Lemon Blueberry Cake with Raspberry Filling

Lemon Blueberry Layer Cake with Raspberry Filling

I love a good themed dessert, especially on the Fourth of July. When I was a teenager it was a store-bought cake mix topped with icing-in-a-tub and decorated like a flag with sliced strawberries and blueberries. I was so proud! A few years later it was a red, white and blue trifle with layers of sponge cake, vanilla custard, whipped cream, and of course, the standard strawberries and blueberries. Good stuff. Last year my sister came to visit on the 4th and we really went all out- Rice Crispy treats with red and blue sprinkles. Whatever, they were good.

This year I’m lucky enough to have stumbled upon my new favorite blog for all things sweet. Sally’s Baking Addiction is an awesome resource for satisfying your sweet tooth. Her recipes are super easy to follow with great baking tips and tricks tucked in along the way. She also has beautiful photographs of her treats throughout the cooking process, making each recipe hard to resist. Check it out!

I’ve been wanting to make the Lemon Blueberry Layer Cake from her website for a while. I don’t know what it is about dessert with fruit in it, but I’m always drawn to those recipes. I like to pretend that a cake, fruit, pie, or muffin laden with fruit, is healthy. Not just healthier…healthy.  So a layer cake bursting with plump blueberries and bright lemons? I might as well be eating salad! Yeah- I know I’m dreaming, but I don’t crush your dreams so please don’t crush mine. There has to be some sort of evidence to support this, right? Fruit is obviously more nutritious than chocolate so surely there’s some merit to my claim. Oh well.

Regardless, this cake has been calling my name for weeks and meets almost all of my July Fourth criteria.  White and blue. Now for the red. I could have easily just thrown some raspberries on top and called it a day, but that seemed like a little bit of a cop out. It makes sense and would have totally tasted fine, but it doesn’t really tie together with the rest of the cake. So maybe an actual raspberry filling? Whenever my Oma baked a layer cake she always used a fruit filling to go along with the buttercream filling. It was the perfect combination of sweet-tartness to go along with the super sweet buttercream. I decided to do the same and I am really happy with the way the cake came out. The spongecake has a very subtle lemon flavor that provides the perfect base for this decadent dessert and pairs well with both berries. The icing is probably the best buttercream I’ve ever made and will likely be my icing of choice from here on out. It’s so easy and delicious, and like Sally describes, tastes like “spreadable cheesecake.” YUM!

I hope you’ll try this recipe out for the 4th…or any time for that matter. It’s sweet, it’s fruity, and it’s super healthy- right? 🙂 Happy Fourth of July!

Sliced Lemon Blueberry Layer Cake with Raspberry Fililng

For the cake:

1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 and 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (240ml) buttermilk
zest + juice of 3 medium lemons
1 and 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or non-thawed frozen
1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour

For the raspberry filling:

1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons cornstarch

For the frosting:

8 ounces (224g) full-fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3 and 1/2 cups (420g) confectioners’ sugar
1 – 2 Tablespoons (15-30ml) heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray three 9×2 inch cake pans with nonstick spray or butter and flour them. Set aside.

Make the cake. Using a handheld or stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high until creamy – about 1 minute. Add granulated and brown sugars and beat on medium-high speed until creamed, about 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until everything is combined, about 2 full minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Set aside.

In a large sized bowl, toss together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Beat on low speed for 5 seconds, then add the milk, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Remove from the mixer and stir lightly until everything is just combined. Toss the blueberries in 1 Tablespoon of flour and fold into the batter. Batter is extremely thick. Do not overmix at any point.

Spoon batter evenly into 3 prepared cake pans. If only using 2 cake pans, your bake time will be longer. Bake the three layers for about 21-26 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Mine took 21 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before frosting.

Make the raspberry filling. Add raspberries, lemon juice and sugar to a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat until berries begin to release juices and the sugar has dissolved. Pour into a small food processor and pulse until pureed. Add back to saucepan and bring to a low boil. Make a slurry using 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of water. Mix well and stir into raspberries. Continue to cook over low heat until mixture has thickened and appears glossy, stirring constantly. Let cool completely.

Make the frosting. Using a handheld or stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and butter together on medium speed until no lumps remain, about 3 full minutes. Add confectioners’ sugar, 1 Tablespoon cream, vanilla extract, and salt with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes. Add 1 more Tablespoon of cream to thin out, if desired.

Assemble and frost. First, using a large serrated knife, trim the tops off the cake layers to create a flat surface. Place 1 layer on your cake stand. Evenly cover the top with as much raspberry filling as desired, being sure to leave a 1/4 inch border around the cake so that the filling doesn’t ooze out when you top it with the 2nd layer of cake. Top the raspberry filling with the 2nd cake layer and spread frosting all over the top, letting it spill over the sides. Secure with a few toothpicks to keep the layers from sliding off one another.  Add the 3rd layer and secure with a few more toothpicks if needed. Top with frosting and spread around the sides. Top with blueberries, rasperries or lemon garnish if desired. Refrigerate for at least 45 minutes before cutting or else the cake may fall apart as you cut. Don’t forget to let people know that the cake is secured with toothpicks so that they are on the look out while digging in.

Check out the cookbook, Sally’s Baking Addiction: Irresistible Cookies, Cupcakes, and Desserts for Your Sweet-Tooth Fix

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Grilled Carrots with Citrus-Honey Dressing

It’s officially Summer and I am officially obsessed with grilling. Maybe it’s because as the temperatures rise it just gets too darn hot in my house to stand over the stovetop, but whatever it is, I would much rather spend my evenings cooking outside. Grilling is summer what roasting is to winter. If you’re into food at all you’ve probably noticed the roasting craze that has taken over Pinterest, food television, and cooking blogs. “When in doubt, roast it!” they say. I totally agree and 100% subscribe to that mantra. In the wintertime everything tastes better roasted. Roasted brussels sprouts, broccoli, butternut squash, carrots, asparagus…you name it, it can be roasted. However, enter Summer and the oven takes a back seat to it’s cooler, adventurous, macho brother- the grill. If you can roast it, you can grill it. Since both methods are dry heat cooking they are practically interchangeable.

Why is it then, that most of us only use the grill to cook protein? Silly! Wouldn’t it be so much easier if we were able to complete an entire meal outside on the grill? No running back and forth…inside and outside…outside and inside. Craziness! I know every time I’m supposed to be manning the grill and the stovetop at the same time something suffers, and it’s usually whatever I’m grilling. What good is perfectly creamy risotto if the New York Strip you were planning to serve it with looks and tastes like beef jerky? Biggest bummer ever!

That’s why I’m making it my mission to keep it all outside this summer. If my meat is supposed to be grilled then my side dish will be too. Simple. Prep it all inside and then take it all outside to do the cooking. No more running to and fro like a crazy person trying to manage two ticking time bombs at once. I’m simplifying my summer cooking and meal planning.

So far this summer I’ve grilled bread for bruschetta, cherry tomatoes for a taco topping, green beans for a tangy salad, limes before squeezing them into guacamole, carrots for a sweet and smokey side dish, and yukon gold potatoes for a killer potato salad.  I’ll have to share that potato recipe soon. I served it to my meat-and-potatoes-loving Dad and he LOVED it.

Start thinking about your side dishes when you plan to fire up the grill. Is there any reason why they can’t hit the grates as well? Just to prove that it can be done I want you try this grilled carrot recipe soon. I sliced my carrots into 1/4 inch thick strips, tossed them with salt, pepper and extra-virgin olive oil, and then dropped them right on the grill. The grill marks create a sweet, caramelized crust that brings out the carrots’ natural sweetness. Then toss it with a honey-citrus dressing, fresh mint and feta cheese, and you have a super unique and tasty take on this boring old root vegetable. Enjoy- and get grilling!

grilled carrots

 

Ingredients:

1 lb. carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch-thick slices lengthwise
1/4 cup fresh mint, chiffonade (thinly sliced)
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for grilling
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Heat a grill over medium heat. Toss carrots with extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.
  2. Combine orange juice, red wine vinegar, honey, 1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil and dijon mustard. Whisk vigorously until combined and slightly thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.
  3. Grill carrots for 2 to 3 minutes per side with the grill closed, careful not to burn. If needed, remove carrots from direct heat and continue cooking over indirect heat until softened and cooked through.
  4. Toss carrots with dressing, mint and feta cheese. Serve.

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Oh Napa Valley…you are my favorite.

BJ and I just returned home from our very first visit to the Napa Valley. We took a short 4 day venture up north while my parents came and hung out with their favorite (and only!) grandson. Culinary adventure for Mommy and Daddy, serious grandparent time for baby Kellan. Perfect scenario. There is so much good food in Napa. Like…so much good food. We stayed in the delightful little town of Yountville, which means we were within walking distance to some of the finest restaurants in the country. Walking distance! To the French Laundry! Oh my goodness!

I’ll calm down. Unfortunately for us, walking distance or not, Thomas Keller’s world-famous restaurant was booked solid 13 weeks out. Trust me, we tried. We even considered paying off some of the lucky patrons who were taking photos by the sign before walking into the greatest food experience of their lives, but we decided that might be a little nuts. Just a little. I did, however, get to take a stroll through the French Laundry’s garden, complete with hens and playful little goats, to see where all of the magic begins. It doesn’t get more “farm fresh” than that.

The French Laundry garden

While in Napa we had the privilege of eating at some seriously awesome places including Keller’s Bouchon and Ad Hoc, and Chef Michael Chiarello’s Bottega. All top notch and some of the tastiest meals we’ve had. Our favorite experience was the tasting menu at Chef Richard Reddington’s Redd. Both of us had our own five-courses to taste, which meant a total of ten completely different dishes between the two of us. Best meal of our lives, hands down. The fun thing about a tasting menu is that you don’t get to choose what you eat, the chef chooses for you. I wouldn’t usually love that, especially since I’m not a big fan of seafood, but when in Napa you can sit back and happily chow down on whatever they put in front of you. My favorites were the Yellowfin Tuna Tartare with Asian Pear, Avocado, and Chili Oil on Fried Rice and the Glazed Pork Belly with Apple Puree and Soy Caramel. Before dinner BJ and I were just talking about how neither of us really care for pork belly even though it’s all the rage. Now I’m a believer! This pork belly was perfectly crispy and sweet on the outside and succulent and tender on the inside. No chewy weirdness. Just perfection. My meal also included Black Bass with Coconut Jasmine Rice and a Saffron Curry Nage, New York Strip and Short-rib and a delicious Chocolate Banana Cake to end on.

Dinner at Redd in Napa

Another highlight of our trip was the Perfect Circle Tour at Robert Sinksey Vineyards. We began our tour with the chef in their organic and biodynamic vegetable garden and vineyards, continued with an underground stroll through the wine caves, and ended at a communal table where we were served a delicious lunch to round it all out. Definitely my favorite winery experience!

Sinskey Vineyards Garden

Robert Sinksey Vineyard Caves

charcuterie plate

If you’re a self-professed foodie and have not yet been to the Napa Valley, do yourself a favor and go soon. There is so much to explore and enjoy. You will leave with a full belly, a happy heart and a whole lot of inspiration.

Newton Vineyards