Are you a new years resolution person? I used to be. I would carefully make myself a secret list, and then would head into the new year with great intentions and expectations, only to of course drop the ball about mid February (about the same time the gym starts to empty out after the January 'resolutioners' rush), and end up disappointed in myself. I tend to be way way too hard on myself, and end up working myself up into a big mess. This year I'm just going to try and do more of the things that make me happy. Which involves staying in on a Saturday if I want to (who are we kidding here, thats not an uncommon occurrence), and spending all day crocheting endless piles of wool while binge watching terrible shows when the need strikes. It also involves dinner parties on a Friday (possibly my favourite activity in the world), making more things, worrying less about what people think, and concentrating more on what I want. (Maybe I am still a resolution person?) I have also set myself a little goal of making an attempt to be more on time for things. I hate rushing, and somehow always end up putting myself in a situation where I am scrambling to get somewhere on time. I've started getting up five minutes earlier than I usually do, which means that I arrive at my 7am spin class with enough time to not be rushing in stressed. And damn, it is a good feeling!
This year also involves going a little easier on myself. I feel like the need to not have huge expectations of myself and the inevitable disappointment is even more important now that I live far away from home. It's a really weird feeling living a country so removed from home, and knowing that for at least the next few years, this is where you are going to be based. I've been here for two and a half years, and I feel like I'm still not used to parts of it. It's even more weird when you outstay lots of your friends - a lot of them come on one year visas, which then expire, and they head home. It's a very strange cycle of people entering your life, having an amazing time with them, and all of a sudden it's time for them to go home, and you are still here, still doing the same thing, just without those people in your life. It means that there are phases when there are a lot of people around and it is amazing, and then also phases when it feels as if theres nobody left here. Of course there are still friends here, it's just different.
Especially in winter. We all seem to just put our heads down and try and get through winter, myself included. And it gets quiet. It's when it's quiet that the homesickness sets in. I am a HUGE homebody. There's nothing I love more than hanging out with my family. We are all incredibly close knit, and I have a huge extended family who I am very very close with. I always find that during the winter when communication from home is filled with people enjoying the beach and the summer, things start to feel a little weird. Nothing seems exciting anymore, I get really really sick of the cold, and I have this underlying feeling of just wanting to be back in New Zealand. It also just happens to be a solid 25 hours of travel to get home, so it is times like that when the distance really becomes obvious. I usually end up trying to ignore it, and slowly just reverting into a little hole filled with all the things that I can find to make it bearable, followed by a minor meltdown, realising that I am homesick, and then making an effort to snap myself out of it. And then, I rinse and repeat. So this year is about recognising all of this early, and taking the steps to try and prevent the inevitable. We head home in two weeks for a good month at home, which is going to help a lot.
I am so, so lucky to have some amazing friends here though who really, really feel like family, and of course Rich, who is everything I could ever ask for. I spent the day yesterday with my amazing friend Jill. She has taken me under her wing a little and made me feel a part of the furniture at her place, and I honestly can't be more grateful. I always feel a little silly when I get upset about being far away from home (I'm 25, time to put on my big girl pants), but sometimes it just happens, and you need your Mum. Yesterday was exactly what I needed - we made pie and fluffed around in the kitchen chatting, then Rich came around for dinner with her and her family. When you are so used to a full noise family, you really miss being surrounded by people and food, and it was the most amazing feeling being back in that environment.
Cake always gives me a sense of family - I often make it to take to events. There are few things that are more comforting than providing food for others to enjoy. It's what I grew up associating with family.
This cake was a birthday present for a close friend of ours. The cake within is a dense lemon yoghurt cake that is a favourite of mine (it was the second tier of our wedding cake!) and the layers are sandwiched with punchy lemon curd, and fluffy swiss meringue buttercream which has more of the curd beaten into it, giving it a light and delicate lemon flavour. Curd and meringue based buttercream are the ultimate dream team - the curd uses egg yolks, while the buttercream uses up the whites, eliminating leftover whites or yolks that inevitably get thrown out despite your best intentions.
This recipe makes a large 8 inch cake, which would do you well for 12-14 servings, so perfect for a party. You could easily halve the cake recipe and bake the mixture in 6 inch tins, yielding a smaller cake. I finished this cake with a texture which came from an icing comb on the edge of one of my cake scrapers, but it would look amazing with a smooth finish, or with a rustic coat of buttercream. This cake actually did end up with a rustic coating - I rushed out the door with it before cooling it properly, meaning the buttercream was still a little soft, and the layers slid around a little on themselves while we were in the uber, making for an interesting re-structure once we arrived at our friend's. I managed to put it back together and gave it a quick rustic finish, and it looked like it had never had a fail!
Triple lemon cake
- Makes one three layer, 8 inch cake -
Cake recipe adapted from Life, love and sugar, buttercream adapted from Brave Tart
4 cups (600g) All - purpose flour
3 cups (400g) sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp Salt
1 1/3 cups (320ml) flavourless oil such as canola
1 1/3 cup (320ml) lemon juice
1 1/2 cups (360ml) greek yoghurt
2/3 cup (160ml) lemon juice
1 1/2 Tbsp finely grated lemon zest
2/3 cup (135g) sugar
8 egg yolks
6 Tbsp (90g) butter
Lemon Swiss Meringue buttercream
285g (10oz) egg whites
285g (10oz) sugar
1 tsp (5ml) vanilla extract or vanilla paste
1/2 tsp salt
900g (2 pounds, eight sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 batch of Lemon Curd, recipe above
- PROCESS -
Preheat the oven to 350f/180c. Grease and line three 8 inch cake tins.
In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk until well combined.
Add the eggs, lemon juice and oil, and whisk until smooth. Add yoghurt and mix again until smooth and homogenous.
Divide the mixture between the three cake tins. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until lightly golden and a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. When you remove from the oven, if the cake has domed, place a clean tea towel over the surface of the cake and press down gently to help smooth the dome. Cool in the tins for 15 minutes, then turn onto a wire rack and cool completely.
Place a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water, ensuring that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Combine all of the ingredients, and stir continuously. Watch the edges of the mixture carefully to ensure that it does not catch and go lumpy.
Heat until the mixture is thick enough that when you coat the back of a spoon with curd, you can drag a finger through it, and leave a clear track. Transfer to a bowl or container to cool.
Curd can be made up to a week in advance.
LEMON SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM
In the bowl of stand mixer, combine egg whites, vanilla and sugar. Whisk briefly until combined. Place the bowl of the mixer over a small saucepan of water, taking care that the water does not touch the bowl. Turn the heat to medium.
Whisking occasionally to prevent the egg white cooking, bring the egg mixture to 150f/65c. Place the bowl back onto the mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, and whip on high speed until the mixture has doubled in volume and is completely cool. Feel the outside of the bowl with your hands - there should be no trace of heat left (this is especially important for the next step to ensure that the butter does not melt when you add it). Cooling may take up to 20 minutes.
Once the bowl is cool, with the motor running, add the butter one chunk at a time, incorporating well between each addition. If the mixture looks curdled/melted, do not worry, just continue whipping, it will come together! Add the lemon curd and beat well to incorporate.
Using a sharp bread knife, level the cakes so that the tops are flat. On a turntable or cake stand, place the first layer of cake. Spread a thick layer of buttercream over the surface and smooth with an offset spatula. Use the spatula to make the outer edge slightly higher than the middle, to help enclose the curd.. Alternatively, fit a piping bag with a round tip, and pipe a "dam" around the edge of the cake to help keep in the curd. Spread a generous layer of curd (approx. half of what you have remaining) over the surface of the buttercream. Stack the next layer on, and repeat the buttercream and curd steps. Stack the final layer of cake on. Crumb coat the cake (a thin smooth layer of buttercream all over) using an offset spatula and/or icing scraper, and then rest in the fridge for 30 mins to an hour to set.
Spread a layer of buttercream all over the cake, and finish with your desired texture. (I used a frosting comb). Decorate, if desired, with more lemon zest.
If you are transporting the cake, give it a decent amount of time in the fridge so that the buttercream can completely set.