While reading A Homemade Life, one of the recipes that I immediately bookmarked was the Vanilla Bean Buttermilk Cake. I had been asked to do a cake and a cupcake tower for a wedding, and the requested flavor: liliko'i! (that's passionfruit for those of you not familiar with the Hawaiian name). By the time I was reading A Homemade Life, I'd already read through several recipes for liliko'i cakes, all of which called for starting with a box mix and juice concentrate and I was hoping to find a way to bring in more liliko'i flavor.
The primary request: make them delicious. Make the cupcakes pack a big flavor punch - something to get people to stop for a moment and be wowed. With that in mind, I started thinking about using a liliko'i filling, and chose to modify the Vanilla Bake Shop's Meyer Lemon Curd recipe. There is a version of the Vanilla Bean Buttermilk Cake recipe on Orangette, Molly Wizenberg's blog. It's not exactly the same as the book version, with one difference being that the online version uses a combination of baking soda and baking powder, and the book version calls for 1 Tablespoon of baking powder. That seemed like a LOT of baking powder to me, but I went ahead and used it, and the cake turned out just fine. Because I'm currently living in a house with an old and cranky oven, I am doing all my cake recipe testing over at Mom & Dads, and they have been happy to be my tasters. When I pulled the cake out of the oven, I already knew that this was not going to be the cake recipe for the wedding, and slicing and tasting confirmed it. While I tried to get specific about why (the best I could come up with initially was "it's good cake, just not wedding cake") I kept eating it, and then I speared a chunk with my fork, swept it through the puddle of lilikoi curd on my plate, popped it into my mouth, and found that with the lilikoi curd on it, I don't care. WOW. This is good curd. Back to the specifics of why it won't be wedding cake - in the book, Molly does say it is best on the day it is made, and I agree, having sampled the cake the day after and then the day after that. I'm planning to make the layers ahead of time and freeze them, so I need something that will hold up better in storage. Mine wound up with several big air bubbles in it (and based on photos I've seen online, this is pretty common). Those can be dealt with either by taking the pan of batter and giving it a couple of good firm whacks on the kitchen counter (risking splattering cake batter all over the place) or by sweeping a thin-bladed knife or a skewer back and forth through the batter in the pan, before putting it in the oven.
Modifications: because I didn't have a vanilla bean, I used only vanilla extract and I suspect that it just didn't pack the same punch. If I make this again, I'll be sure to use the vanilla bean. I still don't have parchment paper, and I think I've got a springform pan but I couldn't find it, so I buttered and floured a regular cake pan generously. The cake didn't stick and turned out of the pan easily; however, I suspect it wound up being a little denser as a result, because the cake couldn't climb up the sides of the pan as easily as it might have with just butter. I didn't do the Glazed Oranges that are paired with this cake recipe since I was making the lilikoi curd.
The lilikoi butter has a wonderful flavor, fruity and floral at the beginning with a nice tangy finish. It's sweet without being cloying. The texture is surprisingly light and the mouthfeel is actually a bit fluffy, which some people like a lot (I'm not as big a fan of this, but that didn't stop me from eating several spoonfuls). This is also not the recipe that will wind up in the wedding - it is too runny for what I have in mind, although it does firm up some after refrigeration. I will be making it again, though. If you try it, do keep in mind that this makes a big batch, and the recipe says it will keep for 3 - 4 days in the fridge.
Vanilla Bake Shop's Meyer Lemon Curd (via Martha Stewart)
Modifications: replaced the lemon juice with fresh liliko'i juice (cut open several lilikoi and press the pulp in a fine mesh sieve, discarding the seeds. Alternately, if you have access to a Vitamix, blend the pulp until the seeds are ground into fine specks - they are edible and contribute to the flavor nicely). I did use lemon zest but I think this could be left out. The recipe calls for putting it through a fine mesh sieve; I didn't and the texture didn't seem to suffer at all.