Sometimes, I just really get a hankering to make a cake. While generally reserved for special occasions only, I've had cake on my mind for the past few months and have been wanting to test some recipes. Why have I had it on my mind? Well, because I'm getting married next year and I have my mind set on making my own cake. Many people have told me I'm crazy, but I'm feeling really confident about it! So, let this year be the year of practice cakes!
In making this cake, I wanted to test out Milk Bar's system of baking quarter sheet pan cakes and cutting circles to create the layers. I used a biscuit cutter to make myself some teeny tiny little cake laters, and it worked perfectly! The little layers made an awesome mini-cake, and stacked perfectly in ball jars for a different look.
Of course lemon and blueberry comes together like a dream, as it always does. I decided to stud every piece of the cake with lemon, then layer in and decorate with simple fresh blueberries! So there is lemon zest in the cake, lemon curd to fill the layers, and a simple lemon buttercream to cover the cake. How could you go wrong?
When my babes got home, I was really excited to show him the tiny cake because well, it's adorable!
He insisted we should take a photo for scale, to make sure folks understood the mini size... and immediately offered himself up as the subject! You'd be amazing at how many photos I have of food that include his mouth wide open : )
I wasn't making this for any occasion other than, well, cake! After making one tiny cake, I wanted to put together the rest of the ingredients in a way that they could easily be put in the freezer for a treat next time I was craving cake (but lets be real... I ate multiple of these within a few days. cake is so delicious)!
I decided to use some ball jars and layer up the cake and other goodies in them. They look beautiful, are super simple, and freeze really well! If you don't feel very comfortable decorating cakes, this is a great way to make something beautiful without much stress!
So... here it is!
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cup cane sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp ground vanilla (or 2 tsp vanilla extract)
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
zest from two lemons
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Cream together the butter and sugars in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a hand mixer or by hand if you don't have a stand mixer!). This will take about 3 minutes, as you want it to be nice and fluffy!
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add eggs, and mix again on medium high for another 2-3 minutes.
- With the mixer on low, slowly pour in the milk, oil, and vanilla. Then increase the mixer's speed to medium high and let it run for about five minutes, until the mixture has increased in size significantly and is nearing a pale white color.
- Add cake flour, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest and mix on a low speed just until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure there aren't any lumps of flour remaining. Mix a little longer if you find any flour clumps!
- Prepare a quarter sheet pan for the cake (you could also use a 9x13 pan, but I recommend a quarter sheet). You can spray the pan, and line it with parchment paper or just put a silpat in the bottom of the pan.
- Pour batter into the pan, and flatten with a spatula. Tap it on the counter a few times to help the batter settle, then pop it in the oven!
- Let bake for 30 minutes, turning the cake after 15 minutes to ensure even baking. Cake should bounce back if poked gently with your finger. Let it bake a bit longer if it doesn't bounce back, or is still jiggly in the center.
- Let cake cool completely on a wire rack, then invert onto a cutting board and pull the parchment or silpat off the bottom of the cake.
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup suar
pinch of salt
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, cold
- Create a double boiler by resting a rimmed glass or stainless steel bowl in a medium saucepan with a few inches of water in the bottom. The water should not touch the bottom of your bowl.
- While your water is heating over medium heat, whisk together lemon juice, eggs, egg yolk, sugar, and salt in the bowl. Continue whisking and cooking the mixture for about ten minutes, until it gets thick enough for your whisk to leave a trail and registers 180 on a quick-read thermometer (if you like to temp your food!). Be sure you're continuously whisking the entire time so as not to let the eggs cook too fast.
- Remove bowl from saucepan, and stir gently while the curd cools for a minute or two.
- Once it's cooled to about 140 degrees, add butter one tablespoon at a time, using an immersion blender to completely integrate the butter before adding the next piece. If you don't have an immersion blender, just give it a good whisk to integrate the butter.
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
2 Tbsp heavy cream (or milk if you don't have cream!)
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla
- In a mixer with a whisk attachment, or just using a whisk by hand, whisk the butter for about a minute to give it a bit of fluff (I had to start this by hand, as my mixer needs more than just half cup of a butter to function smoothly!).
- Add all remaining ingredients and whip for a few minutes, until fully combined and nice and fluffy.
Assembling the Cakes!
Use a 3" biscuit cutter to cut as many rounds as you can from the sheet cake.
You can make the cakes directly on whatever surface you'll use to serve them, or one big sheet. If you make them on a sheet pan, you can place a little parchment square under each one for easy serving.
Now to layer! First, one cake layer, then a hearty spoonful of lemon curd. Place a spiral of blueberries onto the curd, and add your next layer of cake. Then, simply cover the little cake with frosting! Start by covering the top completely with a thin layer of frosting. Then add a thin layer of frosting around the sides to hold the crumbs (and curd!) place. Finally, fully frost the edges of your little cake.
Decorate with blueberries, and enjoy!
Ball Jar Cakes:
Making cakes in ball jars is as easy as layering in the ingredients!
Cut your sheet cake into as many circles as you can using a biscuit cutter, or whatever other round cutter you might have. You'll want to make sure that the rounds will fit into the jars you're using. I used a 2 7/8" biscuit cutter and wide mouth pint jars for reference. You can use the scraps of cake to create layers as well, they just won't look quite as perfect.
Place a cake layer in the bottom of your jar. Spread a little lemon curd on the layer. Sprinkle on a hearty layer of blueberries, and carefully dollop a big spoonful of frosting on top of the berries and push it to the edges in an even layer. Continue this process until you add the last cake layer that will fit. Spread frosting over the top layer of cake all the way to the edges of the jar, and decorate with some blueberries!
These will freeze easily for later use!