cake conscious

My mother is a bonafide clipper. She is notorious for tearing out magazine pages and snipping out newspaper articles. Any potentially useful bit of information must be saved! Clip, clip, clip. I can pretty much guarantee that one of the first agenda items on any visit with her will be to sit down and go through what she has come to call “the stack.”
There will be recipes for sure, maybe a few household tips, perhaps an article about honeybees, definitely some ideas for the garden – generally involving some cool thing that my husband Mark should build, usually a sales flyer or two for some purchase yet to be made, and almost always some bit of financial advice that I should “read up on.” Aren’t moms great?
Here’s how great my mom really is. I did the daughterly thing and invited her to come for a visit over Mother’s Day Weekend. But I also suggested she throw some cleaning supplies into her car. You know, to help get the new house ready to move into. My mom also happens to be a bonafide cleaner. Is it wrong to take advantage of your mother on Mother’s Day? I sheepishly promised to make her dinner.
My mom pulled into the driveway, unloaded her supplies, sat down to a quick lunch, and breezed through her latest stack with me. With that out of the way she slipped into her energizer bunny costume and got to work. Once my mom starts, there is very little that will stop her. She dusted, and swept, and mopped. She vacuumed, and wiped, and swiffered. And then she did it all over again. It’s amazing how dirty a brand new house is. Was.
clean house
When my mom ran out of things to clean, she started packing and hauling. Loading up the garden cart and wrangling it across a landscape that doesn’t really qualify as yard. I was really starting to feel guilty. But I suspected this might happen, and so luckily, I had planned accordingly.
I had the perfect recipe tucked away. Fittingly, it was an article/recipe saved from a former stack. The subhead reads “Instead of a bouquet of flowers for mom, consider a flowered cake.” I remember my mom jokingly hint that I might one day take this advice. And so before she arrived, I did as the article instructed and baked her a Triple Layer Honey Lemon Cake. I even hand sugared violets for the top of the cake. The only hard part was moving it from room to room, trying to keep it a surprise. But my mom was in and out of rooms and cupboards faster than I could keep up with. Finally, I gave up and just put the cake on the counter.
The sight of it though seemed to make my mom work even harder. My plan was backfiring. We did eventually get her to stop, but I think Mark had to sit her down in the adirondack and force a gin and tonic into her hand. After a simple meal of crispy oven fries and grilled burgers we wasted no time rummaging around for suitable cake plates. I felt a little less guilty with every moist, lemony, honey scented bite.
My mom got up and did it all over again the next day. Luckily for my conscious, it was a big cake. There was even enough left to send her home with a nice big wedge. As she was packing up her supplies, she turned and handed me her Swiffer. “You’re going to need this,” she said. And she’s right. I had no idea, but anyone with dark floors and light colored pets needs a Swiffer. It’s an incredible little tool. I’ve only had it two days, but I’ve already used it several times. How do moms get so smart?
Honey Lemon Triple-Layer Cake
(Adapted from the Rochester Post Bulletin)
There are two things that set this cake apart – the intricate flavor from the honey, and the addition of Earl Grey tea in the lemon filling. The tea flavor is subtle, but adds an amazing complexity to the filling. It’s a great idea that I never would have thought of. I increased the lemon just about everywhere in the recipe, but I would even bump it up even more next time. The other unusual addition to the batter is ginger ale. I was a little skeptical pouring it in, but it seemed to yield fine results. And, clearly, I need to practice the fine art of hand sugaring flowers. Mine looked a little pathetic. Fortunately, the lovely billowy honey-meringue covered for me.  The recipe looks long, but really it’s not so bad. My mom was worth every step.

For the cake:
2 cups sugar
1 cup honey
6 eggs
Zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons lemon extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 ounces butter, melted and cooled
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
12 ounce bottle ginger ale

For the filling:
3/4 cup water
1 bag Earl Grey tea
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 eggs yolks (reserve the whites for the frosting)
2 tablespoons butter

For the honey meringue frosting:
1/2 cup honey
4 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

For the sugared flowers:
1 egg white
Pinch of salt
Edible flowers or petals
Ultra-fine sugar

Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Coat three 9-inch cake pans with baking spray, then line the bottom of each with a round of parchment paper.

To make the cakes, in a large bowl use an electric mixer to combine the sugar, honey, eggs, lemon zest, vanilla and salt. Beat until well combined, about 1 minute. Add the butter and beat again.

In another bowl, stir together the flour and baking powder.

With the mixer on, beat the ginger ale and flour into the honey-sugar mixture in 2 additions, alternating. Divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted at the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

To make the filling, in a small saucepan over medium-high, combine the water, tea bag, lemon juice and honey. Bing to a simmer then remove from the heat and steep for 3 minutes. Discard the tea bag.

In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and the 3 egg yolks. While whisking, add a small amount of the hot lemon water to the egg yolks. Continue to whisk while adding small amounts of the liquid until half the lemon water is incorporated. Pour the yolk mixture into the pan and whisk to combine. Continue to cook until the mixture returns to a simmer and thickens. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and press plastic wrap directly onto the surface. Refrigerate until cold.

Once the cakes and filling have cooled, assemble the layers.

Use a large, serrated knife to carefully slice the top dome off each layer horizontally to create 3 level layers of cake. Be sure to remove the parchment paper from the bottom of the cakes. Place one layer of cake on a serving platter, then spread half of the filling over the cake. Add a second layer and repeat with the filling. Top with the third layer of cake, overturning the final layer so the bottom is up. Set aside.

To make the meringue, in a small saucepan over medium, heat the honey until simmering.

In a large bowl use an electric mixer to beat the 4 egg whites and the cream of tartar until very foamy. Slowly add the hot honey while continuing to beat. Continue to beat the whites until they form stiff, glossy peaks. Frost the cake with the meringue, swirling it with the back of a spoon.

To sugar the flowers, in a small bowl beat the egg white and salt until frothy. Using a small, clean paintbrush, paint the flowers with the egg white. Sprinkle with sugar. Decorate the cake with the flowers.

(Serves 12-14)

9 Responses to “cake conscious”

  1. 1 Judy Kaster May 15, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    I got a big chuckle out of your blog today, Jill. Being a big-time cleaner myself I can really relate to your mom. It gives you such a sense of accomplishment and makes a person feel so virtuous! I were doing the same thing at our daughters house over the weekend as she was getting it ready to sell. I loved the home-made cleaning recipe you sent last week and am now using it everywhere. Thanks!!!

  2. 3 Anne Fischer May 15, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    I love her too. I think your description is apt.

  3. 4 Mary Broeker May 15, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    Jill – I can’t tell you how proud I am to be your Mom….the cake was amazing and “almost” as awesome as you are!

  4. 5 Anne-Marie May 16, 2012 at 7:33 am

    My mother-in-law always has a stack for us to go through. I used to dread it but now I look forward to it. Your cake looks so beautiful–thanks for sharing the recipe!

  5. 6 Ann May 16, 2012 at 8:34 am

    Loved your sweet picture of Mom! Actually I hate cleaning my own house but love going down to Donica’s and helping her right the wrongs once a year. It’s fun and feels so full of righteousness. That cake looks amazing!

  6. 7 dani May 16, 2012 at 8:58 am

    What an awesome, touching post. Loved reading it and i feel equally lucky to have a mom who is so helpful. And the Cake!!! Oh, I’m thinking it might be on your list of things to make one of these days at the cafe :), mainly just for me to eat! Ha!! It sounds like the most perfect of flavors coming together!

  7. 8 Ella Bella May 31, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    Your blogs are awesome Jill, and so are you and your Mother. Plus, I really like Mark and the animals; such a great family, and all because I met Dick. Lucky me.

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