In between painting and organizing my youngest daughters room this past few weeks, I have been craving something, anything, with a vanilla bean and lime combination. I have seen so many recipes using either of those ingredients from the grill to the dessert table, on various different blogs over the last few weeks, and those two flavors spoke strongly to me. I absolutely adore most anything lime. Isn't it funny, though, that I have never enjoyed any recipe for a key Lime Pie..? But if you feel you have one that is simply outstanding, please, let me know. I want to like it!
Another flavor that I am simply crazy over is vanilla. Specifically anything with fresh vanilla beans. The aroma is just so amazingly intoxicating, and I have always been so intrigued with how something that starts out as a simple green looking bean, has the ability to become such a complex, heavenly scent and flavor. Ever since I read last year about how amazing homemade bourbon vanilla is, over at A Yankee In A Southern Kitchen, I have always made my own, never to look back. The longer it sits, the more amazing it smells and tastes.
So while craving something rich and vanilla, I stumbled across this blog, Confections of a Foodie Bride, and her adaptation of Tahitian Vanilla Bean Cake. I had to adapt that recipe, somewhat, for what I had on hand, which resulted in a slightly dense, yet moist cake. I thought that would be a perfect combination with a lime buttercream. Now, I've made basic Italian Buttercream frosting for many years, but never thought to play with it and make a lime buttercream. Until now. Replacing the water in the recipe with fresh lime juice, zest, and vanilla bean resulted in a refreshing summertime buttercream. Not overly rich, not overly sweet. Just refreshingly "right".
3 c cake flour
1Tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 c unsalted butter, room temperature
2 c sugar
1- 1/4 cups whole milk combined with 1-1/2 Tbs vinegar (or use buttermilk instead)
1 Tbs liquid vanilla
In medium bowl sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, beat butter and vanilla scraped from pod. (You can use the remaining pod to make vanilla sugar by placing in a container with a cup of sugar and letting sit a few weeks). Beat butter and vanilla until very light and creamy.
Scrape bowl and add the sugar, about a 1/4 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down sides of bowl, then add eggs one at a time, until well combined.
Stir the liquid vanilla into the whole milk/ vinegar mixture. Then add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture alternatively with the milk mixture. Mix until combined well.
Pour the batter in 2 greased and floured 8" pans, and bake for about 45 to 55 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes before removing to wire rack for continued cooling.
1/2 c fresh lime juice
2 -1/4 c sugar
5 large egg whites
2 sticks salted butter, cubed and very cold
2 -1/4 sticks unsalted butter, cubed, and very cold
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
Zest of 3 limes
Few drops of green food coloring, if desired
Candy thermometer necessary!
Pour the lime juice, scraped vanilla beans, and sugar into a 1 quart saucepan and place over medium heat. When you see bubbles starting to form, clip a candy thermometer onto edge of pan.
Meanwhile, place egg whites into large mixing bowl with whisk attachment, and whip on medium high until whites hold soft peaks. (A stand mixer works best).
When the lime-sugar mixture reaches 250 degrees (soft ball stage), remove from heat, and very slowly, at the edge of mixing bowl, drizzle hot mixture into the continually beating egg mixture. Add lime zest. Beat the mixture until it resembles a glossy meringue, and gets warm but not hot, about 15 minutes.
When the outer part of bowl feels warm, stop mixer and add very cold cubed butter all at once (doing so will allow the mixture to cool immediately, and incorporated well, without melting. Mix on medium high until well blended and cool, about 15 minutes. Stop mixer, add food coloring (if desired), scrape bowl, and mix about a minute till all is blended well.
Place the buttercream in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, level top of cake by slicing off (eyeballing it) crowned portion of cake (Makes a fantastic "cooks treat"!). I then took each layer and torted, or sliced in half.
Once buttercream is nice and cool, place layer on cake platter and spread buttercream 1/8" to 1/4" thick, depending on preference. Once all 4 layers are stacked, frost cake completely, and decorate with remaining buttercream and garnish with lime zest, if desired.
Perfect with a tall glass of ice tea, or milk. Not too sweet. Summer citrus and vanilla bean at its best!