As this week’s article hits newsstands I will be watching the skies to see if the lion or the lamb will introduce the month of March. I am definitely maintaining the ‘get it over with’ mentality and hoping for the lion so we can coast downhill towards to the lamb, rubber boots, grass, and sweet, sweet spring.
This winter has been a tough one; we have been spoiled the last few years with milder temperatures, but this year was not so. I write about the weather a lot because I feel it is such a huge part of our culture and for those of us outside all day — fighting the losing battle of wind, snow, and frigid temperatures, it is a big piece of our lives.
But don’t feel bad, because when the sun comes out and the wind calms, there is that moment that every person who ever chose to work outdoors just loves — that moment when you wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world. When you get that burst of inside-out happiness that only comes from truly being in fresh air; lucky comes to mind, smiling because you can enjoy the scents, sounds, and sights of working in the natural world.
Like my last article, I am continuing my journey into spring by endorsing the use of sunshine-emoting ingredients that contribute to the feeling of inside-out happiness and positive well-being.
Lemons are as brightly colored as they are flavoured and an integral part of most kitchens. They offer powerful vibrancy and an unmatched ability to expose flavours in the same way that salt does. For example, the right amount of salt can expose many nuances in flavour and so can a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. A low-calorie flavour enhancer it is great squeezed over fresh greens or fruit as a simple and refreshing dressing. Added to butter and cream sauces, its natural acidity is a great buffer and it is the perfect balance to the weight of heavier flavours.
Most sweet dessert items are also made better by the addition of the signature, sunshine-adding acidity. And that is where my journey has taken me this week. My local grocery store had Meyer Lemons on display and I thought it would be a great opportunity to explore a new ingredient and help me promote the joy of spring’s inside-out happiness.
Meyer lemons are sweeter and juicier than traditional lemons. Fragrant, almost floral, with thinner skins; they are delicately interesting and smaller than average lemons. They are said to be a cross between traditional lemons and mandarins.
I spent some time visiting different recipes and internet sites researching the meyer lemons and found some interesting recipes to try. I had a hard time finding a recipe that used enough of the ingredients to warrant even worth trying. Many recipes used only a quarter or half of a teaspoon of juice. Who wants a cake that kind-of tastes like lemons… I wanted a cake that EXPLODES with the signature zing of my newly-found ingredient.
So here is what I did. I took a basic cake recipe and I jacked it up in my own classic Amy-style... no there is no garlic in this recipe, but what a fantastic opportunity to truly showcase my cute new Meyer friends. I wanted this cake to be bolder on all fronts than all the recipes I looked at, and I wanted people to know at first whiff that this was a seriously bright lemon cake. In effort to keep my picture interesting and my own selfish love of raspberries, I added swirls of raspberry preserves before baking to really create some interest visually. Like taking in that deep breath of crisp spring air, this cake will undoubtedly make you rush with inside-out happiness.
Meyer Lemon and Raspberry Cake
3 Meyer lemons zested
1/3 cup Meyer lemon juice
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup white sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup raspberry preserves (optional)
Pre-heat oven to 350 F
Butter a 9-inch springform pan and line the bottom with a circle of parchment.
Place the room temperature butter in a mixer bowl and mix on medium-high until very light and fluffy; about 5 minutes in a warm kitchen, longer if the butter is cool.
Add the vanilla and scrape the mixing bowl. Continue mixing on medium speed and add the warm eggs one at a time. Mixing until the entire egg is completely incorporated and the mixture is an even and smooth consistency. Scrape after each egg addition. Continue to mix until it is a smooth and even consistency.
Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Mix in the lemon zest. Set aside.
Measure out the lemon juice, ensure there are no seeds.
With the mixer on low speed, add the 1/3 of the flour mix and mix until just combined, scrape bowl. Add 1/2 of the lemon juice and mix until combined, then another 1/3 of the flour, mix then scrape; add the last of the lemon juice mix and then the last of the flour and mix until smooth. Note: Scraping ensures a smooth and even batter.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out the top with a spatula. Spoon the raspberry preserves onto the top of the cake. Using a bamboo skewer or knife, gently swirl the raspberry into the cake batter.
Place in the oven and bake for 35-45 minutes until fully baked.
This basic recipe will respond well to lots of versatility: a lemon glaze, lemon curd filling, whipped cream, fresh fruit, or even chocolate ganache are great ways to further dress up this basic, but deliciously lemon cake.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 2, 2013