I made a LOT of mistakes with this cake, but it still turned out, well, as Momofuku cakes do. Multiple layers of cake, frosting, jam and cookie-like crumbles never turn out that terribly bad.
I made this for my classmate’s bachelorette party (wine tasting and lake housing off a lake near Austin). Although I love her, she’s the type who loves lemon, prefers fruit over chocolate (*suspicious side eye*). After much brainstorming, I thought this cake would be a good fit with its layers of cheesecake, strawberry jam, vanilla cake, graham cracker crumbs, and lemon curd. Overall, even though it got slightly mashed up in the freezer, it went over well–the texture of those crumbly, salty-sweet graham cracker crumbs against the creamy cheesecake, uber-silky lemon curd and dense cake, UGH. Feed me.
Also, KIND OF BIG NEWS. I graduated!!!!!!!!!!
From my MBA program!!!!!!!!
Wait what? Didn’t I just start?
That’s how I’m feeling too. It’s unreal. But I am now a for real, 100% genuine real person miraculously holding a pretty cool job in product marketing who gets to add three big, fat letters to her resume.
And though everyone has been congratulating me all weekend (as normal people do), I feel like I should be passing on the credit to the small country of people who helped me through the program: my parents, who heavily encouraged me to go in the first place, my classmates, who tried countless times to explain LIFO and FIFO accounting to me, cool new friends who commiserated with me and assured me that feeling 100% lost actually means you’re doing it right, old bosses, new bosses, certain ex-boyfriends who tutored me through introductory Finance, siblings who provided encouragement and giggles, friends who boosted my confidence and lifted me up when I didn’t think I could.
I’m leaving my program a very different person from where I started, and I can’t begin to cover how I’m feeling, doing graduation second time around. So I’ll leave it for another time, but in the meantime, I also want to thank YOU, every single blog reader who has stuck with me for the past two years–I know my posting schedule has been slow and erratic, but thank you for reading and being here. I wish I could feed you this cake in appreciation.
I followed this recipe for the most part and I think it’s a completely worthy recipe to follow! The only reason I’m posting my own version here is because I made a few key changes:
- Subbed a graham cracker crumb instead of the white chocolate milk crumb (because the graham cracker crumb was super delicious in this cake and I’m not a huge fan of white chocolate)
- Used agar agar flakes instead of the gelatin (vegetarianizing the cake) in the lemon curd and jam, from which I drew two conclusions: (1) the lemon curd is DELICIOUS; I don’t think the agar agar makes any difference and (2) the jam is a pain in the ass and with the agar agar, resulted in a runnier jam than I needed for layering. I would just use your favorite strawberry jam to save your sanity if you try this cake.
- Pickled strawberry frosting: I ended up with a lot of leftover frosting, so the recipe as written halves the amount of frosting.
- ½ teaspoon cornstarch
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1 large egg
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- ¾ cup sugar
- ½ cup graham cracker crumbs (about 4 sheets ground in a food processor, if using whole crackers)
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 tablespoons butter, melted
- 2¼ teaspoons agar agar flakes
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- Finely grated zest from 2 lemons
- 3 large eggs
- 6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1½ cups cake flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1¼ cups sugar
- ¼ cup packed light brown sugar
- 3 large eggs
- ½ cup buttermilk or ½ cup milk with ½ tablespoon vinegar
- ½ cup olive or grapeseed oil
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons your favorite strawberry jam
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4-6 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- Additional ~1/2 cup strawberry jam of your choice
- Preheat oven to 300° and grease an 8x8" pan. In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and salt. Add milk and egg, and whisk until smooth. With an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add sugar and continue mixing 2 minutes more. Scrape the sides down, add the cornstarch mixture, and beat until batter looks smooth and runny. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until set at the edges, but still slightly wobbly in the center. Check after 20 minutes and every 5 minutes after that (up to about 40 minutes). The surface should appear dull, not shiny, and should not be browned. Let cool completely before using (can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week).
- When you are ready to assemble the layer cake, turn the cheesecake out into a large bowl. Don’t worry about keeping it intact; it doesn’t matter how ugly it looks. Add the lemon curd and whisk together until completely smooth (or don't).
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees and line a baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper.
- Whisk together all dry ingredients (graham cracker crumbs through salt. Drizzle butter over mixture and gently toss until you get a clumpy, just-moist, mixture with some pea-sized clumps. Pour mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, stirring once, or until crumbs just start to brown. Remove and cool completely.
- Sprinkle the agar agar flakes over 2 tablespoons cold water and let stand for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, blend the sugar, lemon juice and zest together until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add eggs and blend until smooth and foamy, about 15 seconds. Transfer the mixture into a small saucepan. Heat the mixture over low, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon until thickened and bubbles begin to break the surface. The curd should form a thick coat over your stirring utensil. Pour the mixture back into the blender along with the agar agar mixture, butter and salt and blend until smooth. Allow to cool and refrigerate until the curd is completely chilled, at least 1 hour. Curd can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, but bring to room temperature before assembly for easier spreading.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees and grease a 9x13 pan.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients (flour through salt). In another bowl, use an electric mixer to cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about five minutes. Beat in the egg until thoroughly combined. In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the buttermilk, oil and vanilla. Stream mixture into the butter mixture while beating on low. Increase speed to high and beat for 5-6 minutes until mixture is pale and homogenous. It may look a little grainy, but you want the mixture to be as smooth as possible.
- Once the mixture is homogenous, add the dry ingredients and mix on low until dry ingredients are just barely incorporated and you can still see streak of flour--do not overmix! Finish mixing the batter by hand until no floury streaks remain.
- Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 35-45 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool completely before removing from pan.
- Use a 6-inch cake ring or template to cut two 6-inch circles out of the cake. Line a six-inch cake pan with plastic wrap and press the remaining cake scraps firmly into the bottom to form your third cake layer. At this point, you can freeze tightly wrap each cake layer (leave the scrap layer in the cake pan) in plastic wrap for easier assembly later.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the jam and salt, then beat on low speed for 1 minute until smooth and fluffy.
- Line a 6-inch cake pan with plastic wrap. Add one round of cake, then top with a layer of strawberry jam, ⅓ of graham cracker crumbs, then ½ of the lemon curd/cheesecake mixture (or whatever amount seems reasonable). Top with another round of cake, then repeat layers of filling. Top with final round of cake, spread with pickled strawberry frosting and finish with milk crumbs. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for at least 12 hours to set the layers. Let thaw at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, or in the refrigerator for up to 3 hours before serving.