Nothing says summer picnic better than a beautifully decorated cake in the scintillating afternoon light. Sweet, moist and refreshing, a cake is first eaten with the eyes, and first impression matters – especially when it comes to picnics, I think 🙂
I’ll be the first to admit I haven’t been too focused on the presentation of my dishes, as of late. Going through life one day at a time during the pandemic, I have been paying more attention to the news reports than to how my food looks. Thankfully, I was recently contacted by Nielsen-Massey Vanillas to review the latest video in their Better Your Bake campaign, which covers cake decoration. Their video and beautiful buttercream frosting could not have been more inspiring – and could not have come at a better time!
If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you may be familiar with my ongoing collaboration with Nielsen-Massey Vanillas. I am proud to be able to support a local business, I applaud Nielsen-Massey’s commitment to sustainability – and last but not least, of course, I am a fan of their extracts, which are high quality, produced with care, and tastefully packaged. Not only does Nielsen-Massey provide exceptional baking products, but they also encourage consumers to dive deep into the art of baking by following the Better Your Bake campaign. Their latest video in the series contains info on creating two types of buttercream flower decorations (roses and hydrangeas), along with written step-by-step instructions. To facilitate my participation, Nielsen-Massey also sent me their Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract to use in a recipe.
For this collaboration I decided to bring back to life one of mom’s oldest recipes: lemonade cake. Originally featuring lemon only, this cake in its reimagined format benefited from the addition of orange zest as well as of Nielsen-Massey’s deep, rich vanilla extract. My work on this recipe was time-consuming because it involved ingredient conversions (which always scare me to death! lol), but the end result was simply amazing 🙂
In my experience, super fresh eggs at room temperature are key to getting a cake right. I used free range, non GMO brown eggs, which I separated into yolks and whites. I beat the yolks with sugar…
… and then added unsalted butter, again, at room temperature.
This looks good, don’t you think? 🙂
I beat the egg whites until stiff and added them to the mixture…
… alternating with a flour & baking powder combo. I recommend you split the quantities into three parts, you start by adding the egg whites, and finish with the flour. To be precise, the order I suggest is: egg whites – flour – egg whites – flour – egg whites – flour.
Once the mixture was smooth and homogeneous, I added the vanilla extract…
… and the lemon and orange zest.
I poured the mixture into a baking pan lined with parchment paper, which I placed in the preheated oven (375 F) to bake for about 35 minutes (until top of cake was golden brown). To be on the safe side, you can always run the “toothpick test”. Insert a toothpick in the center of the cake – the cake is done baking if the toothpick comes out clean.
Let the cake cool down completely before cutting it into squares.
I used organic beetroot powder in the buttercream frosting, and I decorated the cake as per the information conveyed in the Nielsen-Massey tutorial. I served the sliced cake on a plate which also featured vanilla cupcakes, next to some fresh fruit, for good measure.
The day was rather hot and the hydrangea decorations didn’t hold up as well as I’d hoped they would.
Still, they looked delicious and super appetizing. My presentation was definitely elevated by the addition of these buttercream beauties.
I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about piping techniques from Nielsen-Massey’s latest Better Your Bake tutorial, and I had a blast making the flowers I had seen beautifully captured in their video. I applaud Nielsen-Massey for giving consumers a reputable resource for baking techniques and tips, and I look forward to their upcoming creations. While turning out less than perfect in the photos due to the heat, my buttercream frosting was nonetheless a joy to make at, delicious to eat, and definitely a show-stopper at our family picnic.
How do you usually decorate your cakes? Let me know in the comments – and happy baking, everyone! 🙂
Delicious citrus cake
- 4 eggs at room temperature, yolks and whites separated
- 1 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tbsp Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract
- Zest from one medium-size orange
- Zest from one medium-size lemon
- 1/8 tsp salt
- Preheat oven to 375F. In a medium-size bowl beat the egg yolks with the sugar for about 2-3 minutes or until pale yellow. Add the butter cut in small pieces, and beat until incorporated. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff.
- In a small bowl mix the flour, baking powder and salt until combined. Add this to the egg yolk mixture slowly, alternating with the beaten egg whites, mixing after each addition. Suggested order: egg whites - flour - egg whites - flour - egg whites - flour. Add vanilla and lemon and orange zest, and mix until just combined. Do not overmix!
- Pour the mixture into a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 35 minutes or until top of cake is golden brown. You can check for doneness by inserting a toothpick in the center of the cake - the cake is done if the toothpick comes out clean. Take the cake out of the oven and let it cool down completely on a rack. Cut into squares and serve decorated with buttercream frosting and fresh fruit on the side, if desired.
Disclaimer: While I received complimentary products to facilitate this review, all opinions expressed here are my own.
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