the buttercream, adjust the tea syrup and lemon amounts accordingly.  However, do not add too much of either liquid or the buttercream may split.

Grapefruit Lemon Tart

Tender, buttery crust is filled with vibrant Grapefruit and Lemon curd before being topped with clouds of hand-whipped cream.  Bake this sunny tart to chase away those winter blues as we await spring's arrival!

Grapefruit Lemon Tart Recipe with whipped cream

It was probably the promise of a zesty, vibrant filling, the dreamy clouds of whipped cream, or the hope of spring in the near future that caught your attention.  Yes, all of these are important parts of the narrative, but the story of this Grapefruit Lemon Tart actually revolves around the crust.

Grapefruit Lemon Tart Recipe with whipped cream
Grapefruit Lemon Tart Recipe with whipped cream
Grapefruit Lemon Tart Recipe with whipped cream

My go-to tart crust was already close to perfection.  But in true Tessa form, I wanted to test out a few recipes to see if I could come up with something better.  The pate sablée that I’ve used in the past is tender, sandy, buttery and almost cookie-like.  It has a great “snap” to it and reminds me of shortbread.  Pretty great, right?  But unlike most other pastry dough, this recipe called for softened butter.  

Since I primarily work with cake and buttercream, I usually have a few sticks of butter coming to room temperature on my kitchen counter at all times.  The idea of working with softened butter is very familiar to me, but not usually when it comes to pies and tarts.  Even though I love the taste and texture of this pastry dough, I started to question why I was softening butter just so I could turn around and refrigerate it, not once but, twice before it finally went into the oven?

There must be another way!!  After a bit of research, sure enough, there is another way.  This method, like most pastry and pie dough, calls for super cold butter.  It too comes together in a shaggy mess, but instead of rolling it out smooth, you press the crust crumbles into the pie tin before baking.  Voila!

Grapefruit Lemon Tart Recipe with whipped cream
Grapefruit Lemon Tart Recipe with whipped cream

Truth time guys – I still prefer my old way.  Maybe it’s because we are creatures of habit or perhaps I just haven’t perfect the “press into the pan” technique just yet, but I kind of like my softened butter way.  One of the biggest turn-offs for my original recipe is probably the fact that you have to roll out the dough, but in the end, this is what I prefer.  If you roll out the dough between two pieces of parchment paper, then it doesn’t stick (usually the first headache that comes to mind when you think about rolling pie dough).  Rolling the dough creates even thickness in the baked crust.  Trying to press in the crumbly dough pieces was difficult for me since I couldn’t tell/feel how even it was until after it baked.  I tried my best to create even thickness, but in the end the bottom was fairly thick (especially the corners) and I ended up handling the dough waaaaay more than if I has rolled it out.  And since with pastry the more you mix and work the dough the tougher it bakes up, this was not a good thing.  And, there is still some chilling involved.  Of course I will give you both methods to try out, but personally, I prefer waiting for my butter to soften and even then having to roll it out as opposed to uneven, thick tart shells.  The taste is great and it browned beautifully, but I will leave it to you to decide which recipe to choose.  Lastly, I prefer to make my pastry dough in the stand mixer or by hand.  I know by hand may seem like more work, but I prefer it over having to take out and wash my food processor, hehe.

Okay, now onto the filling!  I thought spring was near, but Mother Nature decided to give us another round of snow.  Snow in March?  In Vancouver?  This is not normal.  I decided to make the most of it and bake up one last winter citrus dessert for the season.  Inspired by Yossy Arefi’s incredible book, Sweeter of the Vine, I put together this Grapefruit Lemon Tart.  The filling comes together like lemon curd then endures a short bake until it is slightly puffed and set.  The sweetened whipped cream is optional, unless you let plastic wrap touch the top of your tart (like I did) and you need to give it a last-minute make over.  I mean, I meant to do that!  Enjoy!

Grapefruit Lemon Tart Recipe with whipped cream

Grapefruit Lemon Tart
adapted from Sweeter of the Vine
3 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
1 cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons fresh grapefruit juice
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced and softened
par-baked tart shell (recipe to follow)

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the eggs, yolks, sugar, and salt.  Stir in the grapefruit and lemon juice.  Place the butter in a heat-safe dish or large glass measuring cup and set aside.

Place the saucepan over medium heat.  Stir constantly but slowly until the mixture thickens and registers 170 degrees (about 8 to 10 minutes).   Do not let the mixture come to a boil or it will curdle.

Once hot and thick strain the curd with a mesh sieve over the butter.  Stir until combined.
Pour the citrus curd into the partially baked crust.  Bake until the edges of the curd puff up but the center still wiggles when you move the pan (about 20 minutes).  Cool at room temperature for about 20 minutes before refrigerating.  Allow the tart to set in refrigerator for 4 hours or overnight before slicing.  Top with whipped cream, if desired. 

 

Sweet Pastry Dough
1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup confectioner’s sugar
½ teaspoon salt
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced and chilled
1 egg yolk
1 to 2 tablespoons ice cold water

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt.  Using a pastry cutter or your fingertips, cut in the butter until the bits of butter are about the size of a pea.  Stir in the egg yolk.

Working with only a teaspoon or two at a time, gradually add just enough water so that when you press the dough together it stay intact. The dough should still be shaggy and crumbly when done.  Do not at too much water.

Press the dough into a 9-inch tart pan.  Start by pressing the dough up the sides as evenly as possible, then fill in the bottom.  Reserve a bit of the dough to repair any cracks that may occur during baking.  Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes as you pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees.

Once chilled, line the tart pan with foil, shinny-side down.  Fill with pie weights or dry beans and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove the tart pan from the oven and very carefully take out the weights and foil.  At this point, patch up any minor craks with the reserved dough.

Return the tart back to the oven for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, or until the crust is light golden brown.  If the center puffs up during baking, gently press is back down with a piece of foil or parchment paper.

Resume recipe for the Grapefruit Lemon Tart, or cool completely before wrapping in plastic.  The tart shell may be stored wrapped well in the refrigerator for a couple of days or frozen in the freezer for a few months.

 

Whipped Cream
¾ cup heavy whipping cream, chilled
1 to 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
splash vanilla extract

By hand of with an electric mixer, whip the cream until it begins to thicken.  Add the sugar and whip until soft peaks.  Add the vanilla and whip until medium/firm peaks.  By hand, this will take about 3 to 5 minutes.  Do not over-mix.