When Life Gives You Lemons…

When life gives me lemons, I make Lemon-Blueberry Chiffon Cake.

It’s the summer now.  The weather’s getting warmer, the clothes are getting shorter, and the fruits are getting sweeter.  One of my favorite things to eat, in the world, are summer fruits.  Mangoes, lemons, pineapples, the list is endless.  The best thing is coming from a hot day, and engulfing a large bowl of fresh, cold fruit.

Lemons and blueberries are one of my favorite combinations on the entire planet.  The tart, sour taste of the lemon is brightened and complimented with the sweetness of the blueberry.  And, the yellow and blue color of both fruits is such a cheerful and happy combination.  I mean, how can you not be in a lively mood with blue and yellow?

 

Chiffon cake is a foam based cake.  It’s similar in texture to angel food cake, with the silky and heavenly crumb.  However, chiffon cake differs from angel food cake because it contains both egg yolks and egg whites.  Traditionally, foam cakes are made from only egg whites.  However, the fat in the egg yolks gives chiffon cake a richer taste and a moister cake .  I prefer chiffon cake out of all the foam cakes, personally.  Sponge cake can be too dry, while angle food cake is way too delicate.

This unique recipe for chiffon cake contains a liquid fat, oil. The oil enhances the moist texture of the cake, and keeps it soft even when the cake is refrigerated.  Also, the eggs are separated at room temperature in order for them to be whipped to full volume.  Cake flour must be used in this recipe so that it retains a fine crumb.  If you don’t have cake flour, simply add 5 tablespoons of flour to one and a half cups of all-purpose flour, as adjusted to this recipe.

This cake is frosted with a Lemon Swiss Meringue buttercream.  Swiss Meringue buttercream is one of my favorites.  It’s a meringue based buttercream.  Thus, it has a silky, smooth texture and is so light against the cake.  Now, generally, butter based frostings are light, but sometimes, they can be quite dense and extremely sweet.  Swiss Meringue Buttercream is so satiny, and totally elevates your cake not to a 10, but to an 11. (A quote from my English teacher)  An American, butter based frosting is too dense to pile atop this chiffon cake.  Swiss Meringue buttercream is the easiest to make out of all the meringue buttercreams.  Many bakers are intimidated by the frosting.  The great thing is, however, is that if you follow my instructions and follow the pictures, your buttercream will come out great! You can flavor it with caramel, jams, extracts.  Because this is a Lemon-Blueberry Cake, I’ll be adding lemon curd to the buttercream.

Although there are quite a bit of steps in this recipe, I recommend this to anyone who wants to bake one of the best cakes on earth.  Everyone I’ve served this to has fallen in love with this cake.  It’s tart, not too sweet, and is perfect for a summer barbecue.

Ingredients:

For the Chiffon Cake, you will need:

  • 6 large eggs, plus one additional egg white
  • 2 1/4 cups of sifted cake-flour
  • 1 1/2 cups of white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • Zest of 1 Medium Sized Lemon
  • 1/2 cup of vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cups of water
  • 3 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
  • Optional:  1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar
  • 2 1/2 cups of blueberries

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For the Lemon Swiss Meringue Buttercream

  • 5 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cups of  granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, cut into cubes and cool, but not cold
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • Lemon Curd, to taste

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Lemon Curd, to taste and to decorate

1.  First, preheat, your oven to 325 degrees.  Line 2 9-inch cake rounds to prevent the cake from sticking. Because this cake doesn’t contain butter, it won’t crust and brown like regular cakes.  Chiffon cake has a distinct, pale golden color.  If you grease the pan, the cake will darken significantly while it bakes.

2. Reserve about 1/4 of a cup of sugar in a separate bowl.  Mix the lemon juice and the water together.  In a large bowl, sift flour, sugar, baking powder, and lemon zest.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, and add in the egg yolks, oil, lemon water, and vanilla extract.  Using a whisk, beat this mixture until combined.  Make sure you don’t overmix, because remember, the flour will start to develop gluten and cause the cake to become very dense and dry.

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3.  In a separate, grease free and clean bowl, start whipping the egg – .whites with with either a hand mixer or with a standing mixer until foamy.  Then, add the cream of tarter, and gradually add the sugar while the egg whites are whipping.  The cream of tartar aids in the chemical reaction to stabilize the egg white proteins when they are whipped.  The sugar, as well, helps to stiffen the meringue.  Whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form.

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 4.  With a rubber spatula, gently fold the 1/3 of the meringue into the dry ingredients.  Then, repeat this process until you’ve added all of the egg whites.  Fold with the lightest hand possible.  If you use a heavy hand, you’ll knock the air out of your egg whites and you’ll end up with an extremely flat cake.

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5.  Divide the cake batter in half, and pour it into the cake rounds.  Bake for about 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  The cake will spring back when lightly touched.

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6.  Immediately after removing your cake from the oven, remove it and place it upside down on a wire cooking rack. Cool for about an hour before you frost your cake. While you’re waiting for the cake to cool, start on the Swiss Meringue Buttercream. (I’ll abbreviate it SMB)

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7.  Wipe the bowl of a stand mixer with lemon or vinegar to remove any traces of grease.  It’s crucial that you do this for this meringue based frosting.

8.  In a separate bowl, add egg whites and sugar.  Place over a pot of simmering water to create a double boiler.  Now, make sure your water doesn’t touch your bowl.  You don’t want the egg whites to become scrambled eggs!  Cook the egg whites while stirring constantly until it reaches 160 F, or until the egg whites are warm and the sugar is fully dissolved.  If you don’t have a thermometer, rub the egg whites in between your fingers to test it out.

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9.  Add the egg whites to your stand mixer bowl, and began whipping on high for about 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, keep whipping until the bottom of the stand mixer bowl becomes neutral to the touch.  If it’s still warm, the butter will melt when you add it in.


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10.  When your bowl is neutral, switch to a paddle attachment and begin adding butter, one cube at a time on low speed.  Make sure the butter is fully incorporated before you move on to the next cube.

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Now at this point, once all your butter is added in, you’ll notice that your meringue has deflated and that it has a soupy-like consistency.  Don’t worry, just keep on whipping.  The meringue will come together like magic.

DSCN9696Oh no!  It looks curdled!  If you would like, add the mixer bowl into the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to cool it down.  Then begin whipping again.  But don’t worry, this curdled stage is normal.  Just keep on whipping.

 

DSCN9709 1And now, your buttercream is whipped to perfection!  It should be light and satiny.  Feel free to whip in your vanilla.

11.  Take some lemon curd, and beat some into the SMB.

Woohoo!  You’re done making all the components of the cake.  Let’s assemble it now:

1.  First, remove the cake layers from the pan by running through the sides of the pan with a knife.

2.  Whip some whipped cream with some blueberry jam and blueberries.  This will be the filling of the cake.  Spread the filling evenly on one cake layer.  Sandwich the other cake layer right on top.

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3.  Place your cake on a turn table for easy frosting.  Spread a large dallop of the rest of the buttercream onto the top of the cake.  Angling your spatula and rotating the cake board, smooth out the top.  Then, spread on frosting all over the sides of your cake.  Don’t worry about smoothing out the sides, yet, before everything is spread on.  The last thing you want to do is to scrape up crumbs and ruin your perfect cake, right? Angle your spatula, again, vertically against the cake.  Using the turntable, rotate it to smooth out the sides of the cake.

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4.  Then, taking the rest of the buttercream, pipe a small, scalloped border along the top and bottom of the cake.  Place one blueberry between each scallop at the bottom of the cake.  Slice lemon halves and place them between each scallop at the top of the cake.

5.  Finish off alternating circular borders of blueberry and lemon curd for the face of the cake.

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This cake is goregous.  The stark, white color of the buttercream contrasts with the bright blues and yellows.  It’s such a jubilant cake, and a delicious one as well.  Now, regarding the title of my post…

“When life gives you lemons…”

When life gives me lemons, I make lemon-blueberry chiffon cake.  Why? Because I want to.  Baking makes me happy, and I do it because I want to.  Baking makes me who I am, and it makes me one of the happiest people in the world.  I proudly call my standing mixer my faithful boyfriend.

When life gives you lemons, you have to take those lemons, and work with it.  Lemons are extremely versatile.  Their zest gives color and a pop of flavor in pastas and baked goods. The juice is an accent on many dishes all across the world, and is essential in the texture of some cakes.  Although it’s sour, and stings the skin when you have a cut, it’s amazing.  Just like anything in life, a lemon has good and bad parts.  But, it’s what you do with those parts and how you make them work that counts.  It’s like the ying and the yang, the light and dark.  Everything has pros and cons, but success and happiness is taking the cons and somehow formulating them with the pros to make what you’re doing work.

People every day make excuses to give a reason as to why they can’t do something.  Whether it’s working out, because they don’t access to a gym, or cooking because they don’t have the right pans, people will say anything to avoid doing something.  Instead of wishful thinking, people should take what they have and work with it.  It’s the only way to be happy.

What is being happy?  Happiness is purely a mental state of being.  So many teenagers I see across the internet are constantly complaining about one thing or another.  Wishing they had a different teacher, asking for new phone, asking for new parents even.  And what are they? Extremely unhappy.  Happiness is accepting you, your life, and what you’re blessed with and enjoying it.  I wouldn’t say I have the the best house, the best hair, the best parents even.  Everyone and everything has flaws; no one’s life is perfect.  But I’m one of the happiest people I know because I’m happy with what I have.  I feel like in today’s society, so many teenagers aren’t seeing the worth of what they are given:  a good community, amazing friends, teachers, parents.  Instead, they’re always looking at something else, something greater perhaps.  And that prevents them from being happy.

Happiness is that state of acceptance of this crazy and beautiful world.  My life isn’t perfect, no doubt.  But I’m so happy to go to school every day, no matter how stressful it is, to be able to come home every day, to be able to talk to people who listen at home.  When you’re happy, the little things in life that you have make you the happiest.  It’s hard to imagine the worth of the little things, until they’re gone.

You never realize how lucky you are until it’s too late.

I first worked with a whisk and a hand mixer when I first baked.  I didn’t ask for a lot, just a Ziploc bag, a piping tip, and a muffin tin.  And I made the best of it.  Of course, I have a wider array of materials at hand today.  But I still like to go back to my roots, and work with a mixer or hand mixer sometimes.

When you think positively and make the best out of the worst decisions, you’ll start being happy.  Happiness is realizing that life is worthwhile, and you can’t do that by wishing your life was different all the time, right?

Once you’re happy, all the little, annoying things in that you used to despise become a part of your life.  You realize that it’s something that you have to live with.  Why waste time contemplating about what life could be when you can start living and being happy?

I believe that a person doesn’t start living until they become happy.  That’s the beauty of life:  It’s quirks, misunderstandings, and cracks become beautiful.  Life is beautiful.

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Of course, there are other things that contribute to being happy, such as finding your place in this world and doing the things you love.  But, it all starts right up there, in your brain.

Life gave me lemons and I made a lemon-blueberry chiffon cake.  And it was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.

When life gives you lemons, what are you going to do?

 

 

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