Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The best lemon cake I've ever tasted

**Directions updated to include when to add lemon zest and juice before baking

Friends had a Greek-themed pot luck dinner party the other night where the chef grilled lamb to perfection. Luckily all of the guests were excellent cooks so the food was delicious. This being tomato season, I made my own version of a Greek salad:  chopped tomatoes, chopped cucumbers, Kalamata olives, and elegant feta made at a farm in nearby NY state.  I tossed it with a mustard vinaigrette seasoned with Penzey's Greek seasoning.  Delish!

Deb Guhl, a guest with a real talent for baking, brought the best lemon cake I've ever eaten.  I got the first piece, but when I went back for seconds, it was all gone!  So I had to go home to make my own.  Luckily Deb told me the recipe was from The Silver Palate cookbook, one of my all-time favorites, so I didn't need to go far to find it.

Deb's cake was frosted as the recipe recommended.  But 1 stick butter and 1 pound confectioner's sugar just for the frosting got me a little nervous (well, the cake itself has 2 sticks butter!), so I skipped that and just made a glaze with about 3 T fresh lemon juice and enough confectioner's sugar to taste good.  Perfection! 

Like so many cakes and breads, this lemon cake is actually better the second day (although that didn't stop me from slicing a small piece just as it came out of the oven).

Next to the lemon cake recipe is one for an orange cake.  Tune in tomorrow to see how this one tastes.
Silver Palate Lemon Cake
½ lb sweet butter at room temperature
2 c granulated sugar
3 eggs
3 c unbleached all-purpose flour
½ t baking soda
½ t salt
1 c buttermilk
2 tightly packed T grated lemon zest
2 T lemon juice

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Carefully and thoroughly grease a 10-inch tube pan (or bundt pan).

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, blending well each time.

Sift flour, baking soda and salt together.  Stir buttermilk and flour mixture into egg mixture, starting and ending with buttermilk.  Then add lemon zest and juice.
Pour the cake batter into the pan making sure to keep it mostly even. Bake for 1 hour and perhaps another 5 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool the cake in the pan for ten minutes, then put a plate on top (upside down) and invert the pan and plate together so the cake drops neatly onto the plate.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Blueberry heaven

Who doesn't love blueberries?  I love them fresh off the bush, baked in a cake or pie or muffin or bread, as a sauce, or in a jam.  With or without lemon or vanilla or ice cream.  I freeze them to enjoy through the winter.  And can't get enough of them right now.

Among my favorite blueberry recipes is the one below, which I got from the website Coconut and Lime a few years ago.  I don't know how to make pies, but even if I did, I think this one is probably better because there's not much to take away attention from the blueberries.  What there is -- ginger and lemon -- add just the right flavor notes.  This couldn't be easier, a real boon in hot weather.

The recipe calls simply for a graham cracker crust.  I'm partial to custards so I often make vanilla pudding, chill it, and then pour this over the top.  Either way, it sort of stops conversation as people go into a blueberry trance.  Try it.  You'll see what I mean.

5 c fresh blueberries
1 inch knob fresh ginger, grated
juice of 1/2 lemon
zest of 1/2 lemon
½c sugar
¼c cornstarch
¼c water
1T butter
110 inch graham cracker crust

In a medium saucepan, bring 3 c of the blueberries, the ginger, lemon juice and zest and the sugar to a boil.

Meanwhile, whisk together the cornstarch and water, set aside.

After the blueberries come to a boil, stir in the cornstarch mixture and cook 2 additional minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in the remaining 2 c of blueberries and the butter. Pour into the prepared pie shell.

Refrigerate for at least 6-8 hours or up to one day before serving.