A Cake Julia Child Would Have Agreed With

Many of you wanted to know just what happened with the great Lavender Lemon Honey Cake, since I didn’t go into particulars on my birthday. After all, there are days when you want to discuss the dirty details of your baking escapades, and then there are days when you just want to be happy that you made a pretty cake. Birthdays are definitely the latter.

(Kind of) Lavender Lemon and (Kind of) Honey Cake

Overall, I can say that the cake was a success. The cake layers were fluffy, the buttercream frosting wasn’t too sweet, and I liked the freshness of the lemon flavor against the other components. Of course, I wish I had done a more careful decorating job, but by the time I was actually frosting the cake I was so tired that all I wanted to do was to get through the ordeal. I think maybe next time I make a cake I need to give myself a seventh inning stretch or something—perhaps in the form of a power nap.

There were, of course, some problems, which is to be expected when you alter a bunch of recipes that you’ve never tried before.

For instance, the I made the lavender-lemon filling by doubling this Emeril recipe, and adding two tablespoons of dried lavender flowers to the custard (I got the idea from this Gale Gand recipe). But the two tablespoons of lavender couldn’t stand up to the intense lemon flavor of the mousse. In the end, it was more of a lemon mousse than a lavender lemon mousse. WonkthePlank thought that the lemon flavor was too strong, but I liked the intense lemony-ness of it, so that may be a matter of taste.

I also added some gelatin to custard base to give it a firm consistency, but then the gelatin ended up forming these huge blobs that I had to fish out of the finished mousse. But the less said about that the better.

The buttercream was also . . . interesting. I used Rose Levy Beranbaum’s recipe for Royal Honey Buttercream, which is essentially whipped butter thickened with egg yolks and honey. And guess what it tasted like? You’re right—whipped butter with the faint background of honey. So I dumped in a bunch of powdered sugar (probably three or four cups or so), which gave it more flavor, without being overpoweringly sweet. Still, it didn’t have the light, fluffy texture that I wanted, and it sort of lost the honey flavor that I was seeking.

So no, the cake was not perfect. In my usual way I charged ahead and just hoped that everything would work out for the best.

But, as Julia Child said, this quality can be an asset in cooking. “The only real stumbling block is fear of failure,” she said. “In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” So even with all its faults, I think this is a cake she would have been proud of.



  1. Uncle Mike said

    3 or 4 cups of powdered sugar? I can feel my pancreas screaming now. Lavender? Lemon? How exotic can you get? Curry? Juniper? Perhaps a dry martini mousse? I know some folks on the west coast who would find that ultra-attractive.

    Would that require olive on top? That would probably spoil the presentation.

    This is my all time favorite food blog. The author demonstrates exquisite taste and sensibility.

  2. wonktheplank said

    I am proud of the cake.

  3. […] my last two cakes, it was nice to sit down to a piece of cake that I didn’t have a deep emotional/financial investment in. Of course, it was far prettier and polished than anything I could make on […]

  4. […] custard. I used this Epicurious recipe for Honey Lavender ice cream—since I, um, overbought for my birthday cake and had plenty of these ingredients sitting around. I will say that the ice cream had a bit of a […]

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