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Raspberry Layer Cake

Raspberry Layer Cake

I think, for once, I just wanted not to be a Grinch about Valentine's Day. The flowers, the greeting cards, the bright pink and red hearts — anathema to my own, black and crippled. But there comes a point when even the bitter singleton has to go along with it, because deep down he knows that the act of fighting it is in itself a recognition of its significance.

Anyway, I baked a cake for you. It's pink, has layers, and tastes like raspberry. Its color reminds me of the strawberry milkshake I ordered at the diner where you asked, rhetorically, "Why do you have to live so far?" and I cried into my hands because I was leaving for New York the next day. I wonder why we always wait till the end to say how sad we are, even though we're feeling it the whole time. I don't know why baking cakes always reminds me of you, but it does.

Cake:
2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
2 lemons, zested
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1/4 cup milk

Buttercream:
1/2 pint raspberries
1 cup milk
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch salt

For the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour two 7-inch round cake pans (I use springforms).

In a stand mixer or with an electric beater (or by fork even, as I often do), cream the butter and sugar until light, fluffy, and pale yellow. Incorporate the eggs one at a time; it may curdle if the butter isn't absolutely room temperature, which is fine, but beat for at least 10 minutes straight (even this I sometimes do by hand, with a good whisk, but using a machine will make your life less miserable). Fold in the lemon zest, vanilla, and salt. Gradually add the flour (this should help the curdling; also, I don't bother to sift). Finally, thin everything out with the milk. Pour the batter into the prepared pans, distributing the wealth evenly between the two (I use a scale for this).

Bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean; be sure not to overbake. Let both cakes cool completely before frosting with the buttercream.

For the buttercream: In a blender or food processor, process the raspberries until smooth, and pass this seeded, ruby-red mixture through a sieve, making sure to press through with a spoon (and scraping all the berry pulp that will collect under the sieve). Take your time; get as much of the raspberry out as you can. What you're doing here is getting rid of the seeds.

In a small saucepan, whisk together the milk, sugar, and flour until incorporated. Cook over medium-low to medium heat, whisking constantly, until thickened and bubbled, about 5–10 minutes (you want this mixture to resemble a thick gravy, béchamel, or Alfredo sauce). Only if you have lumps (though I often don't because I whisk vigorously the whole time), pass through a strainer and set aside to cool completely.

In the stand mixer or with the electric beater again, beat the butter, vanilla, salt, raspberry coulis (your deseeded raspberry pulp), and milk-flour mixture for 10 minutes straight, until thick, creamy, and blindingly pale pink. Unfortunately you do need to incorporate this much air into the buttercream; it's essentially what helps it to set, as well as this next step, which is to cover and refrigerate it for 15 minutes before frosting the cake.

For the assembly: First, carefully slice off the rounded tops of each cake layer so you're left with two flat disks. This will ensure that your cake looks straight and bakery-ready rather than curved and dome-like (which, let's be real, isn't the end of the world).

To frost the cake, cover the bottom layer with 1/3 of the buttercream (top and sides), then sandwich that layer with the top layer, and finally smear everything — top, sides, nooks and crannies — with the rest of the white mixture.

Pink Smoothie Bowl

Pink Smoothie Bowl