Over the summer, a customer called PS 7’s pastry chef Leon Baker to talk about making a birthday cake for an upcoming party at the Penn Quarter restaurant. Baker says the customer wanted crème brûlée and traditional cake put together—a hybrid dessert Baker had never heard of. What he came up with—crème brûlée between two layers of cake—was so successful that he adapted it for the restaurant’s menu.
While it’s no longer available at PS 7’s—the menu changes with the seasons—Baker says it was one of the most popular desserts in the warmer months. Because the recipe calls for dried, not fresh, lavender, you can make it all year.
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Lavender Brûlée Cake
Makes one 9-by-9-inch cake.
For the pound cake:
½ pound butter
2 cups sugar
¾ cups honey
5 egg yolks
1½ cups cake flour
2½ teaspoons baking powder
Zest of a lemon
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Put the butter, sugar, and honey into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed for about 10 minutes or until well incorporated.
In a small bowl, mix the egg yolks and whole eggs together and set aside. Sift the cake flour and baking powder together in a medium bowl. Alternately, fold the dry ingredients and egg mixture into the butter mixture. Mix in the lemon zest. Spray a 9-by-9-inch pan with nonstick spray and line it with parchment paper. Spread the batter into the pan and bake for about 12 minutes or until the cake is set. Let cool and set aside.
For the crème brûlée:
¾ cup sugar plus 1⁄8 cup sugar, divided
17 egg yolks
1 quart heavy cream
1 cup milk
1 cup dry lavender, available at Whole Foods
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
In a medium bowl, whisk the ¾ cup of sugar and the egg yolks together. In a saucepan set over medium heat, bring the remaining 1⁄8 cup of sugar and the heavy cream to a boil. Pour the milk into a stainless bowl. When the cream comes to a boil, slowly (so as not to cook the eggs) pour the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into the egg mixture. Mix together, then pour the yolk mixture into the milk. Let chill for about an hour.
Spray a 9-by-9-inch pan with cooking spray and place parchment paper on the bottom, making sure it’s flat and stuck to the bottom. Pour the crème brûlée mixture into the pan, and bake 12 to 15 minutes. You’ll know it’s ready if it stays still when you shake the pan. When it’s done, place the pan into the freezer and freeze until solid.
To assemble the cake:
1 cup sugar, plus more to taste
1 cup water
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, bring the sugar, water, and vanilla to a boil and let cool, creating a vanilla simple syrup.
Brush the cake with the vanilla simple syrup. Place the frozen crème brûlée on top of the cake, paper side up. Peel paper off the top. Cut the cake into the desired size while the crème brûlée is still somewhat frozen. Sprinkle the top with sugar to taste, then caramelize with a brûlée torch. Baker suggests serving the cake with raspberry sorbet.
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