“lgbtq rainbow cake” - lemon ginger sheet cake with blueberry compote, thyme-infused custard and quark cheese german buttercream
Happy 2019 Pride Everyone!
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots and the birth of our uprising for equality in America, and around the world. As I write this recipe for my Pride cake, which in the scheme of things is nothing more than a cake topped with a rainbow, I'm reminded of all the things and all the ways that generations of LGBTQ+ people have sacrificed for me to have the ability to be openly gay, happily married to my husband, and raising our three dogs in NYC—yes, our girls are our children and if you know us, you know we are those kinda pet parents—and I am filled with so many emotions.
It’s not lost on me that my ability to bake and share this recipe comes with many, many years of oppression and struggles from our forefathers and -mothers and their willingness to step up, say “NO MORE”, and fight for basic human rights and the equality that we 100% deserve. For those who don’t see it as basic human rights, fuck you.
Yesterday was the 4th anniversary of the Marriage Equality Act, and tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of the riots at Stonewall Inn. It goes to show that although we have come so far, we still have such a distance to go. So with that, we’ll continue to march in every city, in every state, till we ALL HAVE the basic human rights this country was founded on.
Last year, I made a Pride cake just for fun (no official recipe) and realized I want to make it a tradition. I thought about what LGBTQ means to me in terms of food, and the very first thought was: bold, strong flavors, because we are all bold and strong at the end of the day! Then I decided to take on the challenge of attributing these flavors to the letters of our community. It wasn’t exactly easy but as I got rolling, I couldn’t give up. Lemon and ginger for the cake was easy, as I feel they are perfect companions for cake. Next I knew I wanted a filling of sorts, but knew I wasn’t vibe-ing with a round layer cake, so I decided this needed to be a two-layered sheet cake. I think layered sheet cakes are the best — especially from Costco!
With it being summer, I felt blueberries and thyme are not only a strong combo together; they also complement lemon and ginger rather nicely. So pow! I had LGBT, but then there was Q.. and trust me, there isn’t a lot of Q-food options. Luckily I have many friends from many backgrounds and professions, and with a couple SOS texts, I was introduced to quark cheese, and my Q! Quark, it turns out, is like a solid mix of yogurt and cream cheese, so I instantly gravitated to an old favorite, german buttercream, which I knew would be able to hold its structure with the moisture of the quark.
Six cake tests later, I am very proud of my 2019 LGBTQ Rainbow Cake with lemon and ginger cake, fresh blueberry compote, thyme-infused custard, and quark cheese german buttercream!
As always, most of the components may be made ahead of time, which will make for an even easier baking/assembly day. Also, please check out my Good to Knows, where I have consolidated a bunch of tips for perfecting the recipe. I hope you enjoy this cake as much I have enjoyed developing it. Sending out lots of love to everyone during Pride this year!
…Good to Knows…
If you have a paddle attachment for your stand mixer with spatula/scraper edges, now's the time to use it. I use a KitchenAid Professional 600 and this is my favorite paddle with spatula edges.
If you don’t want to make the cake into a rainbow cake, you may leave out the food coloring and simply ice the top with the quark cheese german buttercream!
After the first go around with this recipe, I realized that this is a more complex “two day” recipe. The pastry creams for the filling/buttercream are best if made the night before, and the compote may be made a few days in advance. I also found that baking the cake the night before and allowing it to cool throughly was best for slicing it into two layers without cracking the top.
You may substitute the quark cheese for cream cheese or mascarpone cheese, if your local store doesn’t carry quark. The quark cheese adds a very nice, sharp tang to the buttercream, which complements the other flavors very well.
“lgbtq rainbow cake” - lemon ginger sheet cake with blueberry compote, thyme-infused custard, and quark cheese german buttercream
…makes one 9"x13" cake…
…serves 12-15 people …
Lemon Ginger Cake
120g (1/2 cup) neutral baking oil
300g (1 1/2 cups) granulated white sugar
2 large brown eggs, at room temperature
300ml (1 1/4 cups) buttermilk, at room temperature
1 tsp baking soda
320g (2 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
30g (3 tbsp) ground ginger
2 tsp salt
3 tbsp lemon zest, appox 2 large lemons
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice, appox 1/4 lemon
4 large brown egg whites, at room temperature
225g (appox 1 1/2 cups) fresh blueberries
66g (1/3 cup) granulated white sugar
20g (2 tbsp) corn starch
120g (1/2 cup) water
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice, appox 1/2 lemon
just a pinch of kosher salt
Thyme Custard (Pastry Cream)
420ml (1 3/4 cups) whole milk
100g (1/2 cup) granulated white sugar
30g (3 tbsp) cornstarch
1 large brown egg
2 large brown egg yolks
6-8 fresh thyme sprigs
2 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
Quark Cheese German Buttercream
110g (1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp) granulated white sugar
15g (1 1/2 tbsp) cornstarch
1 large brown egg
1 large brown egg yolk
just a pinch of kosher salt
190ml (3/4 cups) whole milk
2 tbsp vanilla bean paste, extract, or the seeds from two vanilla bean pods
452g (2 cups or 4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
150g plain quark cheese, at room temperature
rainbow americolor food gels
Optional: white nonpareil sprinkles
Lemon Ginger Cake
Place oven rack on the center position and preheat oven to 350˚f/180˚c. Spray a 9"x13 rectangular baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Line the bottom with parchment paper.
As always, prepare all ingredients prior to mixing. In a large bowl, sift together the all-purpose flour, baking powder, ground ginger and salt. In a second bowl, combine the room-temp buttermilk and baking soda and whisk together. Zest lemons and separate egg whites, reserving egg yolks for pastry cream.
In the bowl of your stand mixer (fitted with the paddle attachment, or a whisk will do in a pinch), cream the oil and sugar on high for 5 minutes until the color becomes a pale yellow, the consistency is light and fluffy, and the mixture has about doubled in size. Add your two room-temp eggs, one at a time, making sure to scrape the walls of your bowl after each egg. Add vanilla bean paste and mix till fully incorporated.
Now turn your mixer off and add a third of the flour mixture. Mix on low speed until just combined, then add half of the buttermilk mixture and mix on low speed until incorporated. Repeat this step with another third of your flour mixture, followed by the remaining buttermilk mixture. Next add the remaining third of your flour mixture and continue to mix on low until all clumps have disappeared. Be sure to work gently and productively so as not to over-mix the batter. Now add lemon zest and lemon juice and mix just till fully incorporated. Set cake batter aside.
With the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with your whisk attachment, whip egg whites on high speed for approx. 2-4 minutes until you have stiff white peaks. Gently fold beaten egg whites into the cake batter until just combined, being careful not to over-mix. You don’t want to lose all the aeration of the egg whites.
Now pour the batter into your prepared baking pan. Tap pan on counter a few times to pop any large, unwanted air bubbles and place in your preheated oven. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a skewer/toothpick comes out clean and the top of the cake is golden brown.
Allow cake to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then lift cake out, using the parchment paper, onto a baking rack allowing it to cool. If your cooling rack has wide openings, place the cake onto a piece of parchment and then onto the cooling rack. (You don't want the warm cake to stick or show any odd indentations or warping. I have had a few incidences where the cake fused with a rack and it tore as I was removing it.)
Allow the cake to cool completely (1-3 hours, preferably overnight) before slicing into layers, filling it and frosting it.
In a small sauce pan, add the blueberries. In a small bowl, mix sugar and cornstarch until well combined, then toss blueberries with sugar mixture. Add water, lemon juice and salt to the small saucepan and heat everything over a medium-high heat. Bring blueberries to a boil, then lower heat and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, for approx. 10 minutes.
The compote is done when it begins to thicken and coats the back of a metal spoon. Allow compote to cool completely and place into an air-tight container until you are ready to use. This may be made up to 4 days in advance.
Quark Cheese German Buttercream
In a medium non-stick saucepan, heat the whole milk and vanilla until they are just moments from simmering. (You're looking for those wisps of steam but no bubbles.) Remove milk mixture from the heat.
In a bowl, whisk together the sugar, corn starch, whole egg, egg yolks and salt until combined.
Now continue whisking with one hand and pour just a bit (about a half cup or so) of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture so that you are tempering the eggs. You do not want to cook them — they will turn to scrambled eggs! Then, while still whisking, add half of the milk mixture and whisk until it's combined, followed by the remaining portion of milk. Once everything is combined, pour the milk/egg mixture back into the medium saucepan.
Now heat the milk/egg mixture over medium heat, again constantly whisking, until it begins to bubble. You do not want it to boil so do not look away. This thickens quickly. Once it has thickened and can coat the back of a spoon, cook for just one minute more. Remove from the heat and pour into a container or mixing bowl and press plastic wrap over the surface. This is a must so that you avoid a think skin from forming and altering the texture.
Place into the refrigerator until cold — a minimum of four hours, or for best results, overnight.
When your cake is ready for icing, place your whisk attachment on your mixer. Press the cool pastry cream through a sieve in order to remove any bits of cooked egg. Add this to your mixer bowl. On medium speed, slowly add one stick of butter, a few pieces at a time, until it’s incorporated, followed by a third of the quark cheese. Repeat this step until all butter and quark cheese has been added and your buttercream looks creamy, fluffy and lump-free.
Divide buttercream into 7 bowls and, using americolor food gel, dye each bowl one of the rainbow colors, leaving one naturally white, and set aside until you are ready for icing.
Place cake on your chosen serving dish, board or platter. Slice the cake into two layers. On the bottom layer, pipe a border of buttercream around the cake to prevent the thyme custard and blueberry compote from oozing out. Fill with the custard and top with compote, then cover with the top layer of cake. Generously spread the frosting onto the cake using an offset spatula and don’t be shy — you want this to be a very thick, colorful layer of frosting. Create waves on the surface of the frosting, allowing the colors to mingle with their neighbors. Sprinkle the peaks and valleys with nonpareils, and let the party begin!
If by chance there are any leftover slices of cake, you may store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. But trust me, most likely there will be nothing remaining – this cake causes you to ask for seconds... enjoy!