Raiding the larder of ideas.

What one family eats, plans to eat, dreams of eating. Plus, other food and kitchen-related stuff from the home of steak-and-potatoes, pie and fresh green beans from the garden.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Anniversary Cake, with Tangy Lemon Cream Syrup and Candied Lemon Peel

It's a challenge, sometimes, for a rookie gluten-free cook to find enough variety in desserts that others will also enjoy. There's too big a temptation to, after discovering one treat which is a success, not mess with it any more, and just do small (or no) variations on it, ever after.

I probably could have done that with the chocolate sponge cake.  But this month marks the golden anniversary of the marriage of two very special people our family chose to include (and, more importantly, they chose to include us in theirs). Therefore, I needed to go a little outside my comfort zone.

Besides, we're also having the lemon meringue pie as a birthday cake for Pop at the same dinner, and a chocolate cake for another birthday in a couple more weeks, so I feel more than justified in making a nice, light, citrus-y cake.

So here I am, doing a variation on fridge cakes.

It starts, of course, with cake. The recipe I chose to do a riff on calls for a couple of store-bought pound cakes, which, of course, as a wheat-intolerant individual, I can not do. And, since my last project, only a week ago, involved a basic GF yellow cake, I was loath to go there again so soon. But I did have a very nice GF angel food cake recipe, and a couple dozen fresh large eggs in the kitchen, so, there, indeed, I went. Due to another of my peculiar allergies, though, where the linked recipe calls for cream of tartar, I needed to substitute a teaspoon of cider vinegar early in the whipping process, and add  a little extra lemon juice, as well. I also used the full amount of vanilla extract (powdered rather than the liquid.  I didn't want to wet the batter too much), since I like the combination of lemon and vanilla… just because.

When the cake was baked, completely cooled, and removed from its tube pan, I popped it in the freezer overnight, because it's easier to slice into layers when it's frozen (I suppose one could make angel food layers, and not worry about slicing a cake before frosting it, but the shallower the pan, the less light and airy the angel food seems to turn out, so, at minimum, bake it as deep loaves and turn this into a trifle by cutting it into chunks before slathering on the filling).

Gluten-free and fluffy as a nimbus cloud.
Once the cake is prepared, stage two – the garnish and the filling – must commence.

I include them both in the same stage, because they both involve lemons, and you will likely need the juice from one to complete the other, so plan accordingly.

Begin a day ahead, by making candied lemon peels:


Candied Lemon Peels 
4 lemons, washed carefully
2 cups water, plus more for blanching
2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cups extra fine (bartender's) sugar* 
Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest from the lemons in wide strips, being careful to avoid taking off the bitter white pith at the same time (if you do get pith'd on, you can take a sharp knife and slice or scrape it off when you're done peeling all the lemons). 
With a sharp knife, slice the zest lengthwise, in narrow julienne strips, about 1/8 inch across – or thinner.  
Fill a 2-quart saucepan HALFWAY with water, put the peels into the water, and bring to a boil on medium heat, reduce temperature and simmer 15 minutes. 
Drain peel in a sieve and rinse thoroughly. Carefully rinse out the saucepan to remove residue, return to stove containing 2 cups water, 2 cups granulated sugar, and bring to a boil at high heat, stirring constantly until the sugar is completely dissolved. When syrup boils, reduce heat to simmer and add lemon peels. Continue to simmer 15 minutes, or until peels turn translucent. 
While peels simmer, line a jelly roll pan (cookie sheet with sides) with nonstick parchment (or waxed paper, if that's what you have). 
When peel is cooked to transparency, remove peel from syrup using a slotted spoon, so the syrup will drain back into the pan. Arrange peel in a single layer across the parchment. Allow to cool to room temperature. 
Cover with extra fine sugar, turning with a fork (or, if you're like me, with the nearest set of chopsticks) until all sides of each strip of zest is completely sugar-coated. Transfer to a clean sheet of parchment and allow to dry about an hour, then store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

Then start making the Tangy Lemon Cream Syrup.

The lemon cream syrup was fairly simple: lemon juice, lemon zest, and sweetened condensed milk. I made my own sweetened condensed milk,

so it came out a little darker, an odder color than if I'd used the store-boughten cans, but it also had a slightly richer flavor and texture to start. But if you don't have all afternoon to simmer a pot of milk and sugar down to a thick goo, just go get a couple of cans of the stuff. Then collect the zest of at least a couple of lemons before you cut and juice them. And, you're going to need a few lemons – I made a double batch, and ended up needing six medium-large, very juicy lemons to make my pint-and-change of lemony syrup.

Tangy Lemon Cream Syrup 
1 cup sweetened condensed milk†
1/2 cup lemon juice, strained well
1 Tablespoon fresh very finely grated lemon zest

Stir ingredients together. Cover tightly, place in refrigerator at least an hour (best if allowed to stand overnight). 
Stir. Pour over cake, waffles, pancakes, or spoon. 
Top with whipped cream topping (optional)

Once the syrup was made, I sliced the cake in half crosswise, so I had two giant angel food doughnuts, and I slathered a very generous amount of the syrup between the layers (thicker toward the center hole), then restacked the cake, covered it with my Stabilized Whipped Cream frosting, and packed it to go to our feast.

As the cake was cut, each serving then received another generous drizzling of the tangy syrup, then was garnished with several curls of the candied lemon zest.
I will likely assemble this combination again, sometime soon. I suppose I could also pair it up with some fresh berries, instead of the candied zest (or alongside it. I am the sort to be greedy).

*If you don't have extra-fine sugar, you can make your own by running regular granulated sugar through the food processor for 3 to 5 minutes, until it's really fine. Don't take the lid off the processor until the dust settles, though.

† Because I have several projects coming due this next two weeks, I made several batches of sweetened condensed milk, including this one, using coconut milk.


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