By the time we hung up, my mind was racing with ideas for a casual, but nice (as my Auntie Ann would say!) dinner party on the patio to celebrate. It's the perfect time of year to dine outside, still not too hot, but warm enough to sit out comfortably after the sun goes down. I decided on an easy Greek inspired menu of pork souvlaki with pita and roast potatoes. Tzatziki, tomatoes, red onion, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice for garnish. I am lucky to live fairly close to Kosta's, a Greek butcher who just happens to make the best souvlaki and tzatziki around. Pair this with a bucket of beer and a jug of sangria and I was all set. Nearly. I know, I know, I cheated...but with good reason. I wanted to make a fuss so I decided to go all out on the dessert for the evening. I made a cake that was two weeks in the making and a stretch of my kitchen prowess as I am definitely not a cake decorator. I hoped that it would be home-spun, whimsical and girly....and definitely over the top.
The first weekend I baked lemon shortbread cookies in varying heart shaped sizes. These were to become decorations for the cake once it was frosted.
I baked the cakes the night before the dinner and wrapped them in saran wrap until the morning. Then the fun began! The cookies and cake needed to be frosted and assembled. I am the first to admit that cake decorating is not my forte...however this cake would be lovely without any adornment. The frosting is sweet but not cloyingly so, and the cake is citrusy and moist. You can use any sugar or shortbread cookie recipe you like in any shape you like as this is the perfect "occasion" cake.
Adapted from "Best Cakes & Cupcakes", Canadian Living Magazine special issue, Spring/Summer 2013
About 18 sugar or shortbread cookies, in shapes of your choosing.
For the cake:
1-1/2 cups butter, softened
2-1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp grated lemon rind
2 tsp orange rind
4 tsp lemon juice
1-1/2 tsp vanilla
3-3/4 cups all purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1-1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2-1/4 cups milk
Creamy Butter Icing:
1-1/2 cups butter, softened
7-1/2 cups icing sugar
1 cup whipping cream
3/4 tsp almond extract
Grease and flour one 6 inch and one 9 inch cake pan. Line the bottom of each with parchment paper and set aside.
Next, in a large bowl, beat butter with sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, until combined. Now add the lemon and orange rinds, lemon juice and vanilla. Set aside.
In separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir into butter mixture alternately with milk, making 3 additions of the dry ingredients and 2 of milk. Scrape 2-1/4 cups of the batter into the 6 inch pan and the remainder of the batter into the 9 inch pan. Smooth tops.
Bake in centre of 350°F oven until cake tester inserted comes out clean, about 50 minutes for small cake and 1 hour for large. Allow to cool on racks for 20 minutes. Carefully remove from pans. Peel parchment paper from cake bottoms and and continue to cool on racks.
To make the icing:
In a large bowl, beat the butter until fluffy. Alternately beat in sugar and whipping cream, making 3 additions of sugar and 2 of cream. Beat in the almond extract.
Assembling the cake:
If necessary, trim the tops of cakes to level. Next, cut each cake in half horizontally. Place 1 large layer, cut side up, on cake stand or tray and spread top with 1 cup of the icing. Top with second large layer, cut side down. Spread scant 1 cup of the icing over top and side to mask and seal in crumbs, providing smooth base for final icing.
Place 1 small layer, cut side up, on waxed paper–lined baking sheet and spread top with 1/3 cup of the icing. Top with second small layer, cut side down. Spread 1/3 cup of the icing over top and side of cake, masking to seal. Chill cakes for 30 minutes until icing is firm.
Spread remaining icing over top and sides of both cakes. Using palette knife dipped in hot water and wiped dry, smooth icing. Chill until icing is firm, about 1 hour.
Using a spatula, centre the small cake on top of the large cake. Decorate the cake with sugar cookies, if using.
Makes 24 servings.
P.S. And now for a little bragging Dear Reader....Canadian Living Magazine "liked" my cake photo on Instagram...and that was before I told them it was their recipe! You can follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest....links located in the sidebar at the top of the page.