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First attempt at layered cake - Lots of questions!

Hello world—

My friend's birthday is this Saturday and I want to make her a birthday cake. Here are my limitations (besides it being a first timer):

- Many of the guests are of the health conscious kind (which is great), and I don't like buttercream anyway, so I need other options for frosting and filling the cake.

- Lemon and raspberry are my friend's favorite flavors, so I want to make something with those; touch of mint too because it's my favorite flavor :D

- The only cake pan I have is a 9x13 rectangular one, with a ridged bottom and stained sides and bottom, so I'd have to cover the whole thing with parchment (do I still grease the parchment? If so, both sides?): http://shop.circulon.com/store/p/513-...

Following is my plan. I could use any make ahead tips you guys have (how long can I refrigerate each component, which ones do I need to make close to serving time, etc.), and also any opinions on whether these layers will work out or if I need to change something. And also any good recipes you have for any of the components.

1: Raspberry meringue (plain vanilla meringue with pureed berries added
)2: Raspberry curd (studded, maybe, with banana slices, because I really like the textural variety they add to cakes when used as filling—or would this be out of place + not keep very well over a day?)
3: Lemon / Poppy Seed sponge cake
5: Thin layer of raspberry fruit leather; or should I use a glaze like this (how would I add raspberry flavor?): http://berry-lovely.blogspot.com/2011...
4: Decorations: Stabilized whipped cream with lemon and mint extracts and rose water, + fresh raspberries, + julienned mint
5: And if I feel like it the day of, some spun sugar to top it off

I don't think I'll frost the sides. Now would the meringue work with the cake?

Thanks everyone. Whew

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  1. That sounds like a pretty ambitious menu for a first time layer cake. I'd keep it a lot simpler. Mint extract is a flavor that doesn't really go with lemon and raspberry, but fresh mint is nice. Julienned fresh mint would be a nice garnish with some fresh raspberries.

    Lemon cake with raspberry jam between the layers and a lovely light whipped cream lemon curd frosting. You can make the cake ahead, use store bought jam, and then make the frosting at the last minute (or stabilize it with gelatin and make it an hour or two in advance.

    How many guests are you serving?

    3 Replies
    1. re: Savour

      I agree that it sounds very ambitious! Many of the components are things I might not choose to put together. I like the idea of a lemon cake with a lemon-cream filling. I have also used lemon curd with mixed with mascarpone rather than whipped cream, and that turned out well too. You could add a layer of fresh raspberries between the layers. I would avoid the banana as I tend to find the flavour overpowers everything else.

      Good luck! And also, maybe now is the time to invest in a new cake tin...

      1. re: Savour

        I would nix the mint in any form. Really doesn't go with the other flavors which will be wonderful with Savour's recipe.

        1. re: escondido123

          Agree. First this I thought was that mint doesn't go. You can garnish with a sprig of mint and make sure it ends up on your plate or you can have mint when it is your birthday :)

      2. Yep, what Savour said.
        Bananas turn dark when exposed for very long, one can acidulate them, but then, to me, the flavor is off.
        Buy a couple of disposable foil round layer pans. or even real ones.
        A lemon/poppyseed cake with raspberry jam filling sounds wonderful, with a light frosting, as Savour suggested.
        Simple is good. Spun sugar the day of, well, that's a bit much. A sprig of fresh mint and some berries, call it good.

        1. Aside from the recipe and flavors, I'm concerned with the method.

          About your pan: do you plan to bake one 9x13 recipe and then slice it into layers from there? Lining with parchment will not work very well on a pan with rounded edges, so you'll just have to be very careful to liberally butter and flour the inside and cool completely in the pan to make sure it comes out cleanly. You could cut an exact sheet of parchment for the bottom and butter/flour the parchment for extra insurance, and run a paring knife around the edges as it's cooling.

          Also be sure when you're slicing the cake into layers to have layers of cardboard handy to slip in between and easily transport the layers, which could easily crumble otherwise at that size.

          I'd also suggest you use a sturdy cake recipe and not anything too delicate. I'm not a baking expert (only an expert on learning from my own disasters!) so does anyone have a suggestion on the best cake to use? Something like a pound cake?

          Your friend is very lucky! These flavors sound wonderful, I'm sure your cake will turn out lovely... and if it doesn't, all those componenets will make a beautiful trifle! (which is my go-to plan b when my cakes all too often fall apart!)

          2 Replies
          1. re: EggyEggoo

            Thanks for the tips. That trifle idea sounds brilliant! My poor miserable pan will have to do as my kitchen is the size of a public bathroom stall and barely has room for storing one more plate. I'll trim the edges to straighten them up.

            1. re: david_ipse

              Oh yes, trimmed edges and unfrosted sides will make it look either very sophisticated or nicely rustic - which sounds lovely to me IMHO. Please do share photos!

          2. I'd try to simplify it and reduce the steps/flavors. I would start w/ this recipe but buy the lemon curd, if you're not feeling ambitious.

            http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

            Bake it in the 9x13 pan (cut parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan only and there is no need to butter). Make it only a two layer cake. When it cools, cut the cake in half so you have two 9x6 1/2". Brush the lemon syrup on one layer and then top one layer w/ raspberry jam (if you want the raspberry component)--easier to spread if you microwave slightly first. Then fill w/ the mascarpone filling. You won't need it all, probably just use about half but it's sooo good that you can just eat it. It's the best cake!

            2 Replies
            1. re: chowser

              +1 on simplifying flavor profile and components. This cake looks nice. I would add fresh raspberries between layers if available, or use the jam component inside and serve with a raspberry sauce made from frozen berries.

              1. re: maxie

                Fresh raspberries would be so pretty on the cake, too. I love your ideas--will have to keep them in mind for the next time I make the cake.

            2. I agree with the recommendations not to use mint, nor to use fresh bananas if you're not eating the cake the same day. I don't think layers of fruit leather will be very good either -- won't melt, too hard to cut. And rosewater used with a lot of other flavors usually ends up tasting like soap or perfume was spilled into the food.

              One of the first layer cakes I ever made was a vegan whole wheat lemon-poppyseed cake with vegan vanilla frosting and a raspberry filling (frozen raspberries cooked down in a splash of water, strained to remove seeds, then returned to the pot, sweetened w/ maple syrup and thickened with kuzu or arrowroot). It was a huge hit, even with the non-vegan, bakery birthday cake fans. I think those flavors -- the raspberry and lemon -- go really well together, and have enough complexity and acidity not to need any additional floral or herbal notes. If you're going to add more flavor elements, I'd go toward softer, rounder flavors, like nuts, caramels, liquors, and creams.

              One suggestion, if your baking dish is too rounded or beat up to give you even layers and you have a cookie sheet, you can do jelly-roll-thickness layers of cake in that, and stack them five or six high with just a light spread of fruit glaze in between, sort of like a German torte (definitely use parchment, buttered on the side that touches the cake). One large cookie sheet can probably yield 2 layers, and since they'll bake quickly it shouldn't take much more time to knock out 6 layers than it would two of a thicker cake.