Arnold Palmer Cake
Momofuku Milk Bar might seem light years away from the Masters, but the Manhattan bakery pays tasty homage to one of golf’s greatest. Arnold Palmer’s eponymous drink (half lemonade, half sweet tea) is the inspiration for pastry chef Christina Tosi’s hugely popular Arnold Palmer cake. “I became obsessed with the Arnold Palmer while experimenting with lemon and tea as a palate cleanser,” says the Virginia native, who applied the ingredients to everything from sorbet to jelly before creating the cake.
The ultimate centerpiece dessert for Sunday’s final round, it’s composed of three layers of sweet-tea cake (Lipton tea leaves are folded straight into the batter!) separated by lemony mascarpone cream, plus a bit of almond-tea-crunch for texture. “Everything you love about the Arnold Palmer as a drink translates just as well to this dessert,” Tosi says. “Only instead of gulping it, you get to eat it by the slice.”
Note: This recipe is time intensive, but we think the end result is worth the effort.
- For the Lemon Tea Cake: Preheat oven to 350° F.
- Cream the butter and granulated sugar in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. After 2 or 3 minutes on medium-high, scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the eggs and egg yolks one by one until they disappear into the butter and sugar.
- Scrape down the sides again and turn the mixer to low speed. Stream in the oil, buttermilk, lemon juice, and lemon extract. Mix on medium until everything is homogenous and fluffy—about 5 minutes.
- Combine the flour, tea leaves, baking powder, and salt in a separate mixing bowl. With the mixer running on low, incorporate the dry ingredients into your main bowl. You don’t want to overmix the cake; just mix until the dry ingredients disappear (45 seconds or so).
- Line a quarter sheet pan with parchment or a Silpat. Spread the cake batter on the pan and give it a little jiggle to even things out. Bake for about 30 minutes, then give it a gentle poke. You’re looking for it to bounce back and for the cake to have pulled back from the edges a bit.
- For the Bitter Tea Soak and Tea Jelly: Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove it from the heat and add the tea bags. Let the bags steep for 5 minutes, or until the tea is very bitter. Discard the tea bags and store the bitter tea soak in an airtight container.
- In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk together the sugar, pectin, and tea powder until thoroughly combined. Over high heat, slowly whisk in 3 cups of bitter tea soak and the lemon juice, and bring to a full rolling boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for at least 2 minutes. This activates the pectin and will turn the tea and lemon into a beautiful jelly. Transfer the jelly to an appropriate container and refrigerate. Once set, the jelly will keep for 2 weeks in the fridge. (Makes a little more than you need for the Arnold Palmer Cake)
- For the Lemon Mascarpone: Bloom the gelatin in cold water.
- In a saucepan, whisk together the sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and eggs. Cook the mixture over low heat, whisking constantly. The mixture will thicken as it comes to a simmer. Once it does, take the pan off the heat.
- Whisk in the bloomed gelatin, butter, and salt. Mix until everything is fully incorporated, shiny, and smooth. (You can do this in a blender if you like.) Transfer the lemon curd to a container and cool in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.
- In a stand mixer outfitted with the paddle attachment (or a mixing bowl, using a spatula), fully combine the lemon curd and the mascarpone. It’s important that both the cheese and the curd are cold, or they won’t come together properly. Lemon mascarpone will hold in the fridge for a about a week. (Makes a little more than you need for the Arnold Palmer Cake)
- For the Almond-Tea-Crunch: Lightly toast the slivered almonds in a preheated 325° F oven, just until they start to take on a little bit of color.
- Combine everything in a stand mixer. Mix over low speed with the paddle attachment for about a minute, until it comes together as a nice sandy crunch.
- To assemble the cake: Invert the sheet pan of lemon tea cake onto a cutting board and peel off the parchment or Silpat from the bottom of the cake.
- Use a cake ring to stamp out two circles from the rectangular cake. Reserve them for your top two cake layers. You’ll bring together the remaining cake “scraps” to form the bottom layer of the cake.
- Clean the cake ring and place it in the center of the parchment-or-Silpat-lined sheet pan.
- For the bottom cake layer: Use your fingers to stamp the cake scraps together into a flat, even layer—the base layer of your cake. No one will ever know you faked it.
- Dunk the pastry brush in bitter tea soak, and give the first layer of cake a good, healthy bath. Use about half the batch.
- Use the back of a spoon to spread half of the lemon mascarpone in an even layer over the base of the cake. Sprinkle half of the almond-tea-crunch evenly across the top of the lemon mascarpone. Finally, use the back of a spoon to spread one-third of the tea jelly as evenly as possible over the crunch.
- For the middle cake layer: Repeat the process of building the first layer, using one of the completed cake rounds as the base.
- For the top cake layer: Nestle the remaining cake round on top of the second layer of tea jelly. Cover the top of the cake with the remaining third of tea jelly, and spread it into an even layer.
- Transfer the assembled cake, sheet pan and all, to the freezer. Freeze for a minimum of 3 hours to set the cake and its filling. The cake will keep in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.
- To serve: Pull the sheet pan out of the freezer. Using your fingers, pop the cake out of the cake ring, and transfer the cake to a platter or cake stand and let it defrost. It usually takes about 3 hours to defrost at room temperature, or 6 hours to defrost in the fridge. If you want to jazz up the presentation, cut paper-thin slices of lemon and arrange them on the top jelly layer. Then slice wedges and serve. Wrapped well with plastic, the cake will keep fresh for up to 5 days in the fridge.
Feuilletine, made of little pieces of crispy broken crepe or cookie, is the secret to the almond-tea-crunch layer in the middle of the cake. Its texture is impossible to replicate at home, so it’s worth seeking feuilletine out at your local grocery store.