Something colorful and fruity can really brighten up a dreary winter day. So, when I decided to make a cake for my friend Monica's birthday (and she told me her favorite was lemon - mine too!), I decided to frost a lemon cake with classic vanilla buttercream dyed pink, and call it pink lemonade cake.
I made the cake from a mix and the frosting from scratch. It might occur to a lot of people to do just the opposite, but I find that cake from a mix is pretty good, while store-bought frosting doesn't hold a candle to homemade.
I have fun weighing the pros and cons of what things to buy and what to make. This book is a great reference for that sort of thing.
Lemon cake mix
Eggs, oil, and water called for by mix
2 sticks butter at room temperature (microwaving it soft won't work; it needs to sit out)
3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (never vanilla flavoring)
3 drops red food coloring
Zest of one lemon
Step 01. Prepare cake according to directions on mix, baking in two circular pans. Let cool completely.
Step 02. Start the frosting while the cake is in the oven. With an electric mixer, whip the butter at a high speed for about two minutes.
Step 03. Add sugar slowly, whipping until fully incorporated. Add vanilla and food coloring, and whip at a high speed for two more minutes. The frosting should be light and fluffy but able to hold its shape.
Step 04. Once the cake has cooled, carefully slice off the rounded tops of both cakes with a sharp serrated knife so that they are flat across the top. This step is optional, but gives the cake a better shape and makes the layers easier to stack.
Step 05. Flip both cakes over so that their browned bottoms and up and there cut edges are down. Place on a cookie sheet. Frost each cake's top and sides with a thin, transparent layer of frosting. This is just to create a "crumb coat," a barrier between the cake's crumbs and the clean, thick layer of frosting that's going to show. Once the cakes are frosted with the thin layer, refrigerate them for 30 minutes to harden the crumb coat.
Step 06. Place the first cake layer on a cake stand or pretty plate (I made a cake stand by placing a plate on an upturned bowl - but be careful as this isn't very stable) and slip a few strips of wax paper under it to protect the stand from the frosting. Spread a thick layer of frosting on top of the first layer, and set the second layer of top of that.
Step 07. With the remainder of the frosting, cover the top and sides of the cake with a thick, even layer of frosting. An offset spatula is best for this but, as I haven't bought one yet, I used a flat rubber spatula. A butter knife would work fairly well also.
Step 08. Sprinkle the lemon zest over the top of the cake for decoration (
flavor, yum yum!)