On Eating and Loving Food

If life gives you lemons, make a lemon cake, or a manhattan, or both

Hello spring!
Posted:  Wednesday, April 12, 2017 - 10:15am
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Life is better with a manhattan and a lemon cake. Take it from one who knows. SUZI THAYER/Boothbay Register

I’ve been watching the Great British Baking Show, and it’s killing me. This morning they were making cakes. Ugh. I've been trying to walk 10,000 steps daily, and it really doesn't help when I sit on the couch afterward and watch a stupid baking show about cakes, biscuits, scones, eclairs and petite fours. I want all of it. And I live alone so no one's going to care if I decide to bake a cake. Ruby and Elliot love me, and they don't care if I'm fat. More time on the couch with them.

So anyway, after watching the two cake episodes, I got thinking about a lemon cake, and whipped cream and raspberries. It is spring, after all.

Margaret Salt McLellan suggested I Google lemon sour cream pound cake, and informed me that Meyer lemons are in at Hannaford. That pretty much sealed it.

So I just Googled lemon sour cream pound cake, lemon sponge cake, and plain old lemon cake. And don’t be thinking, 'What’s she doing writing a food column and Googling cake recipes.' I’ve told you I never claimed to be a chef. Relax. We're in this together.

I settled on a plain old Martha Stewart lemon cake. Now I’m off to Hannaford. They’d better not be out of Meyer lemons.

They were out of Meyer lemons. I grabbed six regular ones and some raspberries, and was headed toward the mascarpone when I ran into Bet Finocchiaro. Bet is Margaret's sister, and kind of famous, or notorious, around these parts. Have you ever been at a bar sitting between those two? I haven't, but I'd like to someday. Maybe their little sister, Ruthie, would come.

Anyway. I told Bet her sister had recommended Meyer lemons for my cake, but there were none to be had. She said, “Well, Suzi, get some a that Key West Lemon Juice.” I said, 'No, Bet, that's lime juice.' She pointed me toward the lemon juice, then pointed to the lemons in my cart, and said, “Now you can get rid of those ##***# s.” Bet doesn't mince words.

So here it is — the first sunny, warm, bluebird sky day so far this year, and I’m stuck in the kitchen trying not to look out the window.

Looking at the bright side though, as always, I’ll kill two ticks with one stone. (I wouldn’t kill a bird if my life depended on it.) I’ll be creating fodder for this week’s column, which of course you’re reading now, haha, and I’ll end up with a lemon cake with creamy lemon raspberry mascarpone between the layers, and whipped cream on top! And raspberries. Hello.

Okay, so I won’t waste time relaying the recipe. Click here for the site if you’re reading this online. If you’re reading it in the paper, just Google Martha Stewart lemon cake. Duh. If you’re too lazy, or lame, to Google it, email me. I’ll be happy to do the work for you. Well, not really happy, but I will. Just be sure to say something nice. I’m pretty easy.

Now, once you've baked the two round layers, comes the fun part: The filling and the toppings! The thing is, the lemon cake is so good, you could easily get away with just some whipped cream, with or without lemon. If you choose to add lemon juice, either fresh or Key Lime (which is wicked good, by the way, thank you Bet), it's called 'whup cream.' At least in my neck of the woods.

Oddly, when you whip lemon (and some sugar, of course) into the heavy cream, it thickens faster — opposite of what you'd expect, huh.

If you want to throw a luscious layer of mascarpone with lemon juice and raspberries in the middle of the cake, it's pretty simple: Spoon a small container of mascarpone into a bowl. Mix in a couple tsp. lemon juice (I used fresh-squeezed), a couple tblsp. sugar, and either some fresh raspberries or good raspberry jam. I used jam. Taste it for sweetness and lemony flavor. Stick it in the fridge. Whip the heavy cream with a couple or 3 tsp. sugar and some lemon juice — as much or as little as you like — I used around 1 ½ tblsp.

When the cake has cooled, and the ridiculous creamy mascarpone stuff has thickened, thanks to the cold fridge, spread that over the bottom layer of cake, throw on the top layer, and spread the lemony whup cream on top. I followed Martha's instructions on the website for the candied lemon slices. That was cool, and it worked! Place those in strategic locations :-), then decorate with some beautiful, ripe, red raspberries. You are not going to believe it! Gorgeous, and totally awesome.

If you make it for Easter you’ll be a hero for the day. You might get away with a package cake mix when it’s disguised by all that creamy awesomeness. There was one of those bins that day at Hannaford, filled with Duncan Hines cake mixes. I picked up a Lemon Supreme one while I was getting all the ingredients, which cost a lot more, and would take a LOT more time to make, thinking I’d try it later. If you have to use a cake mix, use Duncan Hines. My sister, Wendy, of the ‘home’ baked beans ruse, would probably attempt to pull this one over on her Easter guests.

Anyway, happy Easter. See ya next week!

P.S. If you do make this elegant confection, please email me to tell me how it came out: suzithayer@boothbayregister.com.