If Life tosses you lemons, put together Maida Heatter’s classic East 62nd Street Lemon Cake. This glorious cake was published to rave reviews by Craig Claiborne in the New York Times more than fifty years ago. According to many bakers, it’s the best lemon cake ever, one that’s stood the test of time and earned countless blue ribbons at county fairs.
Heatter’s famous cake was my pick to honor the 6-year anniversary of this blog. I switched on these lights on February 22, 20l1. After setting up shop in 9 different kitchens, cooking, clicking and writing my way through 280 posts, I proudly say, “Let us eat lemon cake!”
Be sure to try this week’s CooktheBookFridays spectacular recipe choice, Farro Salad with Root Vegetables & Pomegranate. I’ve suggested many variations to this dish and will be serving it often this year. (Donna Chase and Emma, this has your names on it.)
Today’s post is a tribute to the Life I’ve rebuilt and the people who led the way. After scrolling through 6 years of photos, I admit to being amazed at the support of others. When I began this blog in 2011, we had been living in Henderson for 7 years. Hospice has just begun caring for Michael. I was so tired, just done, and inquired about my checking into Hospice also. They were only slightly amused and often hustled me out the door, allowing me time to begin picking up the pieces.
The tale of LOBNB’s is oft-repeated. The short version is I needed structure to my days. Creating a blog and joining a virtual cooking group appealed to me. I committed to cook, photograph, write about and post a recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s Around my French Table cookbook every Friday. When my first post appeared, fifty-some food bloggers, calling themselves Doristas, welcomed me to French Fridays with Dorie. It was a game-changer.
When Michael died 16 months later, Melissa came to stay with me. Among the many deeds she did for me while I sat at the kitchen table eating bags of Lay’s Fritos, was take over my French Fridays blogging chore. She never missed a deadline and my blog was in place when I returned.
What my friends and family quickly understood was my commitment would morph into a group effort. Polishing up forgotten cooking skills was a minor inconvenience compared to dealing with technical glitches. My grocery bills at Whole Foods/Trader Joe’s skyrocketed, the pantry was no longer bare and my collection of Penzeys spices grew in numbers. Most importantly, my food production quickly outgrew my ability to consume it.
It took effort to right my world. Although I’ve heard it takes a village, for me it took three, in Henderson, Bishop and Aspen. (And, still does.) This blog is about that ongoing journey. Here are some highlights from those first six years…..
AT HOME IN ASPEN
Maida Heatter’s EAST 62nd STREET LEMON CAKE from HER Book of Great Desserts
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (1⁄2 lb) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup whole milk
2 finely grated rinds of medium-sized lemons
1⁄2 cup lemon juice
3⁄4 cup sugar
1/3 cup lemon juice
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Generously butter or spray 12-cup bundt pan 12-cup Bundt pan and dust it all lightly with fine, dry bread crumbs. (I did not dust with fine bread crumbs although Heatter insisted it provided a crisp finish to the cake.)
3. Sift in all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt together and set aside.
4. In large bowl of electric mixer cream the butter. Add the sugar and beat for 2 to 3 minutes.
5. On lowest speed available beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl as necessary with a rubber spatula.
6. Reduce the mixer speed to low, and alternately add the dry ingredients and milk in five additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Fold the batter by hand until smooth. Stir in lemon rind. Turn the batter into prepared pan. Level top by rotating pan briskly back and forth.
7. Bake for 60-75 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean.
8. Let cake stand in pan for about 3-5 minutes before inverting it to remove from bundt pan to place on cooling rack. Put a large piece of aluminum foil or waxed paper under the rack.
9. Whisk the lemon juice and sugar together and carefully brush over the hot cake until absorbed. The glaze must be used immediately after it is mixed and while the cake is hot.
10. Let cake cool completely.
11. Mix together the powdered sugar and lemon juice, if desired Pour or frost over the cake as desired. (If you wish to just sprinkle it with plain powdered sugar, that’s perfect also.
12. Do not cut for at least several hours.
FARRO SALAD with ROASTED ROOT VEGETABLES and POMEGRANATE by David Lebovitz
Six to Eight Servings
1 cup wheat berries or farro
one bay leaf
2 pounds assorted root vegetables : (carrots, rutabagas, turnips, parsnips or beets) and butternut squash, peeled and cut into 3/4-1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt or kosher salt
freshly-ground black pepper
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leafed parsley
Seeds from 1 pomegranate
Freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3/4 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey or 2 teaspoons of pomegranate molasses
1. Preheat the oven to 425ºF.
2. Cook the wheat berries or farro with the bay leaf, according to directions until tender, but still chewy.
3. While the wheat berries or farro are cooking, toss and then mix together the diced vegetables on a baking sheet with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, seasoning well with salt and pepper.
4. Roast the vegetables in the bottom third of the oven, stirring once midway during baking, for 30-35 minutes, or until cooked through and browned on the outside.
5. To make the dressing, mix together the mustard, salt, lemon juice and honey or molasses in a large bowl. Stir in the olive oil. (I mixed the dressing together in a jar and shook it!)
6. Once the wheat berries or farro are cooked, drain them well, plucking out the bay leaf.
7. First mix the grains with the dressing in a large bowl. Stir in the root vegetables, parsley and pomegranate seeds. Do a final check for seasoning and add more salt, black pepper, and additional olive oil, if desired.
8. Serve warm or at room temperature..
Storage: Can be made up to two days in advance, and refrigerated. Bring it to room temperature before serving. If necessary, add a few drops of lemon juice to liven it up before serving.
This salad is also good served warm with roasted meat or chicken with pan juices scraped over the top.
David suggests some possible additions to add to the finished salad:
Toasted and coarsely chopped pecans, hazelnuts, or walnuts
Diced dried apricots, cranberries or cherries
Cubes of feta or bleu cheese strewn over the top
A big squeeze of fresh lemon or tangerine juice, or some zest
Sautéed mushrooms tossed in with the root vegetables
Wilted greens, cooked with garlic, coarsely chopped
A generous handful of spicy arugula coarsely chopped
COOKTHEBOOKFRIDAYS is an on-line food blogging group which is cooking its way through David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen. Check us out here.