3.08.2014

Lemon Yogurt Pound Cake with Candied Lemon Slices


If the winter were to last for two more months, I would be happy. I know... I am about the only one. I love the cold and cozy warmth of winter. Scarves and wind, salty boots and the sound of logs shifting in a crackling fire. Snow falling quietly in the darkness. Breath crystallizing in the air before the car begins to warm. Bare tree limbs and stillness against a gray sky while the earth sleeps deeply. I love it all.

My best friend moved three thousand miles away to California, away from long, cold winters.  
Yesterday I received a text from her saying that it has been twenty years now... twenty years... it hardly seems possible. She is still the only one I know who, not only shares my own strange sense of humor, but who will also stay up late into the night, making costumes before Halloween or a child's birthday, creating wizard staffs carefully cut and sanded from twisted tree branches (her), two hundred wild roses out of crepe paper for fairy crowns (me), cakes carved and frosted into life-like leopards, or sugar paste replicas of electric guitars... carved, painted, and glittered styrofoam peacocks for a second grade medieval banquet, all stress and glue gun burns, at two o'clock in the morning. Texting... are you awake?  It's like art school never ended. 


While visiting her in Berkeley, years ago, I was amazed that along the border of the house she and her husband had recently purchased, there grew a hedge of  young lemon trees. Lemon trees! I could hardly believe, growing up in New England, a person able to walk out of their back door and pick a lemon.


While I miss her, I can't imagine her living anywhere else, as much as I can't imagine living anywhere more than a shortish ride into New York. Sometimes I indulge in briefly wondering about all of the cool projects we would work on, with our children growing up together, but really, it's enough that there is someone else in the universe who understands that you've been up all night making polymer clay stands for model reindeer so they can fit inside of thirty baby food jar snow globes. Because, well of course you are.



Lemon Yogurt Cake
makes 1 loaf

adapted from Ina Garten

The cake itself is flavored with vanilla with lemon zest. Paper thin slices of lemon are slowly simmered in sugar syrup, after removing these to dry, lemon juice is added to the syrup, and then poured over the hot cake, creating a very moist, fragrant spongy cake with a lot of bright, tart lemon flavor.

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder (I prefer aluminum-free)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup whole-milk yogurt (I substituted 2/3 cup nonfat yogurt and 1/3 cup heavy cream)
1 cup sugar
3 extra-large eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (two lemons)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I would like to try coconut oil next time)

Preheat oven to 350°. Line the bottom and sides of a standard loaf pan with two sheets of parchment that overlap each other, one horizontally draped over the sides, the other draped lengthwise.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In another medium bowl, whisk together yogurt (and cream if using), sugar, eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the flour mixture into the yogurt mixture until combined. Fold in the oil with a rubber spatula until it is all incorporated. Pour into prepared pan. Bake until nicely golden, and just until the cake springs back in the center when pressed gently with a finger, instead of leaving a dent, or until a toothpick or skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out without wet batter or wet crumbs attached, about 50 minutes.

Leaving the cake in the pan, pour half of reserved lemon syrup (recipe below). Save the rest of the syrup for another use. (cocktails?) Cool completely. Remove cake to a wire rack over a sheet pan to catch drips. Pour glaze (recipe below) over the cooled cake. Garnish with lemon slices.



Candied Lemon Slices and Lemon Syrup
makes about 10 slices

adapted from Martha Stewart

1 lemon
1 cup sugar

Prepare an ice water bath: fill a bowl with water and ice, and have it close to the stove. Using a mandolin or sharp knife, slice the lemon as thinly as possible. This helps the slices to become translucent through the white pith as they cook, and easier to eat.

In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil over moderate heat. Remove from heat, and gently stir the slices into the hot water. Remove them after one minute to the ice water bath to stop cooking.

In a medium skillet, bring sugar and 1 cup of water to a boil over moderate heat. When the sugar has dissolved and the liquid is clear, reduce heat to low. Add lemon slices in a single layer, simmer slowly until translucent, carefully turning them over with tongs once, about 1 hour.

Remove slices to a parchment-lined baking sheet, reserving the syrup for the cake. Bake in a 150° oven until as dry as desired, about 20 minutes, or if you prefer them crisp, up to 6 hours.



Glaze

1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Mix together in a small bowl.





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