Monday, June 18, 2012

Recipes - Springtime Italian Cake (Limoncello & Thyme)

Limoncello and Thyme Cake with Amaretto Icing
 I admit that the combination of flavors in this cake may be a little intimidating to some... After all who puts a savory herb like thyme in a dessert?

Well, the Italians of course.  Folks from "the boot" have an affinity for herbaceous accents in a variety of foods from desserts to cocktails (to this day they produce some of the best bitters in the world).  And although it may not necessarily be of Italian origin, this cake captures the essence of Italian desserts and into a single scrumptious bite.  Tart lemon meets sweet honey meets light thyme meets amaretto in an homage to Italian grandmothers everywhere.

Simply decorated in more rustic / homemade idiom for Fathers Day 2012

For the cake:
11/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
11/4 cups sugar
1/3 cup honey
3 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons limoncello
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

For the lemon filling:

1 cup confectioners sugar
Grated rind of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons butter (+ 4 more tablespoons)
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 egg
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Dash of salt 

For the Amaretto buttercream frosting:
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
4-5 cups confectioners sugar
1-2 teaspoons almond extract (depending on taste)

The "fancy version" produced for a friend's birthday


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease two, 8-inch round cake pans with non-stick cooking spray.  Line the bottoms with parchment paper. Spray a light layer of non-stick cooking spray over the parchment paper, and dust the pans with flour.

Combine the all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking powder,  and baking soda in a large bowl.

In a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter until light and fluffy.  Add the sugar, honey, and salt and mix until well combined.

One at a time add the eggs the butter and sugar mixing thoroughly after each addition.

Working in alternating batches, add the flour and buttermilk to the mixture of butter and sugar.  (e.g. mix a third of the flour into the butter/ sugar, then add a third of the butter milk).  Continue in this alternating fashion until all of the ingredients have been incorporated, but not overmixed.

Add the limoncello, lemon juice, and lemon zest to the batter.  Stir to combine.

Pour into the floured pans and bake for 27 - 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes away free of batter/ sticky crumbs.

While the cake is cooling, prepare the lemon filling.

Combine the ingredients for the filling (minus the four additional tablespoons of butter) in a small bowl and whisk violently until everything is uniform and well mixed.  Heat the mixture on the stove top until boiling.  Reduce heat to low and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes.  (Make sure to constantly stir with a wire whisk while the mixture is cooking).  Remove from heat and add the additional butter to the mixture one tablespoon at a time, stirring until each addition has melted.  Allow to cool to room temperature before filling the cake.

To prepare the icing, beat the butter and 2 cups of confectioners sugar in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the milk and almond extract. Gradually beat in 2 to 3 more cups of confectioners sugar until the buttercream is thick and creamy.

Remove a small indented area from the top of one of the cakes.  Into this indention pour the filling.  Invert the remaining cake on top of the filled section and frost with the icing.

Eat good food.  Drink good beer.  And above all, stay classy!

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