Stephanie was one of the first people I got to know at my new job. She and I both started within a few months of each other and at one point we shared a cubicle wall; me on one side and her on the other. We hit it off pretty fast and it didn't take her long for me to talk her ear off about my obsession with baking.
Her birthday was actually fairly early in the month of March but between my trip to Hawaii and her taking her birthday off, it wasn't until this week that I was able to make her a birthday treat.
While I was gone, Stephanie starting trolling around Epicurious to find a recipe that appealed to her. When I got back from my week in Hawaii, I was greeted to an email from her that contained roughly about ten really elaborate recipes. One example was Olive Oil Couscous Cake with Creme Fraiche and Date Syrup (I actually wanted to make it but it got low ratings and had no idea where I would get date syrup!). I told Stephanie that I wasn't afraid of a challenge but I was impressed by her selections! At one point I was going to wimp out and just make my Lemon Raspberry Trifle but right before I went into the grocery store to pick up supplies, I decided that I'd make this cake instead. Out of all the recipes, this cake was pretty, looked yummy, and wouldn't be too expensive to make. I did tweak it though; the original recipe included candied ginger and pistachios but I left them out because I didn't really feel like they would have added anything to the cake.
The cake itself was my favorite part. It was very dense but moist, had a snappy flavor and it filled the house with a pleasant aroma as it baked. When I was measuring the ginger, I kept checking and rechecking the recipe because five teaspoons seems like so much, but I think it was the perfect amount. I loved it! However, that's where the love stopped. The lemon curd was only okay, I've made better. I used Meyer lemons too but the curd was more sweet than lemony. I blame that on the recipe.
And while I'm on the topic of lemons, I'm not sure I understood the point of the lemon mouse. It didn't added anything to the cake at all -- other than complicating it. I couldn't even taste it! As for the blackberry preserves, once it went on the cake, the ginger flavor that I loved in the cake stopped singing and became a whisper. Overall, the ginger cake with the lemon curd AND the lemon mouse AND the blackberry preserves was just too much. Maybe if the blackberries were fresh, I skipped the mouse, and used the lemon curd recipe from my Raspberry Lemon Trifle, it would have been better.
This cake was challenging, I'll give it that. It took me about four hours to make it from start to finish. I had to use a ten inch pan instead of a nine so that made for shorter layers. The cake also didn't look at pretty as I would have liked. That was my fault; I was rushing and didn't really follow the directions for assembly. I think if I made it again, it would skip the preserves and lemon curd and just top it off with a simple vanilla frosting.
Those at work that shared in the belated birthday celebration seemed like the cake. One of the ladies told me it was the best cake she ever had (wow!), so perhaps I'm in the minority? Nevertheless, Stephanie I hoped you liked your cake! Happy belated Birthday!
Ginger Lemon Cake with Blackberry and Lemon Curd
Yield: 1 10-inch cake pan easily fed 10-12
An adaptation of Mary Cech's recipe found on Epicurious
7 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
1 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, diced
3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons (packed) finely grated lemon peel
4 cups all purpose flour
2 1/4 cups sugar
5 teaspoons ground ginger
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/3 cups whole milk
2 1/2 tablespoons (packed) finely grated lemon peel
8 large egg whites, room temperature, divided
1+ cup blackberry preserves, warmed in the microwave or on the stove
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
4 large egg whites, room temperature
3 tablespoons sugar
White chocolate curls (about a half a cup)
For lemon curd:
Whisk eggs and yolks in large bowl. Combine lemon juice, butter, and sugar in medium metal bowl. Set over saucepan of simmering water; stir until sugar dissolves. Gradually whisk hot lemon mixture into egg mixture. Return mixture to bowl set over water; increase heat so that water is boiling slightly. Whisk constantly until mixture thickens and instant-read thermometer registers 180°F, about 5 minutes. Pour curd through fine strainer set over bowl.
Place plastic wrap directly on surface of curd. Refrigerate until cold, at least 8 hours or overnight. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.)
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 325°F. Lightly butter two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides. (I used two 10" pans in my recipe and the layers were noticeably shorter, but worked out okay.) Line bottom of pans with parchment rounds.
Sift first five ingredients into large bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Add butter, milk, and lemon peel and beat on medium-high speed until a very thick batter forms, about 2 minutes - you'll want to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl a few times, as well as the whisk attachment. I found a bunch of lemon rind clumped together there.
Add 4 egg whites; beat until smooth. Scrape down the sides and bottom again. Add remaining 4 egg whites; beat until well blended and smooth. Divide batter between prepared pans (about generous 4 1/2 cups for each); smooth tops with offset spatula.
Bake cakes until golden and tester inserted into centers come out clean, about 45 minutes. (It still took 45 minutes in a 10" pan) Cool in pans on rack 10 minutes. Turn cakes out onto racks; remove parchment and cool completely. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Wrap in foil and store at room temperature.)
Cut domed tops from both cakes, making each cake 1 1/4 to 1 1/3 inches high. Using long serrated knife, cut each cake horizontally in half. Place 3 cake layers on separate cardboard rounds or plates (reserve fourth cake layer for another use). Spread 1/3 cup preserves over top of each of 3 cake layers. (I warmed the preserves in the microwave on 30% power first. This helps to make it more spreadable.)
Transfer 1 cup curd to large bowl; reserve for mousse. Divide remaining curd among layers (generous 3/4 cup for each); spread evenly over preserves to edge of layers. Refrigerate layers separately while preparing mousse (do not stack cake layers).
Pour 1/4 cup water into small saucepan; sprinkle gelatin over. Let stand until gelatin softens, about 15 minutes. Place saucepan over low heat, stirring until gelatin dissolves, about 2 minutes (mixture will be lukewarm). Stir gelatin into reserved 1 cup lemon curd.
Using electric mixer, beat egg whites and 3 tablespoons sugar in large bowl until stiff but not dry. Fold egg whites into curd mixture in 2 additions; set aside until mousse begins to set slightly, about 10 minutes.
Spoon 1/3 of lemon mousse (scant 1 cup) atop each layer, then spread gently to about 1/2 inch away from the edges using offset spatula (if the mouse is too close to the edge, it will ooze out). Chill layers until mousse firms up slightly, about 30 minutes.
Place 1 cake layer on platter. Gently top with second, then third, being careful not to press down firmly. Refrigerate at least 2 hours. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome and keep refrigerated.)
Garnish top edge of cake with white chocolate curls.
Would I Make This Again? No, not this exact recipe. For me, it was just overkill. 2 out of 5 stars, however, the cake by itself was wonderful. 4 out of 5 stars.