For this week's Famous Fridays post, we take a little trip down memory lane and celebrate all sorts of American cakes with the wonderful Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson. The minute I got my hands on this book, I immediately started scheming about what special occasions or excuses I could invent to justify baking MANY cakes from this book! There are recipes for popular classics like Yellow Birthday Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting and Mississippi Mud Pie Cupcakes to offerings that are a little bit less mainstream like Lovelight Chocolate Chiffon Cake with Chocolate Whipped Cream, Honey Bee Cake, Coffee Crunch Spiral, Goober Cake and these adorable individual Lemon Queen Cakes with Meringue Frosting that burst with lemon flavor both in the cake and in the layer of lemon pudding that forms on the bottom. If lemon is your "thing", you are going to fall head over heels for these!!
Julie runs Baker & Spice, a small batch bakery and cafe in Portland, Oregon which of course means that I'm dying to go to Portland NOW!! And despite the fact that she's an accomplished professional baker, Vintage Cakes is filled with recipes that are entirely doable in a home kitchen. In fact, because the focus of the book is on traditional recipes, most of the cakes originated in some grandma's kitchen long ago when they didn't have all the handy electric gadgets that we do now, making this a very unintimidating collection of goodies. Plus, the book is broken into sections like Hasty Cakes, Everyday Cakes, Little Cakes and Light Cakes, Flips and Rolls, Layer Cakes and Party Cakes, so you can pretty much find a cake to suit any occasion or non-occasion you're looking for! The directions are clear and precise and the little descriptions and anecdotes that precede each recipe really give you a feeling of connection to the history of the cakes. My only gripe is that there are not enough pictures, but maybe because the ones that are there are so good and I want to see more! If you're looking for a great cake cookbook, your search is over!
And if you're looking for something a little bit different to serve for Easter this year, you can't go wrong with these little lemon beauties. They're definite crowd pleasers, both in taste and presentation. They're fairly easy to make too! You start by buttering tea cups and placing them in a large roasting pan so that they can cook in a water bath. This helps to keep the cakes from drying out as they bake.
They bake up golden and so full of lemon flavor! And it's fun to be served a cake in a teacup! Fun "Vintage" tidbit--In the 1700's, small or individual cakes were referred to as "queen cakes" and generally baked in teacups, common to all households. By the 1800's however, they began to be referred to as "cup cakes" leading to the cupcakes we know and love today!
Then all that's left to do is prepare the meringue frosting and swirl it atop the cakes any which way you like--the less regular the better!
If you have a handheld kitchen torch, now's the time to put it to use, turning that meringue into a golden browned, sticky, gooey, wonderful marshmallow-y mess! (If you don't you can brown them under the broiler too, so no worries!)
What's so amazing about these little cakes is that there are three separate components, layers and textures going on here and they all work so well together. When you take a bite, you spoon through pillows of sweet toasted marshmallow frosting, next hitting tender moist lemon cake and finally making it through to the pool of tart lemon pudding at the bottom. It's heavenly! And so much fun to have your own individual portion which you do NOT have to share with anyone (even when they try to pressure or guilt you into it!)
We're supposed to be getting some lousy weather here in the Northeast this weekend--perfect time for a little baking project. And if you live somewhere sunny and warm, I'm sure you can find an excuse (maybe skin protection?) to duck into the kitchen and churn out something yummy too. So pick up a copy of Vintage Cakes, bake up a classic or two and fill your weekend with a little sweetness. Have a great one everybody!
Vintage Cakes' Lemon Queen Cakes with Meringue Frosting-Famous Fridays
Makes 6-8 individual cakes, depending on the size of the teacups or ramekins you use
You will need ovenproof teacups or ramekins and a candy thermometer for this. A handheld torch is also nice to use here too.
Prep Time: 20 minutes; Bake Time: 30-32 minutes
For the Cakes
- 1/4 cup (2 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for greasing cups
- 1 1/3 cups sugar
- 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (from about 2 lemons)
- 4 eggs, separated
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice ( from about 3 lemons)
- 3/4 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 cups whole milk
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
For the Meringue Frosting
- 4 egg whites from large eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1. To make the cakes: Make sure the oven rack is centered and preheat to 350ºF. Generously butter 6-8 ovenproof teacups or ramekins and place them in a roasting pan large enough to hold them all at once. Set aside.
2. Use an electric mixer and in a large bowl, beat together the butter, sugar and lemon zest on medium speed until well combined. Add the egg yolks, two at a time, and beat on medium speed until fully incorporated and the batter is creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary. Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a rubber spatula to stir in the lemon juice by hand. The stir in the flour, mixing until completely incorporated. Pour in the milk and stir that in as well. The mixture will be quite thin.
3. In a clean bowl add the egg whites and salt and use a wire whisk to to beat until medium peaks form. This will take some arm power! Carefully fold the egg whites into the lemon mixture in the bowl until all of the egg whites are incorporated. Transfer the mixture to a pitcher or large measuring cup with a spout and pour the mixture evenly among the teacups or ramekins, filling them to just below the rim. Place the roasting pan with the cups in it, in the oven and carefully pour in enough hot water to come up to about 1/3 of the way up the sides of the cups. Bake the cakes for about 30-32 minutes, until the tops dome, are firm, start to crack and appear slightly golden. You can't really test these with a toothpick for doneness since the bottoms are supposed to be pudding-like. Carefully remove the pan from the oven (you don't want the water to slosh into the cups) and transfer them to racks to cool completely.
4. To make the Meringue frosting: Place the egg whites, sugar and salt in the top of a double boiler and whisk the mixture with a handheld wire whisk. Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water, clip on a candy thermometer and whisk the mixture until it reaches 160ºF. Pour the contents of the bowl into the large bowl of an electric mixer and use the whisk attachment (if you have one, otherwise just use the regular beaters) to whip the egg whites on medium-high speed until they have tripled in volume, look thick and glossy and hold stiff peaks.
5. Quickly spread the meringue over the tops of the cooled cakes, using two spoons to make as many dips and swirls as possible. Use a kitchen blowtorch to toast the meringue golden brown or if you don't have one, place the cakes on a tray and set under the broiler, watching carefully so that the brown but don't burn. Serve immediately or make them early in the day for later.
6. Leftovers can be stored at room temperature, covered loosely for up to 2 days, but these really are best eaten on the same day they're made.
Note: Recipe adapted from Vintage Cakes by Julie Richardson. I used a slightly different method for cooking the meringue which I thought was easier and it came out great.