Every day lately, I am learning something new about pregnancy. (If my mom understood what a blog is and read mine, this is where I’d put a sizeable, flashing “NOT ME” banner.)
My work bestie, you see, is cooking another human in her belly right now, and every day, she walks in with a new anecdote or piece of information that ends with “Pregnancy is so weird.” Your blood volume increases by 50 percent! You get crazy dehydrated! Your nose bleeds! Basically, when it comes to bizarre things happening to bodies, being a werewolf pales in comparison.
Other than that, pregnant ladies are just like other people. There are still birthdays to celebrate, and I have an extra-sympathetic sympathy spot for having to say goodbye, even temporarily, to a favorite cocktail. My friend is a big fan of St. Germain, which is unique, but not impossible to approximate in a non-alcoholic version thanks to elderflower cordial.
You can certainly make your own cordial, but since I found a non-syrupy, preservative-free variety that happens to taste fantastic (at World Market), I went with that. I also went the shortcut route with lemon curd as filling–Trader Joe’s makes a great one. In a spurt of overachieving on the elderflower front, I made the mistake of adding a full tablespoon of cordial to the lemon curd, only to turn it runny enough to make me question filling a cake with it.
I fixed my self-imposed predicament by beating half a stick of butter into the curd to firm it up a little, and although no one complained, I’d advise you to save yourself the trouble and just use the curd as it is. Don’t be like me (which, speaking of pregnancy, is pretty much all the advice my friend’s baby is going to need to make it through life).
So! As I was saying, the store-bought cordial and curd freed up some time for me. Time I spent buying seashells from entrepreneurial neighborhood kids (who were also selling rocks, so those precocious Mini Madoffs are maybe a little too entrepreneurial if you know what I mean), reading outside, and wandering the floral section of the supermarket looking for something pretty enough to distract from my improving-but-still-embarrassing frosting skills.
As for the rest, it’s easy. In a small victory of sorts, I finally have a go-to white cake and a go-to buttercream, and I have a feeling these will work out swell for you, too.
Let’s make cake, and let’s get festive. Let’s also peek behind the scenes, since we can’t peek inside this cake ’cause it went to a party like the big diva it is.
- 2 1/4 cups cake flour, sifted
- 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened but still cool, cubed
- 1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
- 6 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon elderflower cordial
- 10 ounces lemon curd, homemade or store-bought
- 1/2 cup elderflower cordial, for brushing
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup elderflower cordial
- 1/4 cup plus two tablespoons flour
- 3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare two 8-inch round cake pans by buttering, then lining bottoms with parchment paper rounds, and buttering the rounds. Sprinkle the inside of the greased pans with flour and tap to shake out excess. (NOTE: The original recipe uses 9-inch pans, and according to some reviews, two 8-inch pans are not roomy enough and the batter spills in the oven. I took a chance and did not have this problem--I say, just use your judgment. If the pans aren't more than 2/3 full, you should be fine.)
- Whisk together the sifted flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a food processor (you may have to do this in two batches), pulse together this mixture with the butter until the butter is incorporated and you have fine crumbs. Transfer mixture to a large bowl.
- Whisk together the milk, egg whites, and elderflower cordial until thoroughly combined. Using a handheld mixer or by hand, mix in the milk mixture into the dry ingredient and butter mixture until smooth.
- Divide batter between the two pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 25-30 minutes (start checking for doneness 5 minutes earlier).
- Cool cakes on a rack for 15 minutes or so in the pans, then invert onto rack and cool completely.
- Whisk together the milk, elderflower cordial, and flour until smooth. In a small saucepan, heat up this mixture over medium heat, whisking frequently, until it's thickened and bubbly, 3-5 minutes. Remove mixture from heat and cool it in the fridge, whisking occasionally to keep it smooth, until it's room temperature.
- When the flour mixture is cooled, strain it through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any lumps.
- Cream the butter and sugar with a handheld mixer for 5-7 minutes until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally. Lower speed to low and add the flour/milk mixture, then increase the speed and beat until frosting is smooth and light, 3-5 minutes longer.
- Split the cakes so you have four layers total. Brush both sides of each layer with elderflower cordial as you go.
- Spread a little bit of frosting on your cake base to keep the first layer in place. Place a cake layer on top, then pipe a ring of frosting around the edge to keep filling contained. Spread half of the lemon curd inside of the frosting ring.
- Top with next cake layer. Top this layer with frosting, then on the next layer, repeat the frosting ring/lemon curd. Frost outside of the cake as desired.