Happy 4th of July Birthday Cake!

This 4th of July Birthday Cake was baked in our kitchen. As it turns out, we do not enjoy (suffer?) the sorts of summer temperatures other folks in the USA enjoy. In spite of our California address and proximity to the beach, summer in San Francisco is a chilly affair. “June gloom” turns to July gloom. July gloom gives way to August gloom. You get the picture. So, while the rest of the country celebrates summer in the warmth of their backyards, we don our hoodies, crank up the oven, and bake our hearts out!

Our cake was inspired by, and is a modification of, the gorgeous blueberry cake created by The Little Epicurean. Maryanne is a wildly talented baker who shares her creations on her excellent blog. We wanted to play with flavor and color by creating this patriotic take on Old Glory. Freeze dried strawberries and blueberries bring beautiful color to the cake and frosting. Lemony cream custard adds a nice pale stripe between the blue cake layers. The resulting flavors are bright and fruity and summery.

We’ll be thinking of the rest of you lounging about your backyards soaking up the sun and sweating in your 90+ degree weather. For us, a windy July daytime high of 60 means multiple layers and a blazing oven. But we’ll still be enjoying an ice-cold beer or two as we celebrate the nation’s birthday and all the good stuff summer brings!

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Blueberry Cake with Lemon Mousse and Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

Blueberry Cake

Adapted and inspired by: The Little Epicurean 

1 6 inch round cake & 1 dozen cupcakes

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
8 oz unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp lemon zest
4 large eggs, room temperature
6 oz kefir, room temperature
7 oz blueberries, pureed and strained
1.2 oz package freeze dried blueberries, unsweetened, ground*
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter, flour, and line with parchment a 6-inch cake pan. Butter and flour a muffin tin or add muffin liners to the tin. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder. Set aside.

Cream together butter, sugar, brown sugar, and salt in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add lemon zest. Add eggs one at a time and mix until fully incorporated.

In a measuring cup, combine kefir, blueberry puree, blueberry powder, and vanilla.

Alternate adding flour mixture and kefir mixture into creamed butter. Mix until just incorporated. Scrape down bowl as needed to ensure thorough mixing.

Divide batter into prepared cake round and cupcake tin. Level batter using a mini offset spatula or the back of spoon.

Bake cupcakes for 15-20 minutes; bake 6” cake for 30-35 minutes until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan on a rack before removing from cake pan. Can be prepared a day in advance or up to a week or more if freezing the cake.

White Chocolate and Lemon Curd Mousse

Adapted from: Epicurious

1.5 ounces white chocolate chips
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup whipping cream
pinch of salt
1/4 cup homemade or store bought lemon curd

Combine white chocolate and 1 tablespoon whipping cream in a medium metal or heat-safe glass bowl. Set bowl over saucepan of barely simmering water. Stir constantly until chocolate is soft and almost melted. Remove bowl from over water and stir until white chocolate is melted and smooth. Cool white chocolate mousse base to room temperature. Add the lemon curd and whisk until incorporated. Set aside.

Beat remaining 1/2 cup whipping cream in large chilled bowl until firm peaks form. Gently fold in the cooled lemon curd and white chocolate. Set in the fridge to cool until ready to use,

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting

Inspired by: The Little Epicurean

1.2 oz package freeze dried strawberries, unsweetened, ground in blender
10 ounces powdered sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
6 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp milk or whipping cream
pinch of salt

Sift the ground strawberries and powdered sugar together, discard the strawberry seeds. Set aside.

Cream together butter and cream cheese in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Scrape down bowl as necessary to ensure mixture is smooth.

Add vanilla, milk or whipping cream, and blend together. On low speed of the mixer, add the strawberry powder and powdered sugar. Mix until throughly blended and smooth. Add additional milk or whipping cream, 1/2 tsp. at a time, until smooth and spreadable.

Assembling and Frosting the cake

Split the cake horizontally so you have two layers. Add a good amount of the white chocolate and lemon curd mousse to one of the layers and smooth out to the edge. Add the top layer of cake and smooth around the edge to crumb coat the cake with a little of the mousse. Wrap in plastic and place in the freezer for at least 30 minutes or up to a day.

When ready to frost, remove the cake from the freezer and frost with the strawberry cream cheese frosting.

Coat fresh blueberries in warmed apricot jam and strain off the remaining jam. Decorate the cake with the blueberries. Enjoy!

Burgers, Anyone?

Once you kill a cow you got to make a burger. –Lady Gaga

What’s the best burger you have ever eaten? And please don’t say McDonald’s, Wendy’s or some other fast food franchise mess. In our opinion, those places are garbage pits. To us, the best burgers are the ones we cook at home. Why? Because we know what’s in them and we have a special ingredient that makes them the best they can be–Butter. We don’t fry them in butter, we add a small pat, about a tablespoon, in the center of the burger and then press a little indentation in the top of the rounded patty with our thumb so the burger will cook more evenly. Since it’s difficult for us to barbecue at our apartment, we use a grill pan to fry them up. Grilled for 3-4 minutes on each side, we end up with a medium rare burger. Since the burger meat we use is grass-fed, and from only one cow, we’re not worried about getting salmonella. If we were to purchase hamburger meat in the grocery store we would cook it longer, until it’s well-done. The reason for the well-done burger is that there are so many cows being made into hamburger meat and because it’s all mixed together if even one cow in the bunch is sick it will ruin hundreds, even thousands of pounds of meat—not a pleasant thought but true. Even with a well-done burger though, the little butter trick gives it a little extra fat so it doesn’t get completely dried out.

Burger toppings can be anything your heart desires, but for a really nice burger try caramelized onions and blue cheese. If you want something traditional there’s always that big slice of real cheddar cheese. Throw on some crisp bacon, sautéed mushrooms and barbecue sauce and it’s a big messy feast. This 4th of July, however you top your burger, try the “butter in the middle” tip. It will keep your burger nice and juicy even if you use store bought hamburger, and if you do, make sure you cook it until it’s well done!