I became acquainted with this cake several years ago at the always-excellent Palena Restaurant in Cleveland Park. Pastry chef Ann Amernick, a D.C. treasure, had this dessert listed on the menu. But by the time we were ready to order dessert (we waited quite some time for a table) they were sold out. Disconsolate, I fumbled across other items on the menu, a bit listless as I was immediately sold on this dessert–jam, lemons…Really, it was exactly what I wanted. Nothing else perked my interest. Suddenly, Amernick emerged from the kitchen, apologized profusely for running out of the dessert, and presented us with a plate of house-made cookies. It was such a nice gesture but I couldn’t get this cake (like Kylie) out of my head. I asked for the recipe and she said I could find it in a book entitled, “Baking from the Heart,” a compilation of recipes from American bakers. This book predated her most-wonderful, “The Art of the Dessert.”
In any event, I made a variation on this recipe for a friend’s birthday at the time and recently made it again for another friend. This time, I substituted my seasonal citrus favorite, the mighty Meyer lemon and supplanted the raspberry jam for blackberry that I found at the Dupont Farmers’ Market. Wonderful flavors, just the right amount of sweet. A lot of tang. A bit labor intensive but most things that are tasty involve a few extra steps.
“That Baltimore Cake”
Baking from the Heart
Makes 2 Dozen 3-inch Cakes
For the Cake
3 cups cake flour
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 3/4 cups sugar
6 large eggs
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
1 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons half-and-half or milk
For the Lemon Soak
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 4-5 large lemons)
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup seedless raspberry jam
Preheat the oven to 350F. Line two 12-cup, 3-inch-deep muffin pans with paper baking cups.
For the cake, in a medium bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed for 2 minutes, or until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs one at a time; beat for 1 minute after each addition. Add the lemon zest and mix to incorporate. On the lowest speed, alternately add one-third of the sifted ingredients and half of the sour cream, mixing well after each addition and scraping the inside of the bowl; begin and end with the dry ingredients.
Add the cream or milk. Increase the speed to medium and mix for less than a minute, just until the batter is smooth.
Spoon the batter into a large pastry bag with a wide opening (no tip necessary) and pipe each baking cup two-thirds full.
Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the top of the cupcake has risen into a dome and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
While the cakes are baking, assemble the lemon soak by mixing together the lemon juice and sugar in a small bowl. It is not necessary for all the sugar to be dissolved.
As soon as the cakes come out of the oven, brush the tops with the lemon soak, then transfer the cakes from the pans to a wire rack to cool completely.
Remove the paper baking c ups and slice each cake in half horizontally. Dip both cut surfaces in the lemon soak. Spread one side of the soaked cake with seedless raspberry jam and press halves together again.
Turn the cupcakes upside down in a fresh paper baking cup. Frost the sides and top (which was the bottom) with Lemon Frosting (see below). If you find it easier, you may hold the split cupcakes in your hand and frost them before inserting them in the paper cups.
Makes 3 cups, enough for 2 dozen cupcakes; an easy recipe to double
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
4 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 2 to 3 large lemons)
In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed for 1 minute, or until combined. Ad the lemon juice and continue to beat for 3 to 4 minutes, until light and fluffy.
Frost the cupcakes immediately, or store the frosting in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to use.