September 7, 2014

Lemon Berry Birthday Cake

My mom's birthday close to Christmas, and last year she had a special request for us - she wanted to celebrate her birthday during the summer with a super awesome family backpacking trip.

First thought through my head: Fun!
Second thought: How do I bring a cake on a backpacking trip?

This might not look it, but it's actually a birthday party!

Buttercream, I realized, would not be an option. Instead, I decided to top the cake in a summer berry compote that could be frozen and transported fairly easily. Next, I decided to pair this with lemon cake layers - because lemon and berries sounded extremely delicious. I chose a lemon cake recipe from Sweetapolita's Lemon Meringue Delight post and decided to create my own berry compote recipe.

How do I transport this up a mountain?

I made the cake and berry compote the night before our trip. For the cake, I made one single 9" layer and then used a cookie cutter to cut out 4 heart-shaped cakes. I wrapped each of these in plastic wrap and froze them. When the berry compote was cool, I put it in a plastic freezer bag, arranged it in a round tupperware (so it would freeze in a manageable shape) and froze it as well.

The next morning, I put the compote, cakes, and some candles in my camping cook pot and used some rope to fill in the gaps so that they wouldn't move around too much during the journey.

They survived the trip!

Ready to eat.

The cakes survived the trek beautifully and we ate them on the first night of our trip (after singing 'Happy Birthday' of course).  There were two two-layer cakes and we split them between five of us. The cake, and especially the compote, added quite a bit of weight to my pack, but it was totally worth it!

We had a wonderful birthday trip - we did the High Divide - Seven Lakes Basin Loop in Olympic National Park, and it was absolutely gorgeous.

In my quest to make a backpack-able cake, I seem to have stumbled on what could be my favorite cake...ever. After the trip, I couldn't help but make this again - this time as a two-layer 6" round cake. Backpacking can sometimes make everything taste good, and I wanted to see if that was impacting my assessment of this cake.

It was not. This is a delicious cake. The lemon layers are soft and have the perfect amount of lemon-ness to them. The berries are tart and balance out the sweetness of the cake to create a light, not-too-sweet cake.


Lemon Berry Cake
Lemon cake recipe adapted from Sweetapolita. Makes 2 6" round layers or 1 9" round layer.

Lemon Cake Ingredients
⅔ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt1/4 cup butter, softened
⅔ cup sugar, seperated
2 eggs, separated
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
⅛ teaspoon lemon extract
¼ cup plain yogurt

Berry Compote Ingredients
6 ounces berries (raspberries, blackberries, blueberries - whatever you want), frozen or fresh
¼ cup water
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon corn starch

  1. To make the cake, preheat your oven to 350° F. Line two 6" round cake pans or one 9" round pan with parchment paper.  Grease and flour.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.
  3. Cream the butter and ⅓ of the sugar until light and creamy - about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the egg yolks one at a time to the butter and sugar, mixing well after each one is added.
  5. Add the lemon juice, zest, and extracts. The batter might look a little curdle-y at this point - that's ok.
  6. Add the dry ingredients all at once and mix until well blended.
  7. Add the yogurt and mix until incorporated.
  8. In a separate bowl, combine the egg whites and the remaining ⅓ cup of sugar. Beat on high until the egg whites are stiff.
  9. Fold the egg white mixture into the batter, taking care to keep as much air in the eggs as possible.
  10. Spread the batter in your cake pan(s) and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  11. After 10 minutes of cooling in the pan, turn the cake(s) onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
  12. To make the berry compote, combine the berries, water, sugar, and corn starch in a pan.
  13. Simmer over medium heat until the mixture becomes thick - about 6 minutes.
  14. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  15. To make the highly-transportable mini cakes, cut four shapes out of the cooled 9" cake using a cookie cutter. 
  16. Wrap each cake layer in plastic wrap and freeze overnight.
  17. Pour the cooled compote into a gallon-size plastic freezer bag and freeze overnight as well.
  18. To make the regular cake, place one 6" layer on a plate. Spoon half of the compote over the cake.
  19. Place the second layer on top and spoon the second half over the top of the cake layer. Garnish with extra berries if you have any.

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