Lemon and Spiced Hibiscus Cake

“Perhaps very late, our dreams joined, at the top or at the bottom, up above like branches moved by a common wind, down below like red roots that touch.”  -Night on the Island, Pablo Neruda

Need a dreamy show-stopper for your upcoming Galentine’s Day celebration?

Last week’s burst of warm January weather triggered all sorts of ideas, and because my baking is in step with my thinking, I came up with this!

This blooming beauty is anchored by two layers of lemon cake with lemon curd sandwiched in between.  The real zing to this fling is the spiced hibiscus buttercream that I whipped up using a marvelous spiced hibiscus jam produced by Stagg Jam & Marmalade!  The borderline fruity/floral subtlety of hibiscus provides the alluring antidote that balances the tart bite of all that lemon. Don’t take this jam at face value; spicy notes of cinnamon, clove, and bay leaf are swimming just beneath the surface flavor.    I am super excited that I was given the opportunity to collaborate with a brand that generates such a nuanced specialty.

I used dry hibiscus petals found in a hibiscus tea to decorate the top of the cake.  I recommend the brand Teapigs (for the biggest petals!).

I’ve been hyper focused on the world of food this past year, and I’ve found that it’s easy to start feeling one dimensional toward your craft.  One of my goals for 2018 is to infuse more contemplative depth into my culinary creations.  A bite of this lemon hibiscus cake is like taking a bite out of a summery poem that melts on your tongue.  What books, music, or other types of art inform your baking?

Scroll down for the recipe!

Lemon Hibiscus Cake

For the Cake: (Originally seen on Martha Stewart)

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pans
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs plus 3 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour one 6 inch round cake pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest.
  3. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs and yolks, one at a time. Beat in 2 tablespoons lemon juice.
  4. Alternately beat in flour mixture and buttermilk beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix just until just combined.
  5. Pour batter in pan; smooth the top. Bake until cakes pull away from sides of pans, around 40 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes. Run a knife around edges of pans and invert cakes onto a wire rack.  When cool, torte the cake into two separate layers.

For the Buttercream:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 3.5 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Spiced Hibiscus jam from Stagg Jam & Marmalade
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions:

  1. Beat the butter in an electric stand mixer until light and fluffy.
  2. Slowly incorporate the powdered sugar.
  3. Add hibiscus jam and vanilla to taste.
  4. One batch covers a 6 inch naked style cake.  Consider doubling the batch if you don’t want to see any cake peeking through on the sides.

 

Salty Sweet Valentine’s Day Pop-Tarts

This past week I went to a “Drunk TED Talk” in Brooklyn… and the topic was “crushes.”  Perfect for Valentine’s Day, am I right?  Comedian Ana Fabrega was one of the featured speakers, and she gave an achingly funny presentation on how to let your crush know that you like them.  I could relate a little too well.

Valentine’s Day brings about thoughts of past crushes for everyone.  I remember how on-top-of-the-world I felt after asking a guy for his e-mail address (not his phone number!) after a final theater performance in sixth grade…  nope, I never emailed him!  I know, so awkward.  That scrap of well-earned paper is probably still in my childhood bedroom somewhere.

This year, I challenge you to ask out your crush in a much sweeter (and classier) way; with these Salted Caramel Banana Pop-Tarts!  Maybe “Pop-Hearts” or “Heart-Tarts” would be a more accurate name for these cute little banana custard treats.  Nothing says “I LIKE-like you” like these DIY delicacies.  Scroll down for the recipe!

 

Salted Caramel Banana Pop-Tarts

Part 1:  Banana Custard

This banana custard is to DIE for.  You’ll be lucky if you actually get to the final Pop-Tart stage.  All I wanted to do was eat a bowl of the custard with a spoon!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 6 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions:

  1. Combine sliced bananas, milk, and vanilla in a medium sauce pan over low heat.  Bring to a simmer.
  2. Strain the banana milk through a mesh sieve.  Discard the solids.  Put back over the heat and bring to a simmer.
  3.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, egg yolks, and cornstarch.
  4. When the banana milk is hot, temper it in the egg mixture.  By adding a small amount of the hot milk into the egg mixture, you avoid creating little bits of scrambled the eggs.  Transfer everything back into the saucepan.
  5. Cook the custard on low heat until it thickens and starts to bubble.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter, until the mixture has a smooth consistency.
  6. Refrigerate until cool and thick.  Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap up against the custard to prevent a skin from forming.

Part 2:  Pop-Tart Dough

This pie dough is light and flakey.  I suggest rolling out the dough as thin as you can so that the banana filling flavor isn’t overpowered.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into around 1/2-inch cubes
  • 4 – 5 Tablespoons ice water
  • one egg

Directions:

  1. Mix together the salt, flour, and sugar.
  2. Add butter and mix until the butter is fully incorporated and the mixture is crumbly.  Add water.
  3. Form dough into a ball and chill for about an hour.
  4. Roll dough out onto a floured surface.  The thinner you roll out the dough, the stronger the banana filling taste will be.
  5.  Cut dough into desired Pop-Tart shapes, and make sure that each piece has a match.
  6. Arrange the bottom halves of your Pop-Tarts on a baking sheet, spaced evenly apart.
  7. Mix the egg and paint a thin layer onto one side of the bottom Pop-Tart halves.  This will help to glue the bottom half of the Pop-Tart to the top half.
  8. Place a spoonful of banana custard in the middle of each piece.
  9. Place the matching half on top of each piece.  Using a fork, press the edge of the top into the bottom.
  10. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes until golden.  Rotate half way through baking.  Let cool before adding the icing and the caramel.

Part 3: Vanilla Glaze

This is a basic vanilla glaze that I often use on sugar cookies.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons half and half, with more as needed to reach desired consistency
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Gradually incorporate the half and half into the powdered sugar.  Once desired consistency has been reached, add vanilla.
  2. Pour on top of baked Pop-Tarts.

Part 4: Caramel Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Bring brown sugar, butter, and milk to a gentle boil and cook until thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla extract.
  2. While still very hot, drizzle on top of glazed Pop-Tarts.

I topped the Pop-Tarts off with a pinch of sea salt on top of each heart.  I also added a few pieces of edible gold leaf.