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It was my son’s birthday and of course I had to bake him the cake. I’ve been making his birthday cakes every year for the past seven years, barring last year, when the monkey decided he wanted an `outside’ cake with a fancy design. Well, this year he was happy to get back to my humble creations.
One of the most popular cakes is chocolate cake, but that’s so done to death now at most birthday parties – kiddies and adults alike. This year I decided to go with a light, airy, butter-less sponge cake with a tangy lemon curd filling. The cake is so delicious it does not need anything else.
It was apparently a good decision as I heard one of his friends – when called for cake cutting – mutter `hope it’s not chocolate cake’. Phew – passed. Usually when you have young picky children around, there’s quite a bit of wastage, even with cake, and I’m chuffed to say that mine didn’t last beyond nine brats and two adults and no-one wasted any on their plate either. I had to actually bake another cake that very same day for the rest of the family.
The first cake came out well – as you’ve read from the way it was demolished – but I wasn’t satisfied with the softness of the sponge and I wondered what was missing. The middle also took a bit too long to rise. In the second one, I added two tablespoons of warm water to the batter and what a difference that made.
The sponge came out soft, rose perfectly, with uniform colour all round and basically made me very happy. Its a very easy cake to make and if you have all the ingredients out and ready before you get down to making it, it’ll hardly take more than 10 minutes to get into the oven.
Be a little delicate with the folding of the flour into the egg mixture and don’t go at it as if you are preparing for the world mixing championships. The lemon curd is also very simple to make. Just don’t get let up on whisking while it’s on the heat and you’re all set. It will also give your biceps a good workout so you shouldn’t feel guilty for indulging later.
Even though I was very happy with myself with the way the cake came out, my mother’s words to me were: “you know, you should cut the cake into three and have two layers of lemon curd on the cake because that’s the best part.’’ You guys can try that. I’m happy with one layer.
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup flour
1 tsp vanilla essence/extract
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tablespoons warm water (absolutely essential)
6 tablespoons lemon juice
2 eggs and 2 yolks
100 gms powdered sugar
60 gms softened butter
*I use a standard measuring cup for my baking.
- Turn on your oven and set the temperature to 180° centigrade.
- Cover the bottom of a round 8-inch diameter baking tin with butter paper or parchment paper and oil the sides of the tin.
- Sift the flour, baking powder and salt in a fine strainer onto a plate and set aside.
- Break the eggs into a mixing bowl and beat with an eggbeater or in your stand mixer on high for 20 seconds.
- Add the powdered sugar to the eggs and whisk till the mixture is pale yellow and has more than tripled in size. You’ll know when the mixture is done when you begin to see well defined grooves being formed on the mixture by the blades of the mixer. Should take about a minute and a half. Do not over-beat.
- Add the vanilla extract and mix a bit.
- Add 1/2 of the flour mixture to the eggs and fold with a spatula gently till fully incorporated. Make sure to get to the bottom of the bowl so that no clumps of flour get left there.
- Then add one tablespoon of warm water and fold into the batter.
- Add the other half of the flour to the batter and fold till properly incorporated.
- Add the second tablespoon of warm water and fold into the batter.
- Pour the batter into the baking tin and bake for 30-35 minutes in the middle rack of the oven. Do not open the oven door before 30 minutes or the cake might sink from the middle. Stick a skewer in the middle of the cake. If it comes up dry without any batter sticking to it, you’re all set. If not, keep the cake in the oven for another five minutes and test with the skewer again.
- Let the cake cool completely in the tin.
- Fill one third of a vessel or deep saucepan with water. Bring to a boil.
- Mix the lemon juice, eggs, yolk, sugar and butter in a wide-rimmed shallow bowl.
- Lower the flame of the gas to medium high.
- Place the lemon mixture over the pan with boiling water and whisk the mixture fast and continuously till it begins to thicken (at least three to four minutes). Make sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl sitting above it. If you stop whisking while the mixture is on the heat, your eggs will scramble and you don’t want that.
- If you have a little bit of experience, you can keep the heat on high while whisking as the curd will form faster, but if you’re a beginner, I suggest keeping the flame on medium and gradually increasing it as you get more confident.
- Keep whisking until the mixture gets thick enough to stay apart when you place it on the back of a spoon and run a line through it. Take the bowl off the heat to do this.
- If you feel the mixture is getting too hot and in danger of curdling, take it off the heat whisking continuously till it cools a bit and then return to the heat.
- Once its done, remove from heat, keep whisking for a minute till it cools a bit and pour into a bowl and cover the top with cling film touching the curd so that it doesn’t form a skin when it cools. Leave to cool completely. It will thicken further.
- Cut the cake in half horizontally from the middle and spread the cooled lemon curd thickly over the bottom half.
- Place the top part of the cake on the lemon curd and you’ve got yourself a delicious treat that won’t last long.
- Can sift a tablespoon of icing sugar onto the top of the cake for a pretty look.
Important notes: I only use the heating rods at the bottom of my oven for baking my cakes. If you have an oven where you don’t have the option of turning the rods on the top off you can place an oven tray between the rod and the cake. I don’t use ovens which have only heating from the top.
The most important thing to note when baking is to Know Your Oven. Every oven behaves differently. Mine is a large 60-liter oven so the heat gets dispersed over a larger area. Smaller ovens would probably heat up more as there is higher concentration of heat in that smaller area, so pay attention to your baking for the first time so that you can judge for yourself how long it takes to bake, even though you have been given baking timings in recipes. This knowledge is critical for your baking success.
The sugar should be of fine quality so that it dissolves well in the cake batter. I don’t use castor sugar and mostly whack my sugar in the mixie or grinder and then add the powdered form to the batter. However, please don’t replace icing sugar with ground sugar for frostings.
If you are using a larger diameter tin, the baking time would decrease, a smaller diameter tin, the baking time would increase.