Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Celebrate Life with Something Beautiful

Except for the odd pound cake, I'm not what you would call an avid cake baker. Especially when it comes to celebration cakes. The kind with multiple layers temptingly blanketed by sweet, creamy frosting and loaded with enough sugar and calories to make you forget life's troubles in an instant. It probably has something to do with the fact that those kind of cakes require a little more effort and that baking them 'just because' seems a little, well... frivolous. Hans gets a double-layer chocolate cake on his birthday and I'm happy to bake one as a present for a friend, but that's pretty much it.
I guess you could say that I'm the kind of person who likes to save the good stuff for 'special occasions'. The Limoges plates and my mother-in-law's fine linnen tablecloth for Christmas dinner, the antique German soup tureen and French silverware for entertaining, the classy jewelry and fancy shoes for business meetings. It's my attempt at keeping these treasured items intact, pristine and beautiful while simultaneously convincing myself that I'm getting the most out of them this way. If I don't have something every day, I'll enjoy it more when I do.
I more or less apply the same philosophy to baking pretty cakes. Fine for celebrations, but rather extravagant if it's without reason. While I'm aware that baking fancy cakes too often has its risks, I do think it's time for me to reconsider what I classify as a 'special occasion' and why one moment calls for a celebration more than the other.
Life is full of special moments. Sharing a glass of wine with my husband at the end of the day while we cook dinner. Waving goodbye to Kirstie when I drop her off at school in the morning and seeing her blowing air kisses my way. Opening a box of old photographs and remembering how rich our lives have been. These are moments of joy which are also worthy of a celebration. Perhaps it's time to start using the elegant silverware and baking more celebration cakes. Every occasion can be a special occasion when we celebrate it with something beautiful.

Celebration Cake
Serves 8

For the cake:
250g soft butter
250g self-raising flour
250g caster sugar
4 eggs
zest of 1 organic lemon
2 tbsps lemon juice

For the frosting:
70g butter
150g white chocolate
140g c
rème fraîche
200g powdered sugar
zest of 1 organic lemon

To make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 180C. Butter and flour two 22cm springform pans and line the bottoms with baking paper. Cream the butter and the sugar until light and pale. Add in the eggs one by one, with 1 tsp of the flour, while beating. Fold in the rest of the flour. Add the zest and lemon juice and stir to combine. Divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans ans bake for about 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool completely before unmolding and frosting.
For the frosting:
Slowly melt the butter and the chocolate au bain marie. Allow to cool slightly before whisking in the 
crème fraîche. Follow with the sugar and the lemon zest and whisk again.
To assemble the cake, cut out four strips of baking paper and place them around the edges of your cake plate or cake stand. Place the first layer of the cake on top of the strips of paper. Spread 1/3 of the frosting on top of this first layer and sandwich with the second layer. Divide the rest of the frosting over the top and sides of the cake. Leave the cake in the refrigerator over night so that the flavors come together. This also makes it easier to cut the cake in neat, pretty slices. Enjoy and celebrate!