Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Classy Confections

Let Me Eat Cake

“Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?” --Sir Toby Belch

“If eating cake is wrong, I don't want to be right.” --Lorelai Gilmore

What has substance? How do we distinguish the trivial from the weighty? Can The Gilmore Girls convey the same message as Shakespeare? Despite obvious differences in girth and gender, Lorelai and Sir Toby share a perspective not just on the essential worth of cake but also on the implicit immorality of such sweet indulgences. They both insist, with levity, that cake trumps virtue.

More perversely, they’ve inspired me to consider the character of cake.

Here are our heroines . . . Ooey gooey Betty Crocker is the floozy of the bunch, pleasing the masses without shame. Nutty, rich Carrot cake may look like a boho hippie, but she’s got solid values, showing she’s prepared to be more than a mere dessert. Chocolate Cake is best all-around, and she’s great with kids. The southern belle is Red Velvet cake, so sweet and bold, you suspect her sincerity, but she still captures hearts. Pound cake knows who she is, and she knows how to accessorize.

These yellow treasures were made for a Labor Day picnic. Usually I bake to please the kids, but I chose this recipe to say “goodbye summer.” As DD noted, they looked and tasted like lemonade. But as light and airy as they were, they also had character and substance. We know from Proust that baked goods can accomplish a lot, and these cupcakes managed to feel feathery and solid, ephemeral and dense, summery and everyday. They were delicately sweet and citrusy, with subtle buttermilk undertones.

This cupcake's a midwestern farm girl on her first trip to Paris.

Lemon Buttermilk Cake, adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Perfect Party Cake

2 ¼ Cups Cake Flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ Cups whole buttermilk
4 large egg whites
1 ½ Cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick of unsalted butter at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter muffin tins. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk together the buttermilk and egg whites in a medium bowl. Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the butter and whisk with a hand mixer for 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light. Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the buttermilk-egg mixture, then best in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the buttermilk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Finally give the batter a good 2 minute beating to ensure that it thoroughly mixed and well aerated. Bake for 25 minutes, until cakes are well risen and springy to the touch. A toothpick in the center should come out clean.

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

¼ Cup butter (room temperature)
1 8 oz package of cream cheese
1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon of lemon zest
2 ½ Cups of powdered sugar
Beat cream cheese and butter together. Add lemon juice and lemon zest. Slowly add sugar, and continue to mix to right consistency.

No comments: