Some of you may recall several years ago that I concocted a key lime pie cake for Mr. K.’s birthday, and it turned out very nicely. It’s actually become something of a tradition–if three years is enough time to call something that–that Hubs gets something key-lime-y for his birthday (last year I made a key lime pie ice cream, which was okay, but I put too much lemon in it so don’t consider it a major success).
Anyway. Thursday’s key lime pie cake (Mark II) was a roaring success: white cake with layers of key lime, whipped cream and crumb-crust.
(The whipped cream looks odd because it had started to melt before I frosted the cake with it; it tastes fine, and the texture doesn’t seem odd when you eat it, it just looked a little less smooth than I like.)
I was asked for the recipe, so I’ll post it here today, since it’s the weekend and all.
So. I’ve been using this new cake recipe these days which is amazing. Best cake recipe I’ve ever used. I’ve made cupcakes with this recipe at least a dozen times now, and they are awesome; really moist, but also very light and fluffy. It’s not like any cake recipe I’ve ever used before, because–and it took me ages to try it for this very reason–it uses melted butter. (I know, I can hear the collective gasp from those of you who bake.)
It was with much doubt and trepidation that I made this cake for the first time a couple of months ago, but I was instantly sold, and haven’t made another type of cake since. And! Not only is it awesome, it takes almost no time to make; because the butter is melted, there’s no creaming to do, so the batter comes together in minutes.
2 sticks (1 C, 226g) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
2 1/2 C AP flour
2 C sugar
1 T baking powder
1 t salt
1 C milk
1 t vanilla (I usually use about 1 1/2 t or even 2, because I love vanilla)
Crack the eggs into the cup of milk and whisk it a little so it’s combined. It’s best if you have time to do this earlier so it can all hit room temperature before you bake, or you can stick the milk in the microwave for a few seconds to take the chill off.
Give the dry ingredients a good stir in a big bowl so they’re well-combined. Get out your electric mixer (I use a hand mixer because I don’t have a stand mixer) and slowly pour about half the melted butter into the bowl. Give it a quick whirl with the mixer, then add the other half and mix that in. You want it to look like damp crumbs; it’s fine if some clumps are bigger than others but you want it to stay loose/sandy.
Now add half of the milk/egg/vanilla mixture, beat until it’s combined, add the rest of the milk, and beat until well combined; a minute or two, really.
That’s it. That’s the whole process. It barely takes any time at all.
The batter will be sort of weirdly gloppy, almost glutinous. Trust me, that is the gloppiness of awesome.
You can pour this into two 9″ pans and bake for 35 minutes or so, or–what I usually do–make cupcakes, which take about 18 minutes. (I do cupcakes because it’s annoying to prep cake pans and I’m lazy. Plus that way I don’t have to cut slices and wash plates and forks, and again, lazy.)
So that’s the basic cake recipe. You’ll thank me, I swear. (Also, like most cakes, this cake freezes perfectly and has an even better texture when thawed. Wrap each layer in a couple of layers of plastic wrap and freeze; when it’s time to thaw, put the layers still in plastic on a rack or whatever until fully thawed. Don’t take the plastic off, because the moisture from the process will gather on the outside of the plastic, whereas if you remove the plastic the cake will get soggy. For cupcakes, I just toss them into a big Ziploc bag, and take them out individually half an hour/an hour or so before I want a cupcake. Don’t frost anything before freezing, though.)
But for this cake… I was doing some research, looking at various key lime pie and key lime cake etc. etc. recipes, and thought I’d like to have a cake that was a little more robust flavor-wise, or rather, had a tangier sort of flavor that would stand up to the key lime filling I was planning to stuff into it. So instead of 1 C milk I used a mix of half milk, half buttermilk. I also cut down on the vanilla, which means I scaled it back to a scant teaspoon instead of glugging it straight out of the bottle into the batter like a crazy person (my usual method).
So that was the cake. But as delicious as it is, the cake itself was not the star for this cake. The star was the filling(s).
First I made a crumb crust: 1 1/2 C crumbs (graham cracker is best, of course, but I can’t get them here so I used plain digestive biscuits, which are almost as good), about 1/4 C melted butter, 1/2 t salt, and 1/3 C sugar (I used a mix of granulated sugar and dark brown sugar). This isn’t the exact recipe I use when making a pie with a crumb crust, but it was fine for this. Press that into a pan–I just mushed it onto a baking sheet–and bake at 375F for seven minutes. Let it cool.
Next was the key lime filling. I admit…I cheated a little on this one. I started out with a jarred lime curd, albeit a locally-made one with no preservatives or whatever. It’s not that I particularly care about preservatives, I just wanted one that was only ingredients I had access to at home–one I could have made myself, that is, if I had time and the inclination. See, I’ve made lemon curd from scratch. It’s a pain in the ass, and lemons are easier to juice than limes are (in terms of quantity). And I honestly did not think the taste of my homemade lemon curd was all that much better than a good jarred lemon curd, and it didn’t set quite as firmly as I would have liked, and blah blah blah lazy. I did alter the curd, however, as follows:
I dumped the jar of lime curd (it was a 320g jar, which is about 11oz) into a saucepan, and melted it a little so it was more soft-pudding-y consistency than solid curd. Since I felt guilty, I juiced three limes into it, and of course, gave it a squirt of lemon juice to better approximate key lime (as opposed to just lime). However, the extra liquid, and the knowledge that I’d be adding more liquid (in the form of a 14oz can of sweetened condensed milk), made me worry that it would be too runny for a cake filling. So I softened three sheets of gelatin (I cannot get powdered gelatin to work, so I buy the sheets, which are very easy to use) and added those to the mix, where they melted nicely. A few more stirs, and it was time to dump in the can of sweetened condensed. Which I did, post-haste! And after a few minutes of stirring, it thickened up quite nicely. Yay!
Of course, I couldn’t spread it on the cake all warm, so I plopped it into a bowl, and set that bowl into another bowl of cold water with a few ice cubes (“a few” is all I have at any given time, since my freezer is the size of a mini-fridge). Into the fridge that went.
I got to take a break at that point, too, because the cake was still warm. Once it cooled, though, it was back to work for me. I’d already decided that I wanted to make four layers instead of two, so I had to slice each cake in half. Unfortunately, due to what I am convinced is a misprint/recipe error in Ginette Mathiot’s THE ART OF FRENCH BAKING, my wire cake leveler/cutter thingy broke. Yes, a cake from that book broke my cake cutter. The recipe called for five eggs, beaten in a double boiler with a cup or two of sugar (I don’t recall offhand) and then you fold in about 200g of flour (if memory serves) and bake it. That was it. I thought when I read it that it seemed odd–not even a little vanilla? No butter?–but who was I to argue with Ginette Mathiot, especially when/since that particular cake was supposed to be filled with a very rich chocolate cream, so maybe the cake was supposed to be pretty flavor-neutral?
So I cooked it, and it broke my cake slicer and literally tasted like a sweet omelette. Pretty gross. And it left me without a cake slicer, so I had to score the cake with a knife and a tape measure (I couldn’t find a ruler) and then carefully cut all the way through. Unfortunately again, due to my oven (which I do love) being a gas oven with flames in the back, baked goods sort of dome oddly to one side, so my layers weren’t all even. Oh well.
Finally I had to whip the cream and assemble the cake.
The whipped cream was easy; heavy cream, a tsp or two of vanilla, about half a cup of powdered sugar (I always use powdered sugar in whipped cream; no graininess and it helps stiffen it a little bit), and get whipping. I did add a couple of sheets of gelatin, because whipped cream needs to be extra firm/stiff if it’s going to hold up cake layers without smooshing everywhere. (Soften the gelatin, melt it, add a little cream to the melted gelatin to bring down the temperature, and then pour it back into the cream. I learned the hard way that if you pour melted gelatin into cold cream you get lumps of gelatin, which is sogross.) And, to keep up the key-lime-pie theme, I poured in about 1/4 C of sweetened condensed milk.
Okay. Layer of cake. Then key lime; don’t spread it all the way to the edges, because it’ll spread and gloop out the sides when you put on the next layer. Next crumble up the crumb crust (say that three times fast); you can make it crumbs again or leave it in bigger chunks–I did a combination of the two. Lay a nice thick-ish layer of that on.
The next part, the whipped cream, is slightly trickier, in that it’s not easy to spread whipped cream over crumbs. I just spread the whipped cream on the bottom of the next layer and put that on top, but you can do it however.
(You’re probably wondering why I didn’t put whipped cream down first, the key lime, then crumbs. It’s because I wanted the key lime to touch/slightly soak into all the cake layers, rather than having a bottom layer that was just plain cake. You may not care about this, in which case feel free to alter the order of fillings. It’s not like it matters that much.)
Keep repeating that until you have no more cake and/or no more fillings–but remember to save enough whipped cream to frost the outside of the cake. Or, you could do one of the back-up plans I had in mind, which were to either just frost the top and leave the sides bare, so the small amount of filling oozing out from between the layers was visible in all its gooey glory, like you’d planned it that way; or just frost the sides, since I’d had just enough curd and crumbs left to thinly cover the top of the cake–again, so it would look planned.
This whole thing should be kept as cool as possible (again, look what happened to the whipped cream in my too-warm kitchen), and stored in the fridge, but I think it tastes best if you let it sit just for a few minutes after cutting, to take the deepest chill off of it.
The hubs LOVED this cake, and I’m very pleased with it. He loves the fact that it’s not too sweet; it’s sweet, of course, but it’s also tangy and surprisingly light. A really nice summer cake, but I think it could be equally nice in the winter when everything is heavy warm spice flavors.
So there you go. Goodness, this turned out to be a much longer post than I’d planned!
Next week I think I’ll talk about mysteries.