Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The particular sadness of lemon cake.

Hi, everybody! The Fresh Pioneer is back!

Sorry I missed out on some fun posts this past week. I can't wait for Julie to join us for REALZ on Saturday and Jan's great-grandpa's barn is gorgeous and Mindy better share her new writing knowledge! I forgot to check in because I got swept up in... nothing, really.
It rained.
My kids had a book club meeting and we hosted this time. Here is about half the group, wandering in the rain for the nature hunt. The book we chose for the group was 'Trumpet of the Swan'. They decorated chalkboards, made book marks, and looked for two pages of nature items in our outbuildings and garden area.
I managed to forget two major birthdays this month.  I don't know where my brain is. Is it spring fever? Is it juggling six kids and two major writing projects? Is it... OLD AGE? Probably that last one.
 With everything that happened in Boston last week, it seemed that the spring rain wasn't making me think of daffodils and tulips. It was making me want to pull the covers over my head and only emerge at Christmas. (Who doesn't love Christmas?? Christmas should be several times a year, in my opinion.)
  Anyway, I found a favorite book tucked behind a row of school books for the kids. It was like finding a wonderful, old friend. This is one of those books you either LOVE...or you leave a scathing one star review on Amazon. (Which I just checked and it has a whopping 59 one stars and 67 two stars.) But for me, it's a beautiful book full of some of the best writing I've ever found.
 It inspired me to shake off the doldrums and make some lemon cake. It had to be a vintage recipe, because Edna was involved. I know Ruthy already did a lemon cake, but this one is different. Plus you can never have TOO MUCH LEMON CAKE.

  Preheat oven to 300F. You read that right. This cake bakes low and long. Think... lingering sadness. Enduring patience. Tartness of life. Nothing quick and easy here.
Edna has been a little quiet lately. Maybe the rain is getting to her. The counter where she resides is about five feet from the television where the evening news blares the tragedies of the world. I shoo the kids to the back room while my husband watches the news, but I never thought about dear Edna. I give her some extra love while she works blending:2TBS lemon zest
1 cup butter
3 cup sugar
1/4 oil
Five farm fresh eggs. Free range, vegetarian and all that jazz. Pretty! Blended in a small bowl.
Edna seems a bit happier now, mixing in the eggs. She enjoys the tartness of the lemons and says it reminds her of her time in Southern California, where the citrus grows in the backyard. Lucky ducks!

Fold in:
3 cups flour
1 cup milk
1 tbs lemon peel, longer strips

Butter a flute pan and gently layer in the batter. Smooth the top as best you can.
Put it in the oven and set the timer for 90 minutes. (One hour and a half!!)
Yup, this is a long process, but for some reason, I was feeling more relaxed. Not as stressed. Not as anxious.
 While the cake was baking, I decided we should start stripping an old door I salvaged way back in.... October? I had all sorts of plans, ideas, dreams. But I got busy. Well, there was nothing to do now except wait for our lemon cake, so might as well see what was under all those layers.
I see something! Is it cedar? Oak? It's heavy, that's what we know.
The kids really get into it. Stripping, scraping, using their kid energy to make something better from something that looks like trash.
 I'm hoping it will be something beautiful like this one, but time will tell. It occurs to me that I can't actually put it up AS A DOOR because it's about seven feet tall. We have a small house. Think hobbits. Think the Shire.
Maybe this? Hm. I can see how cluttered that would get.
I liked this. And we even have a little mudroom entry way that would fit a project like this.
This one made me think of Julie, our GAL. This lovely porch swing would go really well on her covered porch!
Oooooooo! I do love words. How beautiful. And I have a white knob just like that.
Ok, wait. Here we go. A bookshelf! Because I need more bookshelves. And this looks lovely. I could even have a knob on it. *sigh*
The oven beeped and even though I didn't feel particularly sad any more, I was ready for lemon cake.
Edna said to shave off the top so it's level. I had no idea what to do with the scraps. They were slightly crunchy, chewy, almost like candy. I put them down on the counter and they disappeared. The children also left the kitchen. Strange coincidence.
Meanwhile, boil 1/3 cup lemon juice, 1/4 cup water, 1 cup powdered sugar. After ten minutes of boiling, let it COOL FOR FIVE MINUTES before adding one beaten egg. That last part is very important.
See, I've made egg drop lemon drizzle. Mmmmmm, tasty!
 So, I strained out the biggest egg parts and pretended that never happened.
Edna said to flip the cake on the platter, brush on the drizzle. Then pour the rest in the center, lifting the cake slightly so the lemon drizzle runs under the cake. Let the cake back down, sitting on a large pool of drizzle. Leave it for 30 minutes so the lemon drizzle can sink in. (Like Ruthy's!)
In the end, I was feeling almost perky. I even wondered about a nice bright color like this. An old friend came to visit us from Montana and she apparently has forgiven me for that whole (totally accidental) secret recipe that was leaked all over the internet issue. Nothing like an old friend to make life unfold from its cramped, awkward post-winter position.
My sister came down for a quick visit and we cut into the lemon cake. Her husband said nice things (like men should, when given large slices of cake) and the kids thought it wasn't too tart or sweet at all. My brother in law had a great post-operative check up and was all-clear to get back to living his normal life, so we were celebrating extra.
   Standing in my kitchen on a bright Spring day, with toddlers shrieking through the conversation and tweens trying to snag extra slices while the adults attempted to be heard over the noise, made me question whether there was any sadness in this lemon cake at all.
                          I decided, it just might be cheerful cake after all.


  1. Sigh. I know what you mean. It has been that sort of week or so.

    I loved the book and love the lemon cake. But I really loved coming up on the door swing and thinking, "I want this!", then reading your comment!

    I may not be able to make a cake but I can make wheat and corn free lemon bars. And spend gas money going to look at azaleas!

    Peace, Julie

    1. Oooooh, azaleas! Gardening makes my husband happy but I realize that making something pretty from former trash makes ME happy!

      And yes. It's really been that sort of week. I'm glad it's moving on, as time always does.

  2. What a beautiful post, Virginia. I love the idea of making a lemon cake to cheer everyone up. Somehow getting back into the rhythm of life helps bring comfort and healing, doesn't it?

    Would y'all believe I've never made a lemon cake? Of course, the snicker doodle cake is next on the menu once I get a chance to bake. I think lemon will be next after that. :)

    Julie, we've got amazing azaleas right now. You need to use some of that gas to come down here!

    1. It's funny how the lemon cake seemed to cheer us up all by itself. :)

      But maybe it was keeping busy while waiting for something good. It seems like it's been a long time since we've looked forward to something good. :)

  3. Okay, Virginia, so I made you crave a burger, now you've got me craving lemon cake. Mmm...sounds delish, just like Ruthy's.

    This last week or so has been one for the record books, that's for sure. My heart aches for the people of West, Texas, the small town about 70 miles south of us where the fertilizer plant exploded. We drive through there on our way to the ranch. Things will never be the same there and I will probably weep every time I drive through it now.

    Yes, lemony stuff always seems cheery. Guess it's that lemon-yellow thing. So I thing something lemony is definitely in order. Thanks, Virginia.

    1. Mindy, it's hard for me to gather from the news exactly what was affected. Were all those buildings right next to the plant?

      It seemed like the news would try to cover West, but then end up back at the bombings.

      I know they lost quite a few first responders, which tears my heart. Praying for them!

    2. The blast was massive, Virginia. It measured 2.1 in the Richter (sp) scale and affected homes in a 3-5 mile radius (maybe more). But yes, it was competing with Boston for the news coverage and since Boston is bigger....

  4. Beautiful, moving post, Virginia. My heart and prayers go out to the people in both Boston and West , Texas. I love how you and Edna brought back the joy though. Your family sounds near perfect -- chaos and all!

    Lemon cake is my absolute favourite so I'll be trying this one for sure.

    And love all those upcycled doors!!! I love all them - don't know which one I'd choose as my project.

    1. I always rolled me eyes at people extolling the virtues of Pinterest, until I got on there. For the upcycler or anyone interested in antiques, it's a treasure trove of ideas!

      I don't consider myself particularly crafty, but I do like to salvage items from the trash, haha!

  5. Ginny, beautiful post! And by the way I had lemon cake for breakfast with my coffee--sooo good! I love being the recipient of all your amazing baking talent--I have to add this to the list of my ALL TIME FAVORITES--a position shared only with your incredible almond cake :)

    1. Really? Well, good! And next time I'll be sure to leave out the egg drop drizzle. Just plain lemon drizzle. :)

  6. Oh Virginia, sometimes you just have to go through sadness, don't you? Let it bake in a slow oven...kind of like a refining fire, you know?

    And then the sour/sweetness of lemon cake! I can taste it!

    Beautiful post.

    And the spacey mind? I'd blame it on the books - we live in two worlds, fiction and reality, and your reality is so busy you don't get to spend enough time in your fiction world. :)
    Enjoy :)

    1. True, true!

      And I might have an easier time if I weren't juggling two very separate projects. One fictional world is fine. but to jump back and forth, sometimes on the same night is frying my little brain!

  7. First, I'm very glad that the electric toothbrush review guy got in with his take on lemon cake because who can argue with someone so KNOWLEDGEABLE about teeth? Is lemon good for teeth? Is it not?

    It is clearly good for the soul and souls last longer than teeth so I'm going to vote for the lemon cake as balm and elixir.

    Edna would approve.

    Love the door. I need two doors for an upstairs bedroom that ISN'T A PIG STY any more.

    Now it is deserving of two new doors. Maybe next winter.

    I love lemon cake. I love the bittersweet of lemon and cake and life.

    This is a wonderful post. :)

    1. I was a little weirded out by the electric toothbrush guy because I just bought one for a child who lost theirs. Soooo, is he monitoring my shopping? Creepy.

      I almost clicked. Almost.... NOT!

  8. you are so talent!! Love the DIY door!!!