springtime lemon cake with lemon ginger cream cheese frosting

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The term “spring cleaning” has taken on a whole new meaning this year – we have purged everything in our former guest bedroom to make way for a nursery.  Initially, we thought we would rent a storage locker to corral all of our extra furniture and copious amounts of “things” but ultimately decided we couldn’t stomach $100+ per month to store stuff that we may never want to use again.  So we ended up donating quite literally a ton of stuff to our local Goodwill, making multiple trips with our car filled to the brim.

I must say that it was freeing.  For my entire adult life, I have moved apartments nearly every year.  We have lived in our current apartment for over 3 years now, and the amount of stuff that has accumulated over time was ridiculous, and I realized that I still hadn’t opened boxes from when we first moved in that were shoved into a corner of our tiny garage.  Purging old furniture, dishware, clothes, shoes and other items that were just collecting dust felt incredible and our apartment left lighter somehow.

This feeling was fleeting though as we have slowly accumulated baby-related furniture, clothing, toys and other necessities over time through the generosity of friends and family, preparing for our son’s arrival.  I can tell you definitively that the whole nesting phenomenon that expectant mothers experience is REAL.  After months of obsessing over the right decor for the nursery {I didn’t want it to scream “BABY BOY NURSERY!!!}, I can finally say that everything is ready and waiting for our son’s entrance into the world.  And even though our little place is now bursting at the seams once again, because these new additions are for him, they are incredibly precious.  I love seeing all of the books on the bookcase in the nursery that friends and family has so lovingly chosen for him, the toys in the closet that will one day fascinate him, and his tiny clothes and shoes that he will one day look quite dapper in…

On another note, one other truism about pregnancy is the cravings.   As I think I have stated on this blog before, I have never had a sweet tooth.  Well, that has changed.  During my pregnancy, I craved sweets of all kinds.  I had been fantasizing about a lemon cake with cream cheese frosting for awhile, and when my sister and her boyfriend kindly invited us over for an Easter feast, I knew it was the perfect opportunity to indulge.  There is something so wonderfully decadent yet refreshing about this cake – the contrast of the moist lemon cake against the tart brightness of the fluffy lemon ginger cream cheese frosting was mouth wateringly delicious.  To up the lemon factor, I spooned a light lemon syrup over the cake layers before frosting.  And, since I love a good “naked” cake a la Miette {I find it provides the perfect ratio of frosting to cake}, I attempted this style for the first time and it worked splendidly.  I also tried using cake strips {I used these cake strips from Sur la Table} for the first time, and they resulted in even, moist layers {usually my cakes end up with a bit of a dome, which needs to be trimmed prior to frosting}.  A perfect cake to welcome spring!

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Recipe

Lemon Cake

  • 2 cups plus 6 tablespoons cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 cup {2 sticks} unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar, divided
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • Lemon ginger cream cheese frosting {recipe below}

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Butter three 8-inch diameter cake pans.  Line bottom of pans with parchment paper; butter paper.  Dust pans with flour.  Attach cake strips to the outside of pans according to the manufacturer’s instructions, if using.

Sift cake flour, baking powder and salt into medium bowl.  Stir milk, vanilla extract and grated lemon zest in small bowl.  Using electric mixer, beat butter in another large bowl until light and creamy.  Gradually add 1 1/2 cups sugar, beating until mixture is light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs 1 at a time.  Beat in flour mixture alternately with milk mixture in 3 additions each, just until blended.  Divide batter equally among pans.

Bake cakes until tester inserted comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes.  Cool cakes in pans on racks for 10 minutes.  Run knife around pan sides to loosen.  Turn cakes out onto racks set over a tray or sheet pan, and peel off parchment paper from cakes.

While cakes are cooling, combine 1/2 cup sugar with lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves.  Spoon the lemon syrup over the cakes.  Allow the cakes to cool completely.

Arrange all three cake layers on a work surface.  Using your hands, tap off and brush away excess crumbs.  Place the first layer on top of the cake stand {I put strips of wax paper underneath the sides of the cake so that I can easily remove any frosting that falls off the cake after I am done frosting}.

Fit a pastry bag with a medium {1/2 to 5/8 inch} star tip and fill it with the frosting.  Pull the cuff and twist to seal and tighten the frosting down into the cone.  Purge the bag of air bubbles by squeezing the bag until there is a burst of air and frosting sputters out of the bag.  Keep the bag tightly twisted so that the frosting doesn’t come back up on your hands.  Holding the bag at a 90° angle, pipe a ring of frosting around the outer edge of the cake, keeping an 1/8 inch border at the very edge.  Starting at the inner edge of the border, spiral inward filling in the center of the ring to make an even layer of frosting.  Holding an offset spatula flat on the inside ring of frosting, with the spatula centered on the cake, smooth the inside of the ring, leaving the piped edges untouched.

Place the second layer on top of the frosted layer.  Using your fingertips, gently center the cake on top.  Be sure not to press too hard so that the frosting spreads over the edge.  Repeat with a layer of frosting just like you did on the top of the first cake layer.

Gently place the third layer on top.  Using your fingers and gentle pressure, press down in the center and out to the edges to coax the frosting to align with the cake edge, but not beyond, on all sides.

For the top layer, pipe a ring of frosting around the edge, leaving an 1/8 inch margin.  Fill in the center with slightly more frosting than the inner layers.  Using a small offset spatula, smooth the center first by rotating the cake stand, then gradually work out to the edges, pushing the frosting out very slightly as you go.

I decorated the top of my cake with Meyer lemon blossoms that are growing on the tree on our balcony, but feel free to use whatever edible or other non-poisonous flowers you desire.

Lemon Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting 

  • 2 8 ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup {1 stick} unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 to 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy.  Gradually beat in powdered sugar.  Beat in lemon zest, grated ginger and vanilla.

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Posted in desserts + baking, Recipes | 6 Comments

DIY – Wedding Favors – Diptyque Inspired Candles

Candle2After an extremely long hiatus from this blog, I had an overwhelming urge to reconnect to this little place, and my wonderful readers.  I miss you!

On my last post about our wedding, I hinted at a DIY that I wanted to share with you all. I have mentioned on this blog before that I am not a DIY sort of gal by nature, and definitely wanted to avoid anything at our wedding feeling too “I made this in my garage.”  But, I think there is a time and place for a DIY done well, particularly when non-DIY options are out of your budget.

When I was thinking about wedding favors, I immediately thought it would be lovely to give each of our guests a Diptyque candle – it felt so French, so apropos for our destination wedding.  However, spending $60 {or even $30 for a travel size candle} per guest was not within our wedding budget.  So I set out trying to recreate this candle, putting a personalized spin on it. Granted, hauling 50 candles overseas to France for a destination wedding was probably not the most practical choice {I think my husband questioned my sanity more than a few times}, but I really loved how they turned out and hope our guests did as well.

I had never before attempted to make candles, but found the process pretty easy, though time consuming. To achieve the Dyptique feeling, I think it’s key to go for a fairly simple label, in an elegant typeface and a neutral color palette.  I used an amazing app called Makr {available on iPads and iPhones}, a great resource for wannabe graphic designers, to design and print the labels and thank you tags. Also, I chose not to dye or color my candles in any way because that can too often look garish. With so many things, I think simplicity is best here. For any brides to be who are in the mood for tackling this DIY, I recommend breaking up the process over a few weekends – one weekend to make the candles and one weekend to package them up.  Also, our wedding was small {50 guests} so anyone considering making these for a larger wedding should definitely recruit some help.  The best part – instead of spending $60 per candle, I ended up spending around $5 per candle. C’est une bonne affaire!

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Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Candle wax {I used this soy candle wax}
  • Candle wicks {I used these wicks}
  • Super glue
  • Digital cooking thermometer
  • Candle fragrance {I used the coriander rose fragrance from here}
  • Candle container {I used these glass candle containers}
  • Chopsticks and rubber bands {see Step 3 below}
  • Labels {I used the Makr app for the candle labels and the thank you tags I attached to the gift boxes}
  • Gift boxes {I used these white boxes}
  • Ribbon {I used the dark blue ribbon from here}
  • Shred {although you can’t see this in the pictures, I filled each box with this white shred to package the candles}
  • Match boxes {I used these}

Here’s what you’ll do:

1.  Glue your wicks to the bottom center of each candle container.  I used super glue.

2.  Melt your wax according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  Instead of buying a separate candle making pot, I used a large glass bowl over a simmering pot of water to create my own double boiler.  I used a digital cooking thermometer to ensure that the wax achieved the right temperature before removing it from the heat and before adding the fragrance.   Follow the fragrance manufacturer’s instructions regarding how much fragrance to add. I erred on the side of adding less fragrance than the manufacturer called for because the worst thing in the world in my opinion is a scented candle that is too potent.

3.  Carefully pour the melted wax into each of the containers.  To keep the wicks centered in the middle of each candle, I took a pair of chopsticks, tied a small rubber band around each end, placed the chopsticks horizontally over the top of the container, and then pulled the wick through the opening in between the chopsticks.  Do all of this before you pour the wax into the candle.

4.  Let the candles cool completely.  I left mine to cool on my dining room table for a week, although they were ready to go 24 hours later.  Place them somewhere that is out of direct sunlight and not too warm.

5.  Once the candles are completely cooled, removed the chopsticks {if you used them}, cut the wicks with scissors, if necessary and then label the candles with your label of choice.

6.  Add the shred to each box and then gently place the candle plus a matchbook inside each box. We used a personalized stamp we created for our wedding on the matchbook to add another personal element.  Tie a ribbon and the thank you tags {if using} around the box.

7.  Celebrate your creativity and resourcefulness with a glass of wine!

Posted in DIY | 4 Comments

our wedding – featured on Style Me Pretty

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I apologize profusely for the complete and utter hiatus I have been on for oh, about the last seven months!  Planning for our wedding and then just enjoying the simple pleasures of married life have been consuming my time of late.  In case there is anyone out there who actually still bothers to check in on this little blog of mine from time to time, I thought I would share our wedding with you.  Style Me Pretty was kind enough to feature our wedding on their site yesterday (link is here), complete with photographs from Joseba Sandoval and a video from Duncan Wolfe.  These two are some of the most talented artists in their field, and Matt and I were so honored to work with them.  I hope you enjoy!

Also, when I get around to it, I would love to share with you all a little DIY that I did for our wedding favors.

Posted in Wedding | 23 Comments