mini lemon layer cake

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There are no excuses.  Miss Fats has been exceedingly lazy in the new year and apologizes for her absence (she doesn’t need to hear about all about your tearful two months away.)  But this winter has been rough, people.  Miss Fats won’t continue to bore you with tales of windchill or triple socks or ice cabin fever, but she will allow herself to hide behind the fridged fortress of double vortex that sucked a good deal of joy from the month of January.  Alright.  Cold complains and lazy excuses complete.

Miss Fats is back in action this lunar new year (real new years resolutions, people) with some tasty treats to push (aspirationally) into warmer times ahead and remind us all that a damn good meal can make about any slip on the frozen Chicago sidewalks a hell of a lot better.  So in honor of these bright blue skies between snowfalls in the Midwest, Miss Fats baked up a sunny lemon cake.  This mini layered cake provides enough tang to remind us you can still feel something beneath that thick wool sweater.

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Now “winter citrus” is certainly hot right now (exploding pinterest), Miss Fats would like to think this little cake takes your winter concerns a bit more seriously.  She’s so tired of the new years healthy resolution business.  Let’s get real people: all those heavy, welcoming, holiday treats bring joy and celebration for a reason.  They’re damn warm and inviting.  And guess what?  January is colder.  So throw the resolution garbage aside, stop torturing yourself and go for the gooey mac n cheese so your toes don’t fall off.  Continuous cold salad meal is doing nothing to encourage circulation.  In an effort to keep blood flowing to all appendages, Miss Fats tried to create a mini cake that both brightens and satisfies.  She’s down with the abundance of winter citrus (can’t get enough of those satsumas), but she doesn’t think they need to mean light and healthy desserts meant to refresh folks on a hot, sticky summer day.  As much as we’d all like to fantasize about the summer months, we have more practical concerns: like how to regain feeling in one’s face.

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This little lemon cake is a dense, decadent dessert that helps you keep that winter insolation on the below-freezing bright blue days of February.  It begins with layers of coconut lemon cake that is closer to a rich pound cake.  Then comes homemade lemon curd and a thick, creamy cream cheese center.  All of this is wrapped in a blanket of fluffy whip cream that disguises the dense lemon attack inside.  Now there are a number of steps to this recipe.  However Miss Fats encourages folks to take the necessary shortcuts: buy the lemon curd.  She totally understands.  Trader Joe’s makes a damn fine and affordable one that could easily make due here.  Don’t have cream cheese around?  Skip it or make it well in advance (it can easily hang out in the fridge for a few days).  The creamy, tangy, cheesy filling is delightful, however an extra dollop of whip cream can make due in a pinch.  Miss Fats went ahead and stabilized the whipped cream with gelatin, but if the cake is for immediate consumption there’s no need to take this step.  The most important thing here is that you’re indulging in the sweetness of dessert during the dead of winter. Get on it.

Mini Lemon Layer Cake
makes one six inch cake

cake:
adapted from Baker’s Royale Coconut Citrus Cake

1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
6 tbs melted butter
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbs lemon zest
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tbs oil
1 cup flour
1/4 cup coconut milk

lemon curd
Miss Fats used David Lebovitz’s excellent curd recipe cut in half

1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 egg
1 egg yolk
3 tbs butter

cream cheese filling

4 oz cream cheese
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt

stabilized whipped cream

1 tbs cold water
1/2 tsp gelatin
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tbs lemon zest (reserved from the curd)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt

1. Make the Curd.  Miss Fats simply halved the recipe followed David Lebovitz’s instructions to a T.  Worked out perfectly.  Make that curd and set aside until assembly. Reserve about a tbs of the zest for the whipped cream.  In a small bowl, combine the 1/4 cup sugar for the whipped cream and the zest, rubbing it together with your fingers to release the oils.  Let this hang out while you get to business with the cake.

2. Bake the Cake. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease two six inch cake pans.  In small bowl (Miss Fats recommends a small measuring cup), combine the sour cream and baking soda. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine eggs, yolk and sugar.  Mix until combined.  Add the melted butter and beat on high for 3-4 minutes.  Add vanilla, zest, baking powder, lemon juice and oil.  Mix until combined.  Add the coconut milk to the sour cream mixture and stir until combined. Using a spoon or rubber scraper, fold in the flour in two batches, alternating with the milk/sour cream mixture (ending with the milk).  Divide batter between the two pans and bake for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until a tooth pick comes out clean.  Allow cakes to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, remove and allow to fully cool on the counter.

3. Make the Filling.  In a small bowl, heat the cream cheese in the microwave for approximately 30 seconds or until slightly softened.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix until combined.  Set aside until cake assembly.

4. Make the Whipped Cream (right before cake assembly.  do not do this ahead of time).  In a small bowl, add the water and sprinkle the gelatin over top.  Allow the gelatin to bloom while you begin whipping the cream.  In a large bowl (or stand mixer), combine the cream and zesty sugar, and beat until fully combined.  Add the vanilla and salt, beat on high until very soft peaks begin to form.  Zap your gelatin mixture in the microwave for about 10 seconds or until melted.  With your mixer on high, slowly stream in the gelatin to your whipped cream.  Continue to beat until still peaks form.

5. Assemble the cake.  Carefully even out the top half of the cake with a serrated knife, then cut each layer in half to form four even layers.  Place the first layer on a small plate or platter.  Spread half of the curd on top and top with a second layer of cake.  Spread the cream cheese layer next.  Top with the third layer of cake.  Finish with the remaining curd and cake.  Spread a thin layer of the whipped cream all around the cake to create the crumb layer.  Don’t worry: this will be super ugly and messy.  Put the cake in the fridge and allow this to set for about 30 minutes.  Clean up or something.  Finish off the cake with a thick layer of the remaining whipped cream.  (As you can see from the pictures, Miss Fats did not layer enough cream on the outside of her cake.  She hope you’ll make wiser decisions.)

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Slice into this little guy for full flavor bomb.  A baby bite of this cake packs a heck of a lot of lemony, tangy flavor that makes all that layering and labor worth it.  Since you worked so hard, you should probably also top it with a healthy dollop of extra cream if you have that lying around.  Call it a “snow blanket” if you will.

Best snowy, sunny day ever.

Recipe Review: Lemon Cheesecake Topped with Strawberries

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It has been years since Miss Fats has baked a cheesecake. And reflecting upon it, she’s not sure why. Perhaps the pressure to get that filling silky smooth and set just right was too much for her. After all, there’s nothing lamer than a dense cheesecake with a mushy center.  But thanks to a recent spring-form pan purchase, she was all set to return to the chilled dairy cake realm (just you watch out, ice cream cakes), and try her hand at a massive and indulgent cream cheese monster.

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Miss Fats was baking this cake for a department event and had the request for some sort of “cream-cheese-strawberry-type-cake,” and due to a lack of imagination, went straight to cheesecake with strawberry topping.  (Sorry this sounds so apathetic. Miss Fats does not know what’s wrong with her: she has so little enthusiasm for the prospect of cheesecake with fruit.  Her unconscious is clearly deeply effected.)  For the recipe, she turned to Food 52’s Meyer Lemon Cheesecake with Biscoff Crust, which looked beautifully spring-like and just what everyone needed for a June lunch meeting.

Since Miss Fats still can’t figure out what Biscoff cookies are, she opted to go for the standard graham cracker crust.  She simply substituted the same amount of graham cracker crumbs for the Biscoff cookies and it worked out perfectly.  Since she also could not get her hands on meyer lemons, she used normal lemons but added an additional one to amp up the flavor (she also omitted the lemon extract).

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Food 52’s recipe worked perfectly.  The filling was incredibly easy to create thanks to a stand mixer and leaving the cream cheese out until it was fully softened.  She highly recommends beating the hell out of that cream cheese when you first put it in the bowl- there is nothing worse than a lumpy batter.  Even though Miss Fats opted to use full fat cream cheese, the actual cake turned out to be surprisingly light (or as light as a full fat cheesecake can be…) and not too sweet.  The bright lemon flavor cut the heaviness of the cream cheese and the crispy crust provided the perfect balance of texture and even a little salty note at the end (Miss Fats is a HUGE fan of Food 52’s addition of salt to the crust).

Now, Food 52’s recipe does not include strawberries.  And frankly, there isn’t necessarily a reason to add them: the lemon cheesecake is insanely good in itself.  Except why the hell not?  Strawberries are in season, gorgeous and affordable right now.  We all must shove as many in our mouths as possible.  So Miss Fats is going to share her totally ad hoc strawberry topping with you so you can push this cake into the realm of excessive.

Strawberry Topping:
creates a heaping portion for a 9 inch cheesecake

2 pints strawberries, divided
1-2 tbs sugar (depending on your berries)
2 tbs water
pinch of salt

1. In a small sauce pan, combine the sugar, water and about 2/3 of a pint of hulled, chopped strawberries.  Cook over medium heat until berries begin to breakdown and form a sauce (about 10 minutes).  Using a handheld blender (or regular one), puree the sauce until smooth.  You can also skip this step if you don’t mind a chunkier sauce.  Simply cook a little longer, mashing the berries with a spoon or fork as you go.  Allow to fully cool.

2. Slice the remaining berries and toss in the cooled sauce.  Dump that good stuff all over top of your cake.

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In the end, this cake really seemed to please everyone.  Miss Fats received reviews including “more” and even “perhaps even the best cheesecake I’ve ever eaten.” Now these are sugar-induced delirious statements, however Miss Fats does believe this recipe makes a case for the top.  With the strawberries and tangy lemon cream cheese flavors, this dessert manages to be both sunny and utterly indulgent.  She’s sure that this cake will become a critical recipe in her dessert arsenal and plans to experiment as soon as possible (hello, rhubarb is in season.)  Don’t even get Miss Fats started on the sweet-salt combos likely to come. Just you wait.

buttery lemon cream cheese coffee cake: two ways

IMG_0093Miss Fats has spent the last six months on a breakfast baking experiment.  She’s never been much of a morning sweets baker (except for a scone here or there), but her coordinating duties have called for a plethora of breakfast baked goods.  Each week, she’s been trying out essentially a new recipe (though there’s been a couple of lazy repeats) and in the past week she hit a high: lemon cream cheese coffee cake.

Diptic (1)She tried this recipe out two weeks ago as a muffin and it was a huge hit.  So when last Saturday demanded a breakfast sweet for a brunch crowd, she went for it in giant coffee cake form.  This recipe is adapted from one that’s been making the rounds on pinterest and the original can be found here.  Miss Fats has made a couple of adjustments that are crucial when switching between the cake and muffin.  Just follow these tweaks and soon you’ll be in tasty lemon heaven.

IMG_0079Buttery Lemon Cream Cheese Coffee Cake Muffins:
adapted from coffee crumb cake with lemon cheesecake filling
makes 12 large muffins

Filling:
1 8oz package of cream cheese, softened (must be soft!)
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
juice of 1 lemon
zest of 1 lemon
pinch of salt

Cake:
1 cup butter (2 sticks) softened to room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup sour cream
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
healthy pinch of salt

Topping:
1/4 cup butter softened to room temperature
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tbs sugar
1/3 cup flour
pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line muffin tin with liners or grease.  Make the filling: cream the cream cheese and sugar on high until they are well incorporated.  Add the egg yolk, vanilla, lemon juice and zest.  Mix until well combined.  Note: this step can easily be done ahead of time and the filling stored in the fridge.

2. Make the cake:  cream the butter and sugar on high until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes).  Add the eggs, sour cream and vanilla and beat until well incorporated (may look a little grainy but it will come together).  Carefully add the flour, baking powder and salt, mixing until incorporated.  The batter will be VERY thick.

3. Assemble the muffins: spoon about 2 tbs of cake batter into each muffin tin, doing your best to spread it across the bottom.  Add about 2 tbs of the filling on top.  Finish off the tops with the remaining batter.  This was a little difficult.  Miss Fats had to use her fingers to make sure the cake batter covered the top of the filling (if it doesn’t quite cover and there’s some filling squishing out of the top: do not worry).

4. Make the topping: mix the flour, sugars and salt in a small bowl.  Add the butter and using your fingers, break up the butter into small bits to create a crumb-like texture.  Sprinkle a generous amount of the topping over each muffin.  Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until a tooth pick comes out relatively (may have a bit of cream cheese filling on it) clean and the tops are crispy and golden.

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So you’ve basically got the recipe for this in coffee cake form, however Miss Fats recommends a couple of changes:

  1. Use the same filling recipe Miss Fat’s has listed above, but double the lemon.  The original recipe makes way too much that can’t really fit in the middle given the thickness of the batter.  Plus eff lemon extract: use a real lemon!
  2. Multiply the cake recipe by 1.5.  You need more cake batter than both the muffin and original call for: 9×13 is a damn big pan!  Plus this makes for a thick and delicious cake.
  3. Follow all the instructions as listed above: the only change is the assembly (which is actually easier in cake form).  Spread half your batter into the bottom of a greased 9×13 pan, followed by all your filling (Miss Fats recommends leaving a 2 inch boarder around this spread), and finally the rest of the cake batter.  Use those fingers to cover the delicious filling.  Using the same topping recipe, spread all over top.  Bake for approximately 50 minutes.

IMG_0151Miss Fats was a total failure documenting the filling action, but she hopes you’ll just trust her and go make this crazy tasty recipe.  Plus its a way better surprise when you take that first bite into a hot coffee cake muffin.  Just you wait.

IMG_0098Monster muffin reminded Miss Fats of a creamy blonde kitty.  So here’s a little guy to go with your morning cake:

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