We made cake
We had a great reason to eat cake last week, and the cake cheered us all up immensely, which is saying something given how upside down the world is right now.
It's the 2020 pandemic of COVID-19, a novel coronavirus, which surprised some countries and was unfortunately ignored by others until enough people died to get everyone's attention. Seattle was ground zero (or close to it) for the United States. It's a strange claim to fame. The other side of that is that the scientists and institutions in Washington have been doing amazing work, leading the way, making strides nobody thought possible in such a short period of time. Area businesses are retooling to make personal protective gear for workers and hospital personnel, local research and biotech is refocusing and jumping into the therapeutic and vaccine design and production space. There are also many business that, unfortunately, are also laying everyone off and hunkering down for the long haul. We have stay at home orders in place in the state, and our governor and health authorities are doing, in my opinion, a terrific job of making decisions and providing guidance based on science, compassion, and putting people first. That's not to say economics don't play into it, but it seems our state is being savvy about not pretending that "normal" is just around the corner. I am guessing that any post I make here a year from now will still mention COVID-19. It's going to be with us and inform our lives for many months to come.
Amid all this fear and change and worry, we had a chance to celebrate Byron's 50th birthday last week, which also created the opportunity to make our favorite cake -- a fabulous four-layer dessert made of lemon-coconut sponge cake, yogurt, whipping cream, and more whipping cream. Not only was it perfect for the occasion, eating this cake always reminds us of when we first became introduced to this cake around the dining table of our dear Walla Walla friends Di and Allan.
Of all the fabulous desserts Di plied us with in college (and always does so every time we visit), "Di's lemon torte" has always been at the top of our favorites list. (I'll have to also share her lemon chiffon pie . . . and the frozen coffee-chocolate pie . . . and the strawberry (or peach) shortcakes . . .there actually is a list!) This cake looks and tastes amazing, is incredibly forgiving to make and assemble, and gets better every day. Alas, in our house, we've never gotten past day four. Maybe you can do better.
I'm sharing the recipe in the hope you will find a reason to make it and celebrate something of your own in this crazy, worrisome world of ours.
Lemon-Yogurt Sponge Torte
2 cups shredded coconut
8 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. graded lemon zest (I usually include a tad more)
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 containers of lemon yogurt (not Greek) like Yoplait or Tillamook
1 cup (or more) whipping cream, sweetened and whipped to medium (not stiff) peaks
Toast the coconut on a large baking sheet in a 350-degree oven for about 4-7 minutes (watching carefully so it doesn't burn). You are aiming for some light golden edges.
Lightly butter four 9-inch round cake pans. (I have two pans and bake in two batches.) Line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper rounds. Lightly butter those as well.
In a small bowl, beat together (by hand is fine) the egg yolks, 1 cup of sugar, lemon juice, and baking powder until thick and lemon-colored; stir in the zest and 1 cup of toasted coconut.
In a large bowl (I use my KitchenAid mixer), beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar until peaks become stiff. Gently fold by hand the egg yolk mixture into the beaten whites. Then gently fold the flour into that mixture until everything is well blended. It takes a bit of patience. Don't stir, just fold.
Pour batter into the prepared pans (layers don't need to be perfectly equal) and spread evenly in the pan. Bake at 375-degree oven for 9-13 minutes, or until the top springs back lightly when touched.
When you remove them from the oven, immediately run a knife around the edge of the cake and invert the pans on a large cooling rack that is covered with a sheet of parchment or waxed paper. Pull the pan away (wash up and prep for the next two layers if you are baking in two batches) and carefully peel off the parchment rounds from the bottom of the cake layers to allow the layers to cool completely.
Choose a cake plate or platter (remember that it needs to be able to fit into your refrigerator with the cake on top of it) and place the bottom cake layer and spread 1/3 of the yogurt on top and sprinkle with some of the toasted coconut. Repeat with two more cakes. Set the final layer on top and pile high with whipping cream, garnish with toasted coconut and thin lemon slices, if you like.
Alternate: Although it doesn't make for such a beautiful presentation, if you won't be eating it all at once, add whipping cream on top of each slice you cut. This makes it easier to wrap the cake in plastic wrap tightly to store in the fridge. Also, sometimes I alternate fillings of yogurt and whipped cream (as in the picture above).
Chill at least two hours or overnight before serving.