STRAWBERRY AND LEMON CREAM-FILLED BUTTER CAKE WITH WHITE-CHOCOLATE BUTTERCREAM
`This cake is one that average-to-experienced chefs can attempt,' Meridith Ford says. `It is time-consuming but can be a fun challenge.'
1 3/4 cups butter, softened
3 1/2 cups sugar
7 large eggs
7 cups cake flour, sifted
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 1/3 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 3 cake pans: a 6-inch, an 8-inch, and a 12-inch, all 2 inches deep.
Using an electric mixer, combine butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl, using a paddle on medium speed, scraping bowl regularly. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping bowl regularly.
Sift together cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Add 1/4 of flour mixture to creamed butter-and-sugar mixture. Once incorporated, add 1/3 of the milk. Continue alternating these ingredients until mixture is smooth, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Add lemon zest and vanilla; mix until smooth.
Pour batter into greased-and-floured cake pans, filling approximately half way up the side of each pan.
Bake the cakes at 350 degrees F. until the center of each cake springs back when touched. The 6-inch cake will take approximately 20 minutes; the 8-inch cake, 25 to 30 minutes; and the 12-inch cake, 40 to 45 minutes.
LEMON AND STRAWBERRY CREAM FILLING
1 1/2 ounces gelatin
1 1/2 cups fresh lemon juice, divided
3 cans sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest
1 quart heavy cream, whipped to medium peaks
1 1/2 pints fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
Bloom the gelatin by sprinkling it over 1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice until all the moisture is absorbed into the gelatin (about 5 minutes). Heat mixture over low heat until gelatin dissolves. Add to remaining juice, and stir in a large bowl. Add the sweetened condensed milk; blend well. When mixture is cool, fold in whipped cream. Fold in sliced strawberries. Refrigerate until needed.
5 cups unsalted butter, cold but not hard
12 ounces white chocolate
2 cups egg whites
4 cups granulated sugar
Cut the butter into tablespoon-size pieces. Set aside.
Chop the chocolate finely, and place in the top of a double boiler to melt, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula. Set aside.
Combine egg whites and sugar in a mixing bowl. Place bowl over a pan of simmering water, taking care that the bowl and the water do not touch. Whisk mixture until sugar is no longer grainy, and mixture is warm to the touch (110 degrees F.). Remove from heat.
Whip mixture at high speed until it reaches stiff peaks. Reduce speed to medium until mixture is cool. Continuing to beat at medium speed, add butter, piece by piece, until completely incorporated and smooth. (The mixture sometimes breaks during the addition of the butter. If this happens, continue adding the butter and mix until it comes back together.)
Remove a small portion (1 to 2 cups) of buttercream, and stir it into the melted chocolate to make a lump-free paste. Add the paste back to the whole of the buttercream and beat until creamy.
To assemble the cake:
Cut the cooled cake layers in half horizontally and fill with lemon-cream mixture. Secure layers with thin dowels or toothpicks if necessary. Place cakes on cardboard circles (available at cake-decorating shops) of appropriate size. Ice each layer with white-chocolate buttercream and chill to set. Assemble the 3 layers using clear pillars or cake columns to separate. Cake can be frozen for up to two weeks.
Serves about 80.