My new year started off with a few hitches. Vu slammed the door against my thumb but luckily nothing was broken. Then a few days ago, I was exiting the freeway and the car in front of me made a sudden stop. I heard a loud boom. Yes, I had hit it. I had not slam on my brake fast enough. I sat there, dazed. My first accident. Then panic overwhelmed me. Were the people in the other car hurt? They were ok. I was ok. I drove home, still shaken but feeling incredibly grateful that it was only a fender-bender. Then yesterday, my birthday arrived. The last year of my 20s before the big 3-0 as Vu had put it. When I came home, he greeted me with a big bouquet of hydrangeas, one of my favorite flowers. We celebrated with a simple dinner of shrimp cocktail, lobster rolls, and best of all, a lemon poppy seed cake and strawberry passion fruit cream for dessert. This was the first cake that I have ever made.
It was moist and the brightness of lemon flavor came through. Like a burst of sunshine. Rather than making a vanilla pastry cream that the recipe calls for, I made a strawberry passion fruit cream. The strawberry passion fruit cream was fragrant and light. The pairing was delightful. It was a perfect birthday. Simple and relaxing. Exactly what I needed after a long week of work. I am looking forward to enjoying the last year of my 20s, to self discoveries, growth, and a new chapter in my life.
Lemon Poppy Seed Cake (Adapted from Extraordinary Cakes)
1 cup cake flour (can substitute with all purpose flour)
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 stick unsalted butter, cubed and room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
¼ cup sour cream
1 tbsp grated lemon zest
¼ cup lemon juice, strained
2 tbsps poppy seed
1. Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Grease the bottom and side of two 5-by-2-inch round cake pans with butter. Line the bottom with parchment paper.
2. Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder.
3. In a bow of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together sugar and butter until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Switch to a whisk attachment and add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until well incorporated. Add the sour cream, lemon zest and juice.
4. Mix the sifted ingredients in several additions until combined.
5. Add the poppy seeds and mix until blended, but be careful not to overmix, as the poppy seeds can change the batter color.
6. Pour the batter into the pans and bake until the top of the cake is slightly golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes.
7. Remove the cakes from the oven and allow to cool to room temp.
8. Once cooled, remove the cakes from the pans and peel the parchment paper from the bottom of the cake.
Strawberry Passion Fruit Cream
8 ripe passion fruits, about 1 cup
8 oz mascarpone cheese
1 cup heavy whipping cream
½ cup icing sugar
½ cup strawberries, hulled and diced
1. Halve the passion fruits and scoop out the pulp and seeds into a small pan.
2. Boil the passion fruit until the volume is reduced by half. Strain the juice through a sieve and chill in the refrigerator. This step concentrates the flavor of passion fruit.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream until light and fluffy. Add the icing sugar and continue beating.
4. Beat in the mascarpone cheese until well blended.
5. Mix in the passion fruit reduction.
6. Use a spatula, fold in the diced strawberry.
1. Use a long serrated knife, slice off the top ¼ inch of the cakes to even out the top. Slice each cake into 2 even layers.
2. Place the first piece of cake on a cake stand. Using an offset spatula, spread 1/3 cup of strawberry passion fruit cream evenly onto the cake.
3. Place another piece of cake on top of the cream and repeat the previous steps with the remaining pieces of cake.
4. After the final piece of cake is topped with cream, garnish with lemon zest.