Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The Rules of Liverpool

  1. One of the things that the Brave Astronaut Clan has been doing during this time of quarantine is playing a card game popular in our family, Liverpool.  It is a contract rummy game that was taught to us years ago by our cousin, while we were visiting our grandmother's house in Owl's Head, Maine.  It is a contract rummy game with a series of hands varying in melds.  A minimum of three players is required for the game.  The game is played with two decks, including jokers.  An additional deck is added for every two players (5 players, three decks, 7 players, four decks, etc.)
Here are the hands:
6: Two sets of three (three fours, three jacks, etc.)
7:  One set, one run (three of a kind, one straight flush - for all you poker players out there)
8:  Two runs
9:  Three sets
10:  Two sets, one run
11:  Two runs, one set
12:  Three runs (no discard)

  • Aces and Jokers are 15 points each
  • Face cards are 10 points each
  • All other cards are face value
  1. There is no buying of cards in the first round.  Beginning in the second round, a player may buy the discard of a player out of order.  The discard goes to the next player to the left without penalty. If the next player to the left wishes to buy the card they may do so, with a penalty card from the top of the pile.  The right to purchase a card moves around to the left.  The player who originally discarded the card may conceivably repurchase the card if they wish to - if no one ahead of them wishes to purchase the card.
  2. When using jokers, a set must contain at least two natural cards and a run must contain at least two natural cards.  If a joker is used in a run or as the third card in a set, the joker may be "stolen" by a player who holds the card for which the joker is holding the card's place (for example, 8, 9, Joker, Jack of clubs may be replaced with the 10 of clubs and used elsewhere on the board).  If the joker is placed on a set, the joker is "dead" and may not be taken.
  3. In a hand where more than one run is required, runs of cards may be constructed in the same suit as long as they are separated by one card (for example, 4, 5, 6, 7 of hearts and 9, 10, J, Q of hearts.  Duplicate runs may also be constructed with overlap (for example, 5, 6, 7, 8 of spades and 7, 8, 9, 10 of spades).
  4. As noted above by the numbers preceding the hands - that is the minimum number of cards required for each meld in the hands (6 - two sets of three cards each, 7, one set of three and one run of four, etc.).
  5. Aces may be high or low, but not both, for example, J, Q, K, A of diamonds or A, 2, 3, 4 of diamonds, but not K, A, 2, 3.
  6. For the first four hands, 10 cards are dealt, for the final three hands 12 cards are dealt.
  7. Once a player goes down, a player may no longer purchase cards.  A discard may be picked up by a player who has gone down only if it can be immediately played on the tableau.  Only players who have gone down may play cards on the tableau.
  8. In the final hand, no discard is allowed.  Only one player will go down in the final hand.  The card that is picked up, either from the discard pile or from the face down pile, must fit into the meld to end the hand.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Posts From A Pandemic

Today is Sunday May 10, 2020.  LBA's last day of attending school was Wednesday March 11.  SoBA's last day when he was present in school was Friday March 13.  Mrs. BA's last day in the office was Tuesday March 18.  My last day in the office was Tuesday March 23.

As of tomorrow, we will be starting on our 8th week of quarantine under the stay at home orders in our state.  Mrs. BA and I have been 100% teleworking since coming home.  Both of the boys have been doing online schooling.

100% teleworking in my line of work is difficult - for those of you who know what it is I do (or do the same sort of work) - you get that - but I'm managing.

Here are some of the things that I have accomplished over the past eight weeks.
  • Completed a finding aid for the Brave Astronaut Family Archives.  There is more work to be done - I am moving on to Mrs. BA's papers next.  I am also planning on working on the Special Media Archives for the Brave Astronaut Clan - I have possession of the family home movies on 8mm and have been meaning to putting them on DVD (I did it a while ago - but it needs to be redone).  I also have tons of photographs that I have plans to digitize - this was a goal during the government shutdown in 2019 - but I didn't get to it.  This will likely be a long term project and I'm looking at finding outside help to get this done.
  • Other records management tasks undertaken involved updating the Brave Astronaut Library on Library Thing - the collection is only about 500 books.
  • I'm trying to get out a walk a little each day.  My FitBit mocks me each weekday - I have reminders set up to make sure that I get up and move each hour.  As a result of this, I've gone from an average of 6,000 steps a day to less than 2,000.
  • I'm sleeping well (not as good or as much as LBA - who is going to bed late and getting up even later - ah, the life of a teenager).  I also started out by not setting an alarm but am now trying to get out of bed by 8:00am - that allows me to get to work by about the same time (no more commuting!).  
  • Speaking of work - I am doing what I can under the circumstances - as I often note, it is hard for me to do my job without being with the records, but it has allowed all of us to do some stuff that we don't normally get to do and we are managing the best we can.  It has been said that we aren't necessarily working from home - we are managing the best we can while staying at home.
  • Mrs. BA is working from home in the bedroom in the basement - collectively known here at the Launchpad as the Sewing Palace.  She started out working at the kitchen table but the distraction of people walking by the house proved too much.  She has also produced hundreds of protective masks for the local hospital, part of a local group here in town that has been providing needed masks to local frontline providers.
  • Both of the boys are doing online schooling - LBA has an A day and an B day - the B day involves a math class, which doesn't really have an online component, lunch, gym, and band - so his B days are definitely less taxing.  LBA has about two weeks of school left.
  • I go grocery shopping every two weeks or so.  The new normal is of course, waiting on line and then making one's way around a store.  I've described grocery shopping in this time as what it would have been like to shop in the Soviet state, if it was in the market, it went in the cart.  It didn't matter what it cost, if it was there and maybe we could use it, I bought it.  I also have been giving gift cards to the checkout staff - because they are working under extremely trying circumstances.
  • The four of us are playing a lot of cards, specifically Liverpool.  As of today we have played about 30 games.  The next post contains the rules of the game.  One other thing that has taken place during this time - is that Mrs. BA has created a database of games played by the extended Brave Astronaut Clan (I have been the official scorekeeper of games since 2003 - dutifully recorded in notebooks - the first volume has been accessioned into the family archives.)
  • Interior Home Improvement (working from the top down):
    • Attic:  I moved some stuff around, I got rid of stuff (including sending two boxes of shirts to my sister to make quilts for LBA and SoBA).  I also have three bags of school uniforms that don't fit SoBA any longer - but no one is going to be needing school uniforms anytime soon.  There was some talk about putting the Christmas lights back up, which are stored in the attic - that's certainly an option - I could get a jump on the town lights contest for 2020. (The lights discussion reminds me of my idea for a set of lights that could be changed based on the holiday / season (Feburary: pink/red, March: green, April pastels, May, June, July: red, white, and blue, August: ?, September ?, October: orange, November, orange, December: multi, red-green)
    • BA Bedroom: I'd like to install a closet system.  The kitties have clawed a hole in the mesh of the box spring and we are going to lay a piece of plywood to cut off access to their favorite lair.  I'd also like to paint.
    • Bathroom: I'd like to remove an old tile towel holder and also repair a missing tile space (from where the other tile towel holder was).
    • LBA bedroom: in pretty good shape.
    • SoBA bedroom: he needs curtains.
    • Living Room:  I've hung some new artwork, and I would really like to replace the furniture with a set that somewhat matches.  Currently the couch, 2 chairs, 2 end tables, and coffee table are all different.  The pieces of furniture that are staying are my mother's desk (command control for the Launchpad and my home office) and my father's bar (which could benefit from refinishing).  I'd also like to paint.
    • Dining Room:  I've wanted to replace the dining set for a long time.  Wayfair is my new best friend.
    • Kitchen:  I've done some routine organizing.  I pulled out the drawer where the ziploc bags live and found that nearly 40 gallon size ziploc bags had fallen behind the drawer.  Mrs. BA and I are contemplating replacing the microwave and I'd like to replace the dishwasher - then all of the appliances will be stainless.  And the kitchen needs painting.
    • 1/2 bath: I'm proud to say that just yesterday I replaced the fill valve and the flapper on the toilet and did not flood the house or otherwise screw it up.  I also need a piece of replacement glass for a shelf or two new shelves for the bathroom.  There's also the matter of the window, which LBA broke part of, probably 5 years ago.
    • Laundry Room:  I've wanted to replace the utility sink for some time. Earlier this week I replaced the furnace filter and switched over from heat to A/C, then it got cold again.  Go Home Mother Nature, you're drunk.
    • Family Room:  I've hung some new artwork in the family room - but I'd really like to paint and there is another poster print that someone gave us for our anniversary that would look good there, but wall space is becoming precious.  I'd also like to replace the sofa bed with a new one.
    • Basement bath: recently painted - there's not much to do here.
    • Basement bedroom:  Currently the domain of Mrs. BA and the Sewing Palace, I'd like to get in there and paint.
    • Archives and Under Foyer area: the archives are currently being processed (see above) and the under foyer area needs some additional organization - though I have already been through there once.
  • Exterior Home Improvement: Part of my day involves opening the front door and looking out at the yard or the house and think about what it is I would like to do.  The big ideas involve building a new shed toward the back of the yard, demolishing the existing shed, and extending the existing deck off the kitchen to the porch.  What I am hoping to do is paint the screened in porch (replacing all of the screens, which already have holes in them, so it's needed), possibly replacing the screen door, painting the brick, the floor, the ceiling, and the metal trim.
  • Yard Work: I think that I mowed the lawn for the earliest time ever - I pulled out the lawn mower on March 31.  I have mowed the lawn several times already and the lawn service has been by a few times to fertilize the lawn.  Unfortunately the moles may be back and are not adhering to their stay at home order.
I've also come to the realization that I don't own enough loungewear.  How are you?

Monday, January 28, 2019

End of the Shutdown

On December 21, 2018, the federal government ran out of money to fund a portion of the government and approximately 800,000 federal workers were furloughed on Wednesday December 26, 2018 and the government shut down.  The President of the United States demanded money for a southern border wall, which was (and is) unneeded and wasteful.  Both houses Congress passed an appropriations bill, which the President refused to sign and the shutdown continued.

Finally 35 days later - as airports began to experience ground stops and flight delays (TSA workers were forced to work without pay), the President capitulated and reopened the government. A three week continuing resolution was signed; back pay was authorized for furloughed federal employees, and we can all breathe a little easier, until the CR runs out on February 15.

So what did I do with my time off?  I'm glad you asked.  I kept a log.  Mrs. BA began telling people that she believed that I may have touched every single item in the Launchpad at least once.  That is likely true.  I spent a lot of time cleaning, organizing, purging, rearranging, and redecorating.

Some specifics:
  • I sent a number of old winter coats off for new lives, courtesy of a coat drive, sponsored by the Cheverly American Legion and other donation spots.
  • I cleaned and organized all of our cabinets and closets throughout the house and lined the shelves with shelf liners (and yes, I alphabetized the spice rack).
  • Several months ago, I ordered two cartons of clamshell archival storage boxes.  As the last project I worked on during the furlough (really, who wants to deal with archives when you're not being paid to deal with archives), I reboxed the entirety of the Brave Astronaut Archives.  I did not get a chance to work on a finding aid.  Perhaps in three weeks.
  • As part of the archival project noted above, I have pulled together approximately 10 boxes of photographs.  That project, too, must wait for another time, when I will hopefully scan and preserve the photographs.  I know that some of you are dying to see some photos, but you're just going to have to wait.
  • Just prior to the shutdown, I revisited my LibraryThing catalog.  I spent a portion of the furlough re-cataloging the Brave Astronaut Library.  I was somewhat disappointed to learn that my book collection is only about 500 books (and some of them are not on the shelf - several of them are for sale - and many were donated to the boy's school MLK Day of Service project).
  • I de-Christmased the house, at least the interior.  I did not take the lights off the outside of the house.  It was too cold, then it snowed.  I made a decision to leave them up until the shutdown is over and am going to try and move forward with my invention (which actually may already exist) for "year round lights" that you can program to change color based on the season and/or holiday.
  • I organized the cellarette (which is a fancy, French word for bar).  I needed easier access for day drinking if it came to that, which luckily it didn't ever get to.
  • I got rid of an old sideboard that had been in the dining room since shortly after we moved into the Launchpad in favor of an IKEA Kallax shelving unit.
  • Despite the cold, I spent some time in the attic, cleaning and organizing (I had to put the Christmas stuff back).  I found artwork that had come to the Launchpad (there is other artwork in various closets and other storage places) and did make some changes to the gallery collection and am planning on hanging some new works around the Launchpad.
  • Bad Parenting Mistake #1 (there may have been more, but this was the first one and it got me into the most trouble): while cleaning SoBA's room, I may have deconstructed several Lego pieces in an effort to streamline the multiple boxes of Legos in SoBA's room.
  • I did some records disposal courtesy of the Launchpad fireplace.  In 2013, I did the same thing - but that was October and it wasn't nearly as cold as it was these past few weeks - so it helped with the heating bills to destroy some records.
  • I grocery shopped during the week, which if you've been to the grocery store on a weekend day - you'll know that is a joy unto itself.  On several occasions, I think the staff outnumbered the customers.
We were lucky than most folks, Mrs. BA works for a federal agency, but is not a federal employee and her office is in a non-federal building.  So she went to work every day, and got paid regularly, which was more than a lot of folks who are two income federal employee families.  She would come home in the evening and find things different than when she left in the morning.  I may have also made piles for her, which she very kindly went through, either with me or on her own.  As a result of me rearranging stuff, she has also gotten back into knitting and cross-stitching, while also giving away some of her crafting stuff, allowing me to sell some kits on eBay, and she bought a sewing machine.

Of all the residents at the Launchpad, it's possible that LBA may have been most relived that I was called back to work.  As the shutdown entered into its fourth week, I mentioned in jest, to the boy's principal that maybe I should come in and sub at their school.  In fact, one of LBA's teachers was preparing to go out on maternity leave.  The principal however, was completely serious and wanted to know if I would consider it.  I went back and forth about the idea and ultimately agreed that I would do it and was prepared to start next week.  I didn't agree to it until I had LBA's buy-in, which he thought about for a while and ultimately agreed.  So while I missed my chance to get back in the classroom, I'm ready to go on Day 1 if need be in three weeks.

I did manage to get out and do some fun things, I had a few furlough lunches with friends, two of my colleagues joined me at the boy's school to judge some National History Day projects, and I was able to spend the right amount of time on some of my other projects for which I wear a responsibility hat, including the pool in town, for which I am Treasurer, the boy's school Casino Night event, which will take place this coming Saturday, and leading our Parish Men's Club, for which we will be holding a furlough potluck supper on Thursday evening - because for many, this shutdown is still hurting and everybody needs an opportunity to have a night out and not worry about anything.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Blog Post Number 1524

On September 5, 2006, I began this blog, Order from Chaos, with the tagline, "An opportunity to comment on a life very full, with room for improvement, and little time to do it."  Since that day, I hope that you have enjoyed the content that I have posted here.  Those of you who know me, know that I like numbers, so here are some, as I hang up my shoes for this blog (as a regularly scheduled poster, anyway - I might post on occasion now and then).

I want to thank all of you, my dear readers, for traveling along with me.  It's been a great ride, and I'll check in now and again to see how you all are doing and to give you an update on the Brave Astronaut Clan.
  • 2 - the number of places I have lived during the life of this blog.  We're pretty settled at the Launchpad right now, I don't think we're moving again anytime soon.
  • 3 - the number of series that were posted on the blog: Presidents of the United States, States of the Union, and Signers of the Declaration.  I had thought about a series on UN Member States, but it never came to fruition.
  • 6 - the number of blogs I have maintained.  2 are private and specific to my and Mrs. BA's family but have not been "turned on" yet.  One was a political blog that I started - but it is entirely too painful to write about politics right now, I'm just trying to keep my head down and get through this nightmare.  We had a spinoff blog, Take Me Drunk, I'm Home, which was between my friends in a friendly competition for their best drunk stories.  There was also a blog for the fantasy baseball league that I was part of for a few years.
  • 10 - I posted about September 11 on September each year beginning in 2006.
  • 10, about to be 11 is the age of SoBA, who was not born when this blog was started.  LBA turns 14 and enters the 8th grade at the end of August.
  • 12 x 5 - I did "The 12 Posts of Christmas" five times over the history of the blog.  "Christmas" my favorite holiday was tagged 95 times in the blog.
  • 19 - the number of people who are following this blog.
  • 21 - the number of New Years Resolutions that I have posted on the blog, some were repeated from year to year, which should tell you how good I am at keeping those resolutions.
  • 29 - the number of stories I have in my "Feedly, Read Later" list. Feedly is where I get a lot of my recipes and other things that I have posted along the way.
  • 31 - the number of posts that I created during Blogtober 2012.
  • 67 - number of tags for "On This Date" - as an archivist and a "history geek" I tend to mark anniversaries when things come up.  I have also posted regularly on space items (including the launchpad fire that killed the Apollo 1 astronauts (Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee), as I am (and always will be) the Brave Astronaut.
  • 569 - Mondays became Recipe Mondays - there have been 569 recipes posted here (my penultimate blog post was recipe 569, back in May - and I haven't posted to the blog since then).  The first recipe was for Overnight Waffles.  The most commented (12 comments) on recipe was for Pistachio Gelato.
  • 928 - the number of friends I have on Facebook, which is where I spend most of my time, though even that is hard with the current new situation.
  • 2561 / 239 / 390 - the number of tweets / people I am following / people that follow me on Twitter.  I'm not there much anymore - but come and follow me. @legloaj
  • 2578 / 359,766 - number of views of the blog over the last month / number of page views of the blog all time (the number of views of the blog by Russia is the highest (334) - but no, they haven't done anything with our systems, right?
Oh, and two last numbers
  • 97 - the number of days until the 2018 midterm elections, get out and vote.
  • 903 - the number of days until January 20, 2021.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Milk Chocolate and Raspberry Jam Blondies

After my mother died, her recipe box went to my sister, though my siblings and I got some of the recipe cards that my mother had dutifully handwritten over the years or taped recipes from Good Housekeeping or Ladies Home Journal.  Often her recipes (particularly the baking ones) called for "oleo" or "margarine."  There was a feature in the Washington Post Food section a few weeks back that made an argument for salted butter over unsalted butter in baking.  I'll readily admit that I will often buy unsalted butter (to keep in the freezer) at Costco - but salted butter is the norm at the launchpad.

That being said, if Mrs. BA were to make these - I would love her even more than I already do (Sixteen years married - 10 days ago!)

Milk Chocolate and Raspberry Jam Blondies
Here, using salted butter instead of adding salt to a batter separately tends to yield a more muted salinity and, in less capable hands, can lead to a saccharine baked good. When you pair it with something tart, like a fruit — or, as it is done here, raspberry jam — you curtail some of that sweetness and wind up with something beautifully balanced. If you like a more pronounced salty effect and enjoy the crunch that flaky salt provides, sprinkle some of those grains on top of the bars before baking. It’s not necessary here, but it’s all the rage right now.
Make Ahead: The blondies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
SERVINGS: Tested size: 24 blondies


  • 1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) salted butter, melted and cooled but still pourable
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 8 ounces milk chocolate, chopped into slightly smaller than 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1/2 cup raspberry jam
  • 1 teaspoon flaky sea salt (optional)


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray the bottom and sides of an 8-by-12-inch baking pan with cooking oil spray, then line the bottom with parchment paper so that two of the sides hang over the edges (for easy lifting when the slab of blondies is done).
  • Whisk together the brown sugar and eggs in a medium bowl until the mixture is smooth and lightened in color. Carefully whisk the melted butter into the sugar mixture a little at a time so it does not slosh out of the bowl, then whisk in the vanilla extract.
  • Whisk together the flour and baking powder in a separate bowl. Use a flexible spatula to blend the flour mixture into the butter mixture, followed by the chopped milk chocolate, until well incorporated. Scrape into the pan, spreading it evenly into the corners.
  • Drop teaspoonfuls of the jam across the surface of the blondie batter, and then gently pull the tip of a paring knife through the jam in one direction and then the other, creating a zigzag/grid pattern on the surface. Sprinkle the flaky salt on top, if using. Bake (middle rack) for 32 to 35 minutes, rotating the pan front to back halfway through, or until crisp edges form and the top is just set.
  • Cool in the pan, then lift out the slab and cut into 24 equal pieces.
RECIPE SOURCE Adapted from pastry chef Melissa Weller of Walnut Street Cafe in Philadelphia. Tested by Helen Horton and Charlotte Druckman.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Black and White Cupcakes

I'm a fan of the cupcake.  I'm a fan of the Black and White shake.  There's nothing wrong with this.  Recipe from the New York Times Magazine.

Black and White Cupcakes
Yield: 18 cupcakes

Ingredients for the cupcakes
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 10 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 large yolk
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, shaken
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips
Ingredients for the frosting
  • 9 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp confectioner's sugar, sifted
  • 6 tbsp cold unsalted butter
  • sprinkles, optional (are sprinkles ever really optional?)
  1. To make the cupcakes: Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds, and preheat to 350.  Line 18 muffin cups with cupcake papers, or grease the tins.
  2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Working with a mixer, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes.  Add the whole eggs and the yolk one at a time, mixing well after each goes in.  Beat in the vanilla.
  4. On low speed mix in the dry ingredients in three additions and the buttermilk in two, scraping the bowl, as needed, and beating until the batter is smooth.  Mix in the chips.
  5. Divide the batter among the muffin cup.  Bake for 20-22 minutes - rotating the pans top to bottom and front to back  after 10 minutes - or until the tops feel springy to the touch (they won't color much) and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool to room temperature.  Frost, and cover with sprinkles, if you'd like, before the frosting dries.
  6. To make the frosting: Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl, and fit it into a saucepan or simmering water - don't let the bottom of the bowl touch the water.  Melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally.  Remove the bowl from the heat, whisk in the sugar and let rest on the counter for three minutes.  Bit by bit, whisk in the cold butter, mixing until smooth and thickened enough to spread.  Use immediately.

Friday, May 4, 2018

16 Years for Mr. and Mrs. BA!

Today is the day that Mrs. BA and I celebrate sixteen years of marriage.  Wax is the traditional gift for 16 years, but this blog post will have to do instead.  We are also taking LBA and SoBA to the Nationals game this evening - so that should be fun.  We might go out to dinner tomorrow evening for a more traditional anniversary dinner.

I can't begin to imagine what my life would be like without her in it.  She is the best wife ever and the best mother to LBA and SoBA.  Despite my shortcomings, which are many, she appears to love me anyway.  At our wedding rehearsal dinner, I made a comment about how my parents were about to celebrate fifty years of marriage - and that while I would love to set that benchmark for the two of us - age and actuarial tables may prevent us from hitting that number.

Mrs. BA - I have so enjoyed all the years we have already spent and look forward to all the ones in the future we will have together, I love you immensely and can't wait to see what directions our lives will take next.

Many of you know how much Mrs. BA loves weddings - I am sure she will look forward to the Royal Wedding later this month.  While we didn't get an invitation - maybe we can have some "Royal Wedding Cake" while we watch Harry and Meghan tie the knot.  [Bonus] Recipe from the Washington Post.

Royal Wedding Cake
Servings: 16

For the cake
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pans
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (from 1 lemon; reserve the juice for the frosting)
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon St-Germain or other elderflower liqueur (optional)
  • 1/2 cup elderflower cordial, plus more as needed

For the filling
  • 1 cup chilled heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup homemade or store-bought lemon curd, at room temperature
For the frosting
  • 14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 to 5 cups confectioners' sugar, or more as needed
  • 7 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon St-Germain or other elderflower liqueur
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest and 2 tablespoons lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
For assembly
Crystallized Flowers, edible fresh flowers, or a mix (optional)

For the cake: Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Use a little butter or baker’s spray to grease three 8-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. (If you only have one or two pans, cover the batter that’s waiting to be baked; hold at room temperature. Make sure the cake pans are cool before you reuse them, which is pretty easily done with a wash in cool water in the sink.)

Place the granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or handheld electric mixer. Use your clean fingers to rub the lemon zest into the sugar until the sugar is aromatic and moist.

Add the butter; beat on medium-high speed for about 3 minutes, or until the mixture is fluffy and almost white. Meanwhile, lightly whisk together the eggs, vanilla extract and salt in a liquid measuring cup. Reduce the speed to low; gradually add to the butter-sugar mixture until fully incorporated. Stop to scrape down the bowl.

Whisk together the flour and baking powder in a separate bowl, then add half of it to the butter mixture. Beat on low speed until just combined, then add the milk and the elderflower liqueur, if using. Beat on low speed, until combined. Add the remaining flour; beat on low speed until no trace of dry flour remains. Divide equally among the cake pans and smooth the top with an offset or flexible spatula. (If you have a kitchen scale, each portion of batter should weigh about 300 grams, or about 10 1/2 ounces.)

Bake (middle rack) for 15 to 20 minutes, until the top of the cakes spring back to the touch. The edges will be lightly browned and starting to pull away from the sides of the pans. Cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then run a round-edged knife or offset spatula around the inside of the pans to release the layers. Invert onto a wire rack and peel off the parchment paper. Use a pastry brush to apply the elderflower cordial a total of four times, allowing a few minutes in between so the liquid is absorbed.

If you need to reuse the pans to yield a total of three layers, wash and dry the pan(s) and repeat the baking and brushing with cordial.

For the filling: Pour the heavy whipping cream into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with balloon-whisk attachment or use a handheld electric mixer. Beat on high speed until it can hold a firm peak. (Pull off the whisk attachment or beaters out and see how the cream in the bowl and on the equipment looks. If it flops over, it needs more time; if it holds its shape, you’re set.)

Use a flexible spatula to gently fold in half of the lemon curd, lifting cream from the bottom of the bowl over the top of the cream, rotating the bowl as you work. Be careful not to deflate the cream too much. Fold in the remaining lemon curd. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until you’re ready to fill the cake.

For the frosting: Combine the butter and 2 cups of the confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or handheld electric mixer. Beat on low speed and then increase to medium-high. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. On medium-low speed, gradually add the milk, beating until combined.

Add 2 more cups of confectioners’ sugar and beat on low speed for at least 3 minutes. The mixture should be smooth. Add the lemon zest and juice and St-Germain, if using; beat on low speed until incorporated. Continue adding more confectioners’ sugar until you get the right consistency (this can vary somewhat depending on the temperature of your kitchen and how soft the butter was initially); the frosting needs to be thin enough to spread but thick enough to not run off the cake. It’s perfectly fine to let the frosting chill for a bit in the refrigerator; you may need to briefly beat it again to smooth it back out.

To assemble the cake, place a dab of frosting in the middle of a 9- or 10-inch cardboard cake round (you could also just place the cake directly on a large plate, ideally with little or no rim). Place one cake layer in the center, with the cordial-soaked side face up.

Use a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip or zip-top bag with one corner cut off to squeeze a border of frosting around the top of the cake, just inside the edge. This will serve as a kind of dam to hold in the filling.

Use an offset spatula or spoon to spread half the filling inside the ring of frosting. Place the next cake layer on top, also cordial-brushed side up. Repeat with another ring of frosting and the rest of the filling.

Lay the final cake layer on top. Place a small amount of frosting in a separate bowl for the crumb coat, which is your base layer of frosting that will help seal in the crumbs and give you a smooth surface to which you can apply the rest of the frosting. Use an offset spatula or table knife to apply the thin crumb coat all over the top and sides of the cake. Transfer the cake to the refrigerator for 20 to 30 minutes, to let the crumb coat set.

Apply the remaining frosting to the cake, and decorate the top with crystallized and/or fresh flowers, if using. Return the cake to the refrigerator to let the frosting firm back up, another 20 or 30 minutes.

Because the filling and frosting are soft, the cake is easier to cut when it's still a bit chilled; by the time everyone eats the cake, its temperature will be just right. Let the cake sit at room temperature for just a few minutes before cutting into slices and serving.