By the time Easter dinner rolls around, the chocolate bunnies are missing their ears and maybe their bums. The Peeps have been squashed, for fun, then chewed into a gummy paste. Most of the jelly beans have disappeared, except for those black ones that nobody likes.
Certainly Easter has immense significance on the religious calendar. But on the secular side, Easter's themes are eggs and bunnies - and sugar. By dinner, everyone's a little sugared out.
Still, whether your family celebrates with lamb or ham or some other family favorite meat, a festive dinner requires a festive dessert. A feast wants a showstopper dessert, something that will surprise and delight the diners.
To that end, we've developed this lovely cake. Its light, bright citrus-berry flavors and pastel colors seem perfectly suited to a spring celebration. It's just sweet enough to qualify as dessert, but not as sugary as what has preceded it all day.
Because kitchen real estate is precious on a day whose dinner requires a lot of prep, we've designed this cake to fit your schedule. Make the browned-butter genoise and the lime curd up to two days in advance, and assemble the cake just before serving. Or make it the day before, assemble the cake, wrap it carefully in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours before finishing it with the whipped cream.
The classic genoise is a straightforward cake, but it requires a bit of care on the part of the cook. Because it has no leavening and relies on the air beaten into the batter for its lift, make sure to beat the batter until it forms the ribbon. The batter will be almost white, nearly tripled in volume, and when you lift the beaters, the batter will fall slowly and form a ribbon that will hold its shape for several minutes.
Stabilized whipped cream is the secret behind all those perfectly garnished desserts you've seen in magazines and on Instagram, no matter how long they've sat under hot studio lights. Beating in a bit of dissolved gelatin keeps the whipped cream airy and prevents it from melting. It's a handy tool to have in your repertoire for summer potlucks and parties too.
Robin Mather is a longtime food journalist and the author of "The Feast Nearby," a collection of essays and recipes from a year of eating locally on a budget.
FOUR-LAYER LIME-RASPBERRY BROWNED BUTTER GENOISE
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 40 minutes
Makes: about 12 servings
There's no doubt that making this cake is a production, but its light, bright flavors and pastel colors seem perfectly suited for spring. The stabilized whipped cream must be spread on the cake as soon as it's made, before the gelatin sets.
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
8 large egg yolks
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup fresh lime juice (from about 6 limes)
2 tablespoons finely grated lime zest
1/2 to 1 teaspoon lime extract, optional
8 large eggs
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups sifted flour (sift before and after measuring)
1 cup seedless (or regular) raspberry preserves, heated until melted
Stabilized whipped cream:
1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
4 teaspoons cold water
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup fresh raspberries
1 to 2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest
1. For the browned butter: In a medium, heavy skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. (A pan with a light-colored bottom is best, so that you can see the butter change color.) Cook, stirring constantly; the butter will foam first and start to sizzle. When it goes quiet, watch carefully that the browning bits at the bottom don't burn. Continue to stir, and remove it from the heat when they are nut brown. Decant butter into a microwave-safe bowl, leaving browned bits behind. Set aside.
2. For the lime curd: In a large mixing bowl set over, but not in, simmering water, combine the egg yolks, 1 cup granulated sugar, lime juice and zest. Whisk continuously until the mixture thickens enough to leave a trace, about 5 minutes. (The curd will thicken when it cools.) Remove from heat, and pour through a fine-mesh strainer or sieve. Taste the curd; if it is not "lime-y" enough for you, add the optional lime extract. Scrape the lime curd into a suitable bowl and cover it with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap down to contact the surface. Refrigerate until needed. Makes: about 2 cups.
3. For the genoise: Butter two 10-by-15-inch jelly roll pans (see note); line both with parchment paper and butter the parchment too. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
4. In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar. Place the bowl over simmering water, and continue to whisk until the mixture reaches about 100 degrees, about 10 minutes; it will feel barely warm to a clean finger. Be sure that the water doesn't boil and that the mixing bowl doesn't touch the water.
5. Transfer the bowl and its contents to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. (A hand-held mixer will work, but it's more unwieldy.) Beat on high speed until the batter forms a ribbon - when beaters (with power off) are lifted, the batter dripping from them will not disappear for several minutes. This will take 7 to 10 minutes of beating.
6. Rewarm the brown butter if it has solidified; it should not be hot, just melted. Stir in the vanilla. Using a balloon whisk or a rubber spatula, fold in the flour in three additions, alternating with half the brown butter mixture. Fold after each addition, being careful to deflate the batter as little as possible.
7. Divide the batter between the two prepared jelly roll pans. Spread batter carefully into corners and smooth the tops. Bake until the cake just begins to pull away from the sides of the pans, 15 to 20 minutes. The layers will be thin. Remove from the oven, and let cool fully before removing cakes from pans and peeling off the parchment paper.
8. Assemble the cake: Cut each cake in half so that the long rectangles become almost square - the finished pieces will be 10 by 7 1/2 inches (or 9 3/8 by 7 1/8 inches if using smaller pans). Place a piece of cake on a platter. Warm the raspberry preserves slightly, until just melted, and brush the top of the cake piece generously with the preserves. (Reserve 1 tablespoon preserves.) Spread about 1/2 cup of lime curd on top of the raspberry preserves, being careful to spread it all the way to the edges. Top with the next piece of cake and repeat the procedure. Place the third layer and repeat. Finally, place the fourth layer. Set the cake aside, or wrap carefully with two layers of plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
9. The next day, make the stabilized whipped cream: Soften the gelatin in 4 teaspoons cold water, letting it stand for 1 minute. Add the reserved 1 tablespoon seedless raspberry preserves; microwave 15 to 20 seconds. Whisk until gelatin and preserves are completely dissolved and allow to cool to room temperature.
10. Beat the cream and powdered sugar until you begin to see beater trails. Continue beating as you pour in the cooled gelatin mixture in a slow, steady stream. Beat until whipped cream is stiff. Spread the whipped cream generously over the top and sides of the cake. Strew fresh raspberries atop the whipped cream, and shower the cake with grated lime zest. Refrigerate up to 24 hours.
11. Serve with any remaining whipped cream and raspberries.
Note: We used new jelly roll pans, but found the size available to be 9 3/8 x 14 1/4 inches. If your pans are this size, the recipe will work fine. The cake layers will be a bit thicker, and the dimensions will be a bit smaller.
Nutrition information per serving: 558 calories, 31 g fat, 18 g saturated fat, 272 mg cholesterol, 62 g carbohydrates, 43 g sugar, 9 g protein, 62 mg sodium, 1 g fiber
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