October 17, 2010: Today is my birthday, so naturally, I baked myself a cake. There have been a couple of articles in the Seattle Times the past few weeks about cookbooks that came out this year devoted exclusively to incorporating alcohol into baked goods. I have a few recipes I've been making for years that do this (chocolate kahlua cake, rum cake) but there are some very intriguing and au courant versions available now. Hence my revisiting the champagne cake for last weekend's baby shower, and again today with a lemon layer cake with campari frosting. There limoncello (Italian lemon liquer) in the batter which bumps up the lemonyness more than juice and zest can alone.
This is unquestionably the best lemon cake layer I have ever tried, so I will definitely be making it again. It is totally worth investing in the bottle of limoncello if you don't already have some. The frosting is flavored with campari which is an Italian bitters. It has a nice herbal forward, but the aftertaste is bitter. My husband loves it, and has spent months incorporating it into different cocktails, though our favorite is just a tiny splash (instead of vermouth) with gin for a sunset martini. I don't really like the bitterness, though the sweet and citrus of the rest of this cake definitely make for an enjoyable experience. Another benefit is the attractive peachy hue.
Limoncello Cake Layers
from "The Boozy Baker", by Lucy Baker
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
11/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons limoncello
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
Preheat oven to 350. Grease two 8-inch round pans, and line with parchment.
Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a separate large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Stir in one third of flour mixture, then half of buttermilk, and repeat until well-mixed. Stir in limoncello, juice, and zest just until combined. Divide batter between two pans and bake for 32 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Cool on racks.
Campari Marscapone Filling
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon campari liquer
8 oz marscapone cheese
Beat cream and sugar together until soft peaks form. Stir in campari and continue beating until desired consistency. Loosen marscapone with fork, and fold in gently to cream. Fill cake layers with filling.
I did a total mash-up of some icing and some leftover vanilla custard sauce that I'd already mixed with some other leftover cream cheese frosting. It ended up making an amazing frosting for this cake, so I'm actually quite disappointed that I'll probably never be able to recreate it. But to come as close as possible, here is what I can offer:
1/3 cup vanilla custard made from the custard filling recipe in the Joy of Cooking
2/3 cup vanilla cream cheese frosting from the recipe in Joy of Cooking
2 cups powdered sugar
1 stick butter
1 tablespoon buttermilk
1 tablespoon campari
1 tablespoon limoncello
Melt these all together over medium or medium low, just until combined, then stir with a rubber spatula over an ice water bath until thick but still spreadable.