Do you have a true-blue friend? You know the kind I mean, always there for you through thick and thin and everywhere in between. They're the ones who help celebrate your triumphs, victories, accomplishments and milestones ……….. and also the ones who are there when times are tough, when life takes a different path than what you'd planned or throws you a major disappointment, when it's difficult to put one foot in front of another or it's hard to hold back the tears.
I have only a few friends like that... but you really don't need many. They're one of life's greatest blessings, worth far more than the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. When you find one, hold on for dear life as these kinds of friends are a precious rare breed and you'll only run across a handful of them in a lifetime.
Karen is one of my true-blue friends. She was an answer to prayer many years ago. It didn't take us long to realize we were kindred spirits and our hearts were quickly knit together. She's been at my side through it all and is always quick to lend a helping hand, a listening ear or a kind pat on the back. She laughs at my silly jokes, encourages my dreams and gives me an honest appraisal of my (often) crazy ideas and aspirations. Oh, and she's always ready for an adventure; though she's very responsible and dependable, she can also change directions on a whim and is just super fun to be with. Can you tell I like her?
February is Karen's birthday month and though the official day is not for another week, we're celebrating today since her daughter happens to be in town. I'm making a special dinner tonight and decided to end the meal with a cake that would reflect Karen's sunny personality. I chose my favorite yellow cake which is super easy and quick to put together. I used 8-inch round pans to give a tall, 3-layer cake and strawberry jam for a pretty, delicious filling between the layers.
The icing is the show-stopper though, a silky buttercream with Meyer lemon juice and zest along with a touch of cream cheese. And see the fun whimsical, multicolored, swirly design? Does it look fancy and complicated? You actually won't believe how simple it is; paint a few lines of gel food coloring inside a pastry bag (I recommend disposable bags for this), plop the icing in the bag, fitted with a 2D Wilton tip (also known as a large drop petal tip) and just start swirling, twirling, twisting and turning, here, there and everywhere, till the cake is covered! Even if you're like me and not a fancy-dancy cake decorator, you can put together a fun, festive looking cake in no time flat. Trust me, I totally surprised myself!
This would be the perfect cake to make for a party, a special occasion or just to say "Thanks for being a true-blue friend.", a sentiment truly worth celebrating!
P.S. Since this is a birthday cake, I had to be proper and not cut into it to show you the inside, but I'll try to get a few shots of it before it's all gone and add it to the post.
- ¾ cup butter at room temperature**
- 2 ounces cream cheese I use the low fat, not no-fat at room temperature
- 1 pound bag or box powdered sugar more as needed
- zest of 1 fresh Meyer lemon
- Juice of 1 fresh Meyer lemon about 1½-2 tablespoons
- 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- Milk or half and half if needed
Beat the butter and cream cheese on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, stopping to scrape the bowl once or twice.
Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the powdered sugar. Once all of the powdered sugar is incorporated, add lemon juice, one tablespoon at a time, till icing is soft and fluffy. Add vanilla and beat at a low speed until incorporated, then increase to medium-high and beat for another five minutes. If icing is too thin, add a bit more powdered sugar, if too thick, add a bit more lemon juice or milk.
This recipe is enough to frost a 2 or 3 layer cake if icing is spread with a knife. If you like a thick icing or will be decorating your cake with the swirly piped icing (pictured), make a double batch as this method uses more icing.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 16 tablespoons unsalted butter 2 sticks, room temperature
- 1 cup buttermilk room temperature
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- 4 large egg yolks room temperature
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
- ½ cup use ¼ cup for a 2-layer cake of your favorite strawberry jam (I used my Strawberry Freezer Jam.)
Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 350˚ F. Grease 2 round 9-inch cake pans or 3 8-inch cake pans by spraying thoroughly with baking spray, then line pans with parchment paper.
Place all ingredients in the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Turn mixer on and off quickly a few times to prevent the flour from flying all over. Once flour is beginning to be incorporated, beat mixture at medium speed until smooth and satiny, about 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula and mix by hand until smooth and no flour pockets remain.
Divide batter evenly among prepared pans. Bake until cake tops are pale gold and toothpick or skewer inserted into center comes out clean, 20 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown. (Set your timer for 20 minutes and check by gently touching the top of the cake, it should spring back.) Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then flip cake out onto a wire rack; cool to room temperature before frosting.
To assemble, place one round cake layer onto a cake stand or serving platter. Spread ¼ cup raspberry jam over the top surface and place the second layer on top. Repeat if using 3 layers. Spread Meyer lemon butter cream over top and sides of cake or pipe with a decorator tip*.
To swirl icing as in picture, fit a pastry bag with a 2D Wilton tip (or a large drop petal tip). If multicolored swirl (pictured) is desired, paint thin stripes with gel food coloring on the inside of the pastry bag, from the tip to about 2-inches from the top. Stripes should be about 1½ inches apart. Spoon icing into bag and twist top to secure. Beginning at any point on the bottom of the cake, begin piping in a random back and forth and up and down swirl pattern, stopping from time to time to readjust your hand grip on the pastry bag. You want to eventually cover all of the cake. Don't worry about trying to make any pattern, it should be whimsical and random.