Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Fairy Dance by James Newton Howard [Peter Pan soundtrack].
CJ Redwine is a darling. Let me just put that out there right now. And she has a debut novel coming out tomorrow. And... I've made a surprise for her. Yep, it's dessert time (oh my goodness. I think this may be the very first, full-on dessert I've ever created. Holy cow. I may have to check to verify this, but dude, this could be an epic moment).
Now ORIGINALLY I was going to invent a recipe for cinnamon rolls, since they are Rachel's (the main character of Defiance) favorite food (almost always an obvious choice for me). But then I saw a small, almost out-of-the-way mention of something that happens on Rachel's birthday, something significant to the story at hand. And it all happens over lemon cake. Now that plus the fact that CJ's husband is something of a cupcake god, and the fact that CJ loves lemony things, little bells started going off in my head and I changed course. Now she can make her very own version of Defiance cupcakes to celebrate whenever she wants. Surprise! :D
Before we plunge into the deliciousness that is this lemon cake of ohmygoodness, let me say this. This cake is LEMONY. It is intense, but it is so good. If you don't like lemon flavor, just scale it back a bit. I'll tell you where. Ready to get started?
Defiance Lemon Cake
1/2 lb (two sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 C. sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature(ish. Yes, this is important)
7 lemons. This will =
1/2 C. lemon zest. 1/3 or 1/4 C if you want a less intense flavor
3 C. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt.
3/4 C. lemon juice (leftovers from the lemons you'll be using)
3/4 C buttermilk, room temperature
1/2 tsp almond extract
Yellow food coloring
Grease and flour a pan of choice. I used a bundt cake pan because I liked the shape, but pick whichever you like. Make sure you grease and flour. Don't spray or use another method. This will help separate the cake from the pan and not leave a sticky residue on top, which is especially good for this presentation.
Cream the butter and 2 C. of the sugar with an electric mixer until quite airy.
While that is going on (or if you have a helper) it is time to zest the lemons! This may take longer than you'd think, so you may actually want to start this step before creaming the sugar and the butter. It's citrus. It will last. :)
If you have a micro-planer - brilliant. If not, a cheese grater will doing the job swimmingly. I went with the cheese grater because I am not sure how many have a micro-planer and I wanted to show it works just as well. ^_^
Add the eggs one by one, along with your newly grated lemon zest. Don't tell me that it doesn't look and smell gorgeous. Oh, and the reason why it is important to have the eggs at or near room temperature is so that they emulsify (bind) easier and stick to all the right bits in the cake. Same with the buttermilk you'll be adding in just a minute. :)
In a separate bowl, add the flour, salt, and baking soda together.
In ANOTHER bowl, add 1/4 C of the lemon juice (freshly squeezed), buttermilk, vanilla, and almond extract. Basically liquid and dry in separate bowls.
Now, in small portions, combine each of the wet and dry ingredients into the first/main bowl. Now mix! (Yes, very bad me. I forgot to take pictures of this part). But this is what it looks like when it's done!
Here you add the food coloring. I'm not sure if I had weaksauce yellow, but it took me 15 drops before I thought it looked ready. But I did it in 3 drop increments. So don't go dumping it all in at once. You want it to be a rich yellow, not a fake yellow. Then, pour into the pan of choice and smooth it out.
Bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes to 1 hour, testing using a toothpick. And here is the trick with the toothpick test. You don't actually want it to come out clean. Because the internal temperature of the cake will continue to cook it, what you want is to have just a few moist flakes come out with the toothpick (we're not talking goo here). Then by the time the cake cools, it is absolutely perfect. ^_^
Once you pull your cake is ready, a couple of things will happen pretty quickly (but not like candy making. That stuff is insane). First you'll pull the cake out of the oven. While it begins to cool, put the remaining 1/2 C of sugar and 1/2 C of lemon juice into a sauce pan/pot. Heat and stir just until the sugar dissolves. Now you need to flip the cake over. For those of you who don't know, here is a neat little trick.
First, get a plate (or any flat, stable surface really). Cover the bottom of the pan.
Then literally turn the thing on its head in one quick, smooth motion.
With your supreme greasing and flouring skills, the cake should glide right out of the pan.
For a normal cake - voila! - you'd be done. (It's like a practical party trick) ;) But this is not an ordinary cake. So flip that sucker back over again.
Why? Because that lemon juice/sugar mixture you just whipped up. We're pouring it over the top. Well, bottom. We want it on the bottom because it is more pourous and it will soak in deeper and better into the cake, making it just that much more flavorful and moist. It's like heaven in a mouthful. (Why didn't we do this while still in the pan? Because the sugar content might have stuck to the sides of the pan, this making it not come out clean). Pour the lemon liquid over the cake.
Doesn't that look delicious? Wait until it is cool. Or not. Then, feast! Bon appetite, everyone!