Our little Lilly turned four this week. She lives in London with her "Mum" (our daughter, Cait), Dad and three siblings. When I think of Lilly, the word that comes to mind is ..... "joy", pure unadulterated, uninhibited joy. Oh, I'm not saying she doesn't have her "moments", as we all do, but for the most part, she's like a little beam of sunshine in our lives. Her smile (as you can see below) lights up a room like a thousand candles dancing, sparkling, shimmering on an inky black night. She's sweet, funny and fun to be with.
Lilly and I have a favorite game we play whenever we're together. It's called Grammy's (that's me) Magic Button Box and Lilly is always game for the game. I have a charming little red box where I store stray buttons. I've had it for years, so it's become quite a collection. When we get ready to play our game, I shake the box three times and blow in it after each shake (that's what makes the "magic" happen). Then Lilly pours out all the buttons and begins to separate them in little bowls by color. Every now and then, during this sorting process, she shouts out with excitement; "sweetie!!" because she's found a little round candy among the buttons. She pops it in her mouth and then continues with her organizing. She never seems to grow tired of this little ritual we have and Grammy never tires of providing the magic and seeing her blue eyes sparkle as Lilly uncovers the sweet "treasures".
With four little ones to care for, mum doesn't have a a lot of spare time, but she always makes the prettiest birthday cakes for her girls. She has a couple of really large cake pans which make a very stylish and impressive looking layer cake. She usually frosts the cakes with a smooth icing and adds polka dots as a festive finishing touch.
With time being especially tight this time of the year, mum told Lilly she could pick two colors for the icing to keep it simple. Lilly thought about it for just a minute and then said, "I'll take rainbow and ..........".
Lilly loves all things colorful. In fact, when I asked her what kind of cake she'd like me to make for her birthday, she replied, "Strawberry and .............. colorful!!" Okay! That got me thinking, imagining and planning a "colorful" and "strawberry cake".
I decided to make a Bundt cake because it's so easy and, like most everyone at this time of the year, my time is a bit pinched too. It took me a few tries to get the kind of results I was looking for. I wasn't thrilled with the first "colorful" cake I made, but then I remembered an amazing technique I learned several weeks ago at Mixed, a food blogger's conference Scott and I attended in Virginia. They had a wonderful workshop, sponsored by McCormick. Karen Tack and Alan Richardson, authors of the spectacular Hello Cupcake cookbook, led an amazing cake-decorating workshop. We learned all kinds of fun tips and tricks.
One of the techniques they taught was how to do this colorful, swirly cake. I couldn't believe how simple it was to achieve such bright, pretty effects. You simply make the cake batter (the recipe below is wonderful, but the technique works with any type of cake batter, including cake mixes), divide the batter into bowls and color each bowl of batter with food coloring, as desired. You then transfer the batter to zippered plastic bags, snip off one lower corner and start squeezing the batter out in random plops all over the pan, alternating the colors as you go. That's it, except baking it, of course ............... and having the patience to let it cool before you start slicing and seeing the amazing kaleidoscope of colors.
When I saw the first slice, that's exactly what came to mind; a kaleidoscope, hence the name Lilly's Lemon Kaleidoscope Cake. I wanted a fresh burst of flavor to match the vibrant design, so I added a splash of McCormick's Pure Lemon Extract. Once the cake was perfect, I went to work on the icing (the "strawberry" part). I used strawberry jam (strained) as well as a teaspoon of McCormick Strawberry Flavoring for a nice punch of bright flavor. I'm hoping Lilly will love this fun and festive cake.
P.S. Want to know the cool part? I'm sitting on an airplane while I write this post, headed to London, where we'll be spending the holidays with Lilly and her family. I'm thrilled that this cake doesn't have to be merely virtual ............. I actually get to recreate it in person for the birthday girl. By the time you read this, I should be giving Lilly a great big gigantic birthday hug. Hurray!!
Disclosure Statement: I was given a flavor and color gift pack from McCormick, but all opinions are my own.
- ½ cup strawberry jam strained
- 10 tablespoons half & half
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon McCormick strawberry extract
- 8 drops McCormick neon pink food coloring
Place jam in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high for 30 seconds or until melted. Strain through a fine strainer, pushing on solid fruit with the back of a spoon until most of the liquid is extracted. Discard solids.
Combine strained jam, half and half, powdered sugar and strawberry extract in a medium size bowl. Stir until well combined. Add pink food coloring and stir well to combine. If icing seems a bit too thin, add a little more powdered sugar. If too thick, add more half and half.
Place icing in a freezer-strength, gallon-size zippered plastic bag. Snip a tiny snip off one lower corner of the bag and drizzle icing decoratively back and forth across cake. Scatter top and sides of cake with sprinkles, if desired. Allow to sit for at least one hour for icing to harden.
- 1 ½ cups butter at room temperature
- 2 ½ cups sugar
- 6 large eggs
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¾ cup buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon lemon extract I used McCormick Pure Lemon Extract
- 10 drops neon pink food coloring I used McCormick food coloring
- 15 drops McCormick neon green
- 8 drops McCormick neon blue
- 10 drops of McCormick neon purple
Spray a 12-cup Bundt pan generously with baking spray*. Take a paper towel and rub the spray into all the corners and crevices of the pan. Then spray lightly one more time. This will ensure that your cake will slip right out of the pan.
Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and stir to combine. Set aside. Set out four medium size bowls. You will use these later after batter is made.
Combine butter and sugar in the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer. Beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Add flour mixture alternatively with the buttermilk, starting and ending with the flour. Stop the mixer and scrape the bowl several times in between. Add vanilla and lemon extracts and mix well.
Divide batter as evenly as possible between the four bowls. Add 10 drops of pink food coloring to the first bowl. Stir well to completely incorporate color. Transfer batter to a gallon-size, freezer-strength zippered bag. Repeat with the 3 other bowls of batter, adding the specified amount of food coloring to each bowl. You should now have four zippered bags with different colored batter in each.
Carefully cut a small snip off a lower corner of each bag. Squeeze small plops of batter in a random pattern on bottom of pan (plops should be slightly smaller than a golf ball. When the bottom of the pan is covered with batter, start a second layer. Keep layering till all batter is used up. *See note below regarding size of bundt pan.
Place pan on a large sheet of heavy-duty foil and wrap foil around sides of pan, keeping the top open. This will prevent your crust from getting too brown.
Place in a cold oven and turn temperature to 350˚F. Bake for 45 minutes, then cover top loosely with foil. Continue baking for another 15-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack and cool completely before icing.
* ~ My Bundt pan is quite large - it holds 15 cups. If you have a smaller Bundt pan you, might want to use some of the additional batter for a small loaf cake. Don't fill the pan more than ¾ full.