As both Passover and Easter are upon us, I am reminded that we are not a religious household. We are, however, a family firmly rooted in our community and we value and practice much that I learned in church as a child.
We treasure our friends. We try to watch over neighbors and always be on the lookout for those in need of a little support or TLC. We strive for kindness, fairness and empathy. Sometimes we succeed, occasionally we fail, but we never take for granted our good fortune.
I’ve come to see gratitude, volunteerism and compassion as my own kind of religion. I try not to kick myself too much that I am not a regular churchgoer, or I am failing my kids in some way — I just do what I can.
Portlanders embraced my family when we arrived nearly broken from San Francisco a decade back and not only did this help to repair us, those around us have restored our faith in humanity and enabled us to rediscover joy in our lives.
Consequently, not a week goes by that we don’t want to show our gratitude for this. Or someone does something unexpectedly terrific for one of us.
Luckily, when you like to bake or cook as much as I do, it’s so easy to show wordless appreciation. After all, I am constantly tinkering in the kitchen, so what’s a little more for someone else?
A tray of salted caramel bars. A quart of homemade chicken soup. A box of wedges of warm lemon Bundt cake, still warm from the oven and redolent of Meyer lemon zest — the particular thought of which had me drooling in anticipation.
Not having been able to do my Meals on Wheels route for the last two weeks, I was eager this week to check in with a couple of my more vulnerable seniors and bring them a little holiday cheer. I also wanted to give all our teachers a little shout out and seeing that both Passover and Easter fell in the same week, there was extra reason to celebrate.
And what better way to belatedly give a nod to spring than making something with lemons?
I have made Ina’s Garten’s (of Barefoot Contessa fame) Lemon Cake more times than I care to admit (well over a hundred but that’s all I have to say). I have made it straight up, I have swapped out Meyer for regular lemon juice, at other times I have used a blend of lime and lemon and just as often have substituted tangerine or orange juice for the citrus. And guess what? It’s sublime every time.
And aren’t these Meyer lemons unbelievable? They were so special they deserved a cake as spectacular as they were.
The irony of this cake is that its rich, moist interior (given a boost from a thick, buttermilky batter) means that it will keep for days, and yet it’s this very factor that guarantees it will probably be devoured entirely within an hour after coming out of the oven. Consider yourself forewarned.
If it doesn’t wow you, I doubt anything could.
- For the Cake:
- ½ lb. unsalted butter at room temperature
- 2½ C. granulated sugar
- 4 extra large eggs at room temperature
- ⅓ C. grated lemon zest (6-8 large lemons)
- 3 C. all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- ¾ C. freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ¾ C. buttermilk at room temperature
- 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- For the Glaze:
- 2 C. confectioner's sugar
- 3½ Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease, flour, and line the bottom of two 81/2 X 41/4 X 2½ inch loaf pans with parchment paper. (I just used one bundt pan and it also worked out great).
- Cream the butter and 2 Cups granulated sugar in the bowl of an automatic mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy.With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, one at a tiime, and the lemon zest.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine ¼ Cup lemon juice, the buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour.
- Divide the batter evenly between the pans, smooth the tops, and bake for 45 minute to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.
- Combine ½ Cup granulated sugar with ½ Cup lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves.
- When the cakes are done, let them cool for 10 minutes, then invert them onto a rack set over a tray, and spoon the lemon syrup over the cakes, allow the cakes to cool completely.
- For the glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar and the lemon juice in a bowl, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth. Pour over the top of the cakes and allow the glaze to drizzle down the sides.