All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2018

Sunday, August 23, 2009

little lemon cakes and a hatbox

New Hampshire ( and New England) has been in the grip of not only a heat wave, but that high humidity that makes moving two feet a trial, unless you're sitting on the edge of a lake with your feet in the water. And, mais oui, I also had a catering job.
Here is one thing I discovered: high humidity can affect your baking recipes. When I made the batter for the New York lemon cake, I was shocked. The batter was very light, and very fluffy, when it was supposed to be creamy and thick. Your intrepid baker did not panic, thank heavens, nor did I toss the batter and start again, or worse, bake it, hoping it would magically transform itself. I added about another half cup of flour and stirred it gently. It was still not quite right, but the texture was better. So I crossed my fingers and baked it. I'm happy to say it was just fine, although it needed twice as much time to cool, thanks to the 85 degree weather.
I brushed the uncut cake several times with a glaze, let cool some more, and cut into bite size pieces. I "glued" blueberries on the tops, and added tiny little leaves of lemon balm and lemon verbena, then popped them into dark green cupcake papers. I thought they were adorable.
After I delivered the salads and dishes and sweets, I drove by a shop I had often passed, but never stopped to investigate. And I'm delighted I finally did! Sarah's Hatboxes
was chock full of colorful, beautifully made hatboxes and boxes of every shape and size. These would also be perfect for mailing cakes , so I've tucked that away in my party/birthday/catering notebook. Above is the one I got for my mother to keep her postcards and letters in, and the striped fabric is just gorgeous.
You probably know my New York Lemon Cake by now, but here's the recipe again.
New York Lemon Cake:
Preheat oven to 330F (350 is too high, 32r too low)
Grease a standard baking pan 14"x9"
3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups sugar
zest of two lemons
4 extra large eggs
4 1/2 cups King Arthur flour
1 t. baking soda
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 T. lemon juice
1/2 t. nutmeg
Cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest.
Add the eggs, flour, baking soda and salt and nutmeg.
Mix well.
Add the lemon juice and buttermilk and mix. The batter should be thick and creamy.
Bake for an hour, or until the cake is firm when gently pressed in the middle.
The Glaze:
Simmer equal parts fresh lemon juice and sugar.
I use:
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar.
Let the cake sit on cooling rack ( still in the pan) for about 20 minutes.
Brush a few times with the glaze.
Let cake cool another 1/2 hour.
Mark off squares with a ruler and cut cake.
Remove pieces to a cooling rack placed on a cookie sheet.
Brush a few times with the glaze, add blueberries to tops, and drip some sticky syrup to "glue" the berries on top of the cake. Add tiny leaves from your herb plants, and let set.


La Table De Nana said...

What a cute post and they ARE adorable..So is the hatbox.I am reading a light book:) A Vintage Affair..about a Vintage store and the shopkeeper of course..Your post reminds me if it:) A little vintage post.
Thank you for your NYork cake recipe.

PS we are and have been experiencing teh same weather~

Farmgirl Susan said...

What cute cakes! I love the color combination of the yellow, green, and dark blueberries. Probably a good thing I don't live anywhere near that hatbox store - I could easily go a little crazy in there. I love beautiful containers. What a luxurious idea for a shop. xo

Farmgirl Susan said...

P.S. A break in your weather might be on the way. We had awful heat and humidity a few days ago, but this morning it was a fifty degrees. Such a refreshing surprise!

katrina said...

Oh, Nana - I'll have to look up your "light" book! I have a friend who owns a delightful vintage store in Peterborough, NH called "Red Chair". Ooooo, do I go crazy looking in there.
I just read Farmgirl's post - let's hope she's right that her Missouri weather will be coming East.

katrina said...

Hi fig!
Should I tell you you can do mail order for the hatboxes? No. Probably not:) I'm pleased the boxes are inexpensive, but, then, I do have to fill them with presents, don't I?
Delighted you liked the cakes! Tweedling around with berries and flowers and herbs is a favorite occupation for me...and, oh, I do hope you're right about the weather!
I hope your day is lovely - good to see you!

Martha said...

Lovely cakes -- grat presentation -- I love using verbena and balm to decorate with as well.

We're having wonderful weatheron the prairie -- isn't even 80 today -- and it is AUGUST!

FrugalMom said...

These are so cute Katrina, and they look perfect for a hot summer day.

Sonia (foodiesleuth) said...

Katrina, the cakes are adorable and as I mentioned at the Gather post, I love the way you used blueberries and the green leaves (except I thought then they were mint ;-)

Vintage stores are a weakness and I'm afraid that hatbox store would do me in....I can think of so many things to do with problem would be if I bought them for gifts, I probably would find a use for me to keep them!

Great post and keep on baking....even in this heat!

katrina said...

Thanks, Martha! Those little leaves sure come in handy for decorating, don't they? Lucky you to have such nice weather - it's "only" 80 but the humidity is wiltingly high. Sent some good weather our way!

katrina said...

Thanks, j r (Frugal Mom)! It's fun to play around with decorating and luckily, I find it relaxing. Off to check your blog again -


katrina said...

Hey, Sonia! Long time since we've connected! I'm going down my email list from the top, so I'll see your Gather mail comment soon. Thanks for checking it out, and delighted you enjoyed! I know you're quite a whiz at presentation - isn't it fun? And that hatbox shop is WONDERFUL ( but dangerous to the pocketbook)

Barb said...

I'm not sure which is more delicious - your lemon cakes (which I know are wonderful!) or that hatbox. I'm a fool for that kind of thing - I'd love to go to that store sometime. Even their website was quite fascinating.

katrina said...

Hi Barb! Love those boxes! I think I'll drop in a lot, since I suspect many of the boxes are limited editions. Who can resist a lovely box? And glad you liked those wee little cakes - so much fun to decorate!
Hope you're cooling off a little - and hope our turn will come, they now say Wednesday should be much better.

lisaiscooking said...

Pretty cakes, and I love the glaze with the blueberries!

katrina said...

Thanks, lisa! That glaze is not only delicious, but handy as a very sticky "glue"!

Amanda said...

These really came out beautiful. great post!

katrina said...

Thanks for your very kind words, Amanda!

Chef Fresco said...

Cute little lemon cakes! I like your blueberry garnish :)

katrina said...

Thanks, chefs! I love the way they turned out, too - raspberries ( 1st choice) were too delicate to stand up to travel & heat.