Growing up, having a summertime birthday was the saddest thing in the world because while you celebrated all of your friends' birthdays during the school year, no one was around to celebrate yours! (and the sorriest part for me was that you couldn't bring cupcakes for your class to enjoy!) But, since then, I've begun to embrace having a summertime birthday, namely because you're almost always guaranteed lovely weather (well, that is, unless you have June Gloom as we do here in the Bay), childhood friends are in the area visiting for the summertime, and some of my favorite flavors, flowers, vegetables, and fruits are in season, making this one foodie particularly happy.
This year for my birthday cake, I decided to take inspiration from one of my favorite childhood treats which also happens to take advantage of the fresh berries and gorgeous citruses overflowing at the farmers' markets recently: raspberry and lemon-lime sparkling punch. This particular drink comes from my childhood piano teacher. She used to mix up and serve this punch after every recital that we gave, and it made for a extra incentive for me to play well in the recitals so that I wouldn't have to guiltily sip my punch in a corner. Then, she would let me take the leftover punch home in a large re-purposed mason jar! When I got older, I was given the important task of making the punch from the ingredients she'd left out on the counter during the last few performers of each recital, which was, to me, one of the largest honors that could be bestowed.
The punch itself is a wonderfully bubbly blend of sweet and seedy pureed raspberries with tart and citrusy lemon lime. My piano teacher used to make it with lemon lime soda, but I've re-written the recipe here to use fresh lemons, limes, and sparkling water. The crispness of the freshly squeezed lemon and lime juice better enhances the raspberry flavor of the punch, in my opinion, though don't tell my piano teacher that I said that! ;-P
I love this punch so much that I really wanted to capture and transform its essence into cake form for my birthday. This lemon and raspberry-lime layer cake features layers of raspberry-studded lemon cake with raspberry-lime Italian meringue buttercream, and two different curd fillings: lemon and raspberry-lime. The end result is a cake truly tailor-made and meant for a summertime birthday.
The raspberry-studded lemon cake layers are moist and robust, with pockets of lightly tart baked raspberries inside. The hint of lime in the raspberry-lime buttercream and raspberry-lime curd filling comes through as a crispness to the overall cake, balancing out the sweetness of the lemon curd filling. When stacking the layers, I alternated the lemon and raspberry-lime curds, so in each slice, you get both. You could combine them, too, but I wanted some separation of each of the flavors for extra definition.
Overall, I was very happy with how the translation from sparkling punch to birthday cake turned out! This cake is totally perfect for enjoying in the summer, in the warm shade away from the hot sun, under a tree or on a porch, with good company and a glass of accompanying raspberry and lemon-lime sparkling punch right next to you. I think my piano teacher might approve. As long as I go and practice afterwards, I think.
Happy birthday to all of you other summer babies out there, too! :-)
Read on for punch and cake recipes...
Raspberry and Lemon-Lime Sparkling Punch
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cup thawed frozen raspberries (or fresh)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2-4 cups sparkling water
lime slices, for garnish
lemon slices, for garnish
fresh raspberries, for garnish
1. In a small saucepan over medium high heat, cook the sugar and water together until the sugar has completely dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
2. In a food processor or blender, puree the raspberries.
3. Combine in a pitcher the cooked sugar syrup, raspberry puree, and lemon and lime juices. Mix together.
4. Add the sparkling water, adding less for a stronger mix and more for a lighter mix. Garnish with ice, lime slices, lemon slices, and fresh raspberries.
Lemon and Raspberry-Lime Layer Cake
makes one three-layer 9" cake
for raspberry-studded lemon cake:
Lemon cake recipe adapted from Magnolia Bakery
2 3/4 cups AP flour
1 3/4 tspn baking powder
1/4 tspn salt
2 sticks (1 cup) butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tspn freshly grated lemon zest
1 cup fresh raspberries
1 Tbspn flour
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour three 9 x 2 inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment rounds and grease again. If desired, line the cake pans with bake-even strips. Set aside.
2. In a bowl, sift together the 2 3/4 cups flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
3. In a mixer bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes on medium.
4. Add the eggs to the creamed butter one at a time, beating well after each addition.
5. Add the flour in four additions, alternating each with milk and lemon juice.
6. Finally, mix in the lemon zest just until it is evenly distributed throughout the batter.
7. In a separate bowl, toss to combine the fresh raspberries and 1 Tbspn flour.
8. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans. Divide the raspberries on top of the three cakes. Bake for 35-45 minutes (the recipe in the book calls for 20-25 minutes, though I had to bake my cakes for a much longer time even though my oven thermometer was registering 350 degrees F.) until a toothpick inserted to the center of the cakes come out cleanly. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack.
for lemon curd filling:
1 cup sugar
6 Tbspn corn starch
1/4 tspn salt
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup freshly squeezed meyer lemon juice
3 egg yolks
2 Tbspn butter
1 1/3 cups boiling water
1 Tbspn freshly grated meyer lemon zest
1. In a saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Gradually blend in the cold water and lemon juice.
2. Add the egg yolks and butter, blending until smooth.
3. Gradually add in the boiling water, stirring constantly.
4. Place the saucepan on medium high heat and bring to a full boil, stirring gently with a spatula and scraping the bottom (to prevent burning). Once the mixture begins to thicken, reduce the heat and simmer for one minute.
5. Remove the curd from heat and mix in the lemon zest. Let cool.
for raspberry-lime curd filling:
1 1/2 cups fresh or thawed, frozen raspberries*
1 cup sugar
6 Tbspn corn starch
1/4 tspn salt
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
3 egg yolks
2 Tbspn butter
1 1/3 cup boiling water
1 Tbspn freshly grated lime zest
1. In a food processor or blender, puree the raspberries until smooth. If desired, pour through a sieve to take out seeds (I actually like the seeds for texture, so I don't strain them out.)
2. In a saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Gradually blend in the raspberry puree and freshly squeezed lime juice.
3. Add the egg yolks and butter, blending until smooth.
4. Gradually add in the boiling water, stirring constantly.
5. Place the saucepan on medium high heat and bring to a full boil, stirring gently with a spatula and scraping the bottom (to prevent burning). Once the mixture begins to thicken, reduce the heat and simmer for one minute.
6. Remove the curd from heat, mix in lime zest, and let cool.
(*I like using frozen raspberries for raspberry puree because they're frozen at the peak of their freshness and so are perfect for pureeing! Even better if you find frozen organic raspberries.)
for raspberry-lime Italian meringue buttercream:
1/2 cup raspberry puree, from about 3/4 cup raspberries
zest of 3 limes
juice of 2 limes
11 oz. sugar (~310 grams)
5 oz. water (~140 grams)
150 grams egg whites (~5 egg whites)
pinch of cream of tartar, optional
50 grams sugar
4 sticks (1 lb) butter, at room temperature
1. In a small bowl, mix together the raspberry puree, lime zest, and lime juice. Set aside.
2. Combine water and 11 oz. (310 gr) sugar in a small pot over medium-high heat. Without stirring, bring to a boil and let cook until the temperature reaches 240 degrees F.
3. Meanwhile, place the egg whites and cream of tartar in a mixer bowl. With the whisk attachment, begin whisking the egg whites when the syrup begins to bubble on the stove. Start whisking on medium low until the whites begin to foam, then increase speed to high and gradually add the remainder of the sugar. Whip until soft peaks form and stop.
4. Once the syrup has reached 240 degrees F (soft ball stage) and the whites have been whipped to soft peaks, gradually pour the syrup in a small stream into the egg whites, whisking on medium high continuously. Be careful not to allow the sugar syrup to fall on the beaters.
5. Continue whisking until the bowl of the mixer is at body temperature and not warm anymore.
6. Slowly begin to add the butter, about a half tablespoon at a time.
7. Once all of the butter is incorporated, continue whisking while adding the raspberry and lime mixture. Beat until incorporated. Use immediately.
In between each cake layer, spread a thin layer of buttercream, top with a combination of lemon and raspberry-lime curds, and then another thin layer of buttercream.