Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Lemon is for Lovers

I know I’ve told you all plenty of times that I’m not into Valentine’s Day. So when you see that I’ve created heart-shaped cakes this week, I don’t want you to question your (or my) sanity. You see, today, February 15—the day AFTER Valentine’s Day—marks eight years since my husband and I started dating. I figured this was a fairly large deal worthy of celebrating because for eight consecutive years, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed his company and the adventure my husband brings into my life. I haven’t even liked myself for eight consecutive years, so he is owed some cake for both the putting up with and actual enjoyment of my insanity. 

I refuse to celebrate Valentine’s Day to the point where I’ve even fudged our dating anniversary date slightly to the right a few hours. How we started dating is a gaggingly romantic story, really. We happened to run into each other by complete accident on Valentine’s Day…in the same bar where we met for the first time at a friend’s going away party the previous August. He was calling me (see, so dated people still used phones for talking) as I was walking into the room; I took it as a sign considering he had moved away for pilot training several months prior and just so happened to be literally standing right in front of me. But if you ask, I’ll tell you this happened after midnight on February 15 because otherwise it sounds like a chick flick plot.

I’m not a normal woman—romance is for the birds. I mean, the moment I knew I fell in love with my husband was at a McDonald’s in Corpus Christi. I stood there, pumping ketchup into five or six tiny little cups, grumbling about the lack of space for burger dipping. I turned around to see Derek, a large drink lid in hand that he had flipped upside down, filling the giant surface area that created with ketchup. My heart skipped a beat, and my head exploded a little—I had found a logical, creative man who loved ketchup as much as I did. The rest, as they say, is history. 

Moral of the story ladies—love doesn’t always come in grand, sweeping gestures or diamond-encrusted jewelry. Don’t be mad at the man who waited to buy your flowers or chocolates until the day after Valentine’s Day when they were all on sale for dirt cheap. He could be saving up to buy something better, like a car or a house or a cruise to Alaska you’ve been begging him to go on because you crave to surround yourself with a tundra as frozen as your heart (thanks, lovey!). Instead, make him cake to let him know you get it, but you don’t have to make a big deal about it or anything. Let the sweet delicious taste flow where words would otherwise fail you…these lemon lava cakes can do just that.
I only get the warm fuzzies when cake is involved.
I have wanted to make lava cakes for ages. But surprisingly, I don't own ramekins. Not a one. Instead of buying a set, I just wanted to wait until it was appropriate to test out my four cavity heart-shaped pan I bought back in 2015 and haven't used since then when I made heart cakes (and my views on Valentine's Day very clear). Whoops. Two years I could've had ramekins or come up with an excuse to use this pan for lava cakes, but I'm stubborn and my personal symbol should probably be a stick in the mud. It's most definitely not a heart. Anyway, the pan worked OK for lava cakes, but my two 6-inch cake pans definitely worked better. So I'll use those in the future or perhaps become a real girl and buy some damn ramekins.
This is about as romantic as I get with minimal self loathing.

Y'all. These. Cakes. They aren't too terribly sweet, but the lemon ooey gooey goodness that slowly pours out of them is to die for. I'm honestly scared to make the dulce de leche lava cakes I've been crafting a recipe for because it may actually kill me. I did try to make a few adaptations to make this a healthier cake, but the calorie content still comes in a little on the high side. You must spoil yourself and the ones you love on occasion, though. This makes 4 large heart cakes (definitely cannot eat one heart alone--these babies are 2 servings per heart!) and an additional 2 individual servings for a total of 10 servings at 308 calories a piece. Adding on a few slivers of strawberries and fat free Cool Whip will only add about another 10-15 calories, but it is totally worth it. You go could extra fat kid and add a drizzle of warm lemon curd on top. Just don't accidentally eat half a jar of lemon curd if you go that route because it is dangerously enticing.
Yet it looks so unassuming in that little jar...
This is a Land O'Lakes recipe that I adapted to make heavier on the lemon flavor. To make, you will need:
  • 1 stick of cold butter
  • 1 4-ounce Baker's white chocolate bar
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • All. of. the. eggs. Seriously:
    • 4 whole eggs
    • 4 separate egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup lemon curd (I usually use Dickinson's brand, but now that I'm living in Florida, this was not a brand I could find. Apparently, Mackay's corners the panhandle market)
  • 2 heaping teaspoons of lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract (not pictured)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of lemon bakery emulsion. If this is not something you have, I find it at Hobby Lobby or Walmart. Also, you could try replacing this with juice from a lemon.
  • Optional toppings: Cool Whip Free, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, lemon curd, powdered sugar, etc.
I own four sets of measuring spoons, so this was easy for me.
 Let me give you a few life-saving, patience-making tips about this recipe. You gotta move fast. So you want everything measured out and ready to roll. Once you add the chocolate and the flour, things get really thick, really fast, so having the rest of your ingredients at the ready will keep this batter from turning into concrete. Also, don't make these cakes until you're just about ready to eat them. Like, "I could go for cake in a half hour" ready. Otherwise, if you make them ahead of time and put them in the fridge or let them cool too long, you're gonna lose your ooze. No one wants that. I actually made my batter and then left it in the fridge all day until we were ready for cake. I did make all mine at once last night (and we totally ate at least one), but we'll see if I can heat them up and maintain some ooze in the microwave later. But for two people, you could just try making two ramekins at a time so the cakes are hot and fresh and save the rest in the fridge.
Such fickle, yet delicious, cake.
 If you're going to make these right away, preheat your oven to 425 and grease the bottom and sides of your pans or ramekins. Get a medium bowl and break up the chocolate bar and cube the cold butter. Melt at 30 second intervals, stirring between each session, until everything is fully melted. This took me about 2 minutes total. While the chocolate and butter are melting, measure out the rest of your ingredients and gather a large bowl. Dump the flour and sugar into it. Once the chocolate is done, let it cool off for a few minutes (hot batter + cold eggs = breakfast, not cake). Dump the melted chocolate and butter in with the flour and sugar mixture and whisk well. Once this stiffens up, dump in the lemon curd, lemon zest, extract, emulsion/juice, and all the eggs and egg yolks. Whisk until smooth and runny like it is above.
Literally the worst impulse purchase I've ever made. Stupid heart pan.
 Once you're ready to bake, fill your ramekins or pans 2/3 full. I was able to place a little less than a cup of batter into each cavity and then each small baking pan. Since I wasn't using ramekins, I literally stood in front of my oven and watched cakes bake to ensure they weren't going for too little or too long. I will now no longer use the phrase "like watching paint dry," but instead, "like watching cakes bake." I'm almost positive that would cure even a severe case of insomnia. If you use ramekins or small pans, place them onto a baking sheet before they go in the oven. Cooking time will vary from 12-18 minutes...the key to knowing when these are done is in the edges. Once the edges of the cakes start to turn golden, they're pretty much there. As long as the tops are not completely runny but instead slightly jiggly, your cakes are complete.
See, jiggly.
 I used way too much Pam and my edges got super dark because of it...but live and learn (or throw away the heart pan), I suppose. I ended up baking these for 16 minutes, but to be honest, I should have pulled them out at 14 minutes. I was just nervous the tops weren't set enough, and something between the 14 to 15 minute mark happened (I probably fell into a brief coma or something shiny distracted me), and by the time minute 16 hit, they were cooked a little too long.
Nothing like the sweaty terror of trying to remove four cakes from a pan at the same time.
 Let these cool in the pan for 10 minutes before you even think about looking at them, let alone removing them. When 10 minutes have passed, use an angled spatula or a butter knife and run it along the edges of the pan or ramekins. Once you can successfully wiggle these away from the edges of the pan, they are ready to come out. I placed a towel on top of my cooling rack and then a sheet of Parchment paper on top of the towel to catch any leakage (such appetizing word choice). I then placed this set up on top of the pan, and slowly inverted until the rack was on the bottom and the pan was upside down on top. Thankfully, I didn't pass out while I held my breath the entire time, and all the cakes came out without issue. This would be way easier to do with individual servings. When my smaller pans were done in the oven, each was easy to flip over and remove the cake from.
Slightly burnt, like me after five minutes outside.
Like I said, for my oven, 16 minutes was literally just a minute or two too long. So they were a little dark, but what had me worries was whether or not they'd have any molten lemon lava inside because of it. Then I would have had to come up with an entirely different blog or eaten all 10 servings in a quiet, social media-free zone. I let the cakes cool for about 20 minutes before adding my toppings. If you're going topping free or using something simple like additional lemon curd and powdered sugar, by all means, eat fresh from the oven. Since I was using Cool Whip, I didn't want it to get melty and weird. For my garnish and decorations, I used an Ateco 879 tip and pipped a mound of Cool Whip Free on top of a few cakes. Then I garnished with thinly sliced strawberries. And then, I prayed for the first time in my life that hot lava would pour out of something inside of my very own home. Dante's Peak pretty much ruined volcanoes for me...I see the words "magma," "eruption," or "molten," and if they aren't immediately preceded or followed by the words "cake" or "chocolate," I get a little twitchy and panicked.
Literally the only time I've ever been happy to see lava.
At first, there was only a small ooze. I thought I had ruined them for sure. Even if I had, at least the screw up was a damn tasty one. But the further in we excavated with our forks, the more lava kept pouring out:
This is still the only lava I want to come this close to.
And then there was lava all over the plate. And we licked up every last bit. Best experience I've ever had with lava. Chili's molten lava cakes are pretty good, but last time I checked (which now that we don't live in Clovis where this was our only dining option, is never), they weren't offering me a lemon version. While I'm okay with chocolate molten lava, I wasn't making these cakes for me (okay, so a little was for me); I was making them for my husband--my devout sour dessert lover. So much so that I let him have the last bite. Of dessert. Willingly. Because this is what you do when you're incapable of public displays of affection or showing romance worthy of a Shakespearean sonnet. You bake. And you bake what you know your loved one likes best. And you let said loved one have the last bite. Because Lord knows, without them, you'd be a ship in the night with 10 servings of lemon lava cakes to eat all by yourself, and you're not familiar with the idea of portion control, so there goes at least 4 servings in a single sitting. Basically, you'd be a giant disaster of a human being. So bake cakes for the person you love that accepts you in all of your disastrous, somehow endearing to them, glory. Remember, flowers and diamonds aren't edible, friends. 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!
Something tells me no one ever looked at Mount Vesuvius this longingly.

1 comment:

  1. My dear, it warms my heart (like I'm sure your cake warms the tummy) that something Derek learned from his Dad is what sealed your love for him! So I guess Dean can claim some credit that we have you as our daughter-in-law! :-) Cupid was definitely at work that day, whether you like him or not! Love you, Mom


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