It’s 27 degrees outside as I type these words, and the forecast calls for even colder weather by the weekend. Citrus trees don’t like 20-degree temperatures (neither do I), so I scurried around after dark last night, trying to pick all the oranges, lemons, and limes before they froze and spoiled. When the weather is mild, I generally leave the fruit on the trees until they’re ready to flower again, picking just what I need on any given day. The fruit keeps for weeks in perfect condition, right on the tree.
Sadly, this extended freeze period has the potential to kill most of my trees. The hardiest–satsuma–will make it through just fine, but I may lose the lemons and limes. Tomorrow night, I’ll festoon the trees with holiday lights, in small hope of staving off a total loss.
Last night’s haul yielded four or five dozen large Meyer lemons, a passel of LA Sweet oranges, and a solitary key lime. I concocted this ginger-lemon pound cake to make a tiny dent in my lemon stash. It’s modeled after Dorie Greenspan’s vanilla-rum cakes (p 226, Baking From My Home to Yours). Rubbing lemon zest into sugar releases the fragrant, floral aroma of Meyer lemon, and a lemon juice glaze balances the heat of candied ginger bits.
It’s a tart, spicy, and restrained antidote to the flood of sticky-sweet, iced king cakes washing up in stores. Today is King’s Day, the feast of the Epiphany–the official start of the Carnival season. Rather than a pudding-filled abomination, I’ll have a nice slice of pound cake. Is it just me, or do Wal-Mart cakes oozing canned fruit pie filling somehow devalue the whole king cake tradition?
Ginger lemon pound cake
- 3 T candied ginger bits (or chop larger pieces in a food processor)
- 1 cup plus 3 T all purpose flour
- 1-1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1 cup plus 3T sugar
- 3 tsp finely grated Meyer lemon zest (use a Microplane)
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/3 cup milk
- 2 T vanilla extract
- 1 stick (8 T) butter, melted and cooled
Meyer lemon syrup
- 1/3 cup freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
- 3 T sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter & flour a 8.5 inch long loaf pan. In a small bowl, toss ginger bits and 1 T flour; reserve. Stir together flour and baking powder; set aside. In a mixing bowl, rub sugar and lemon zest together until sugar is moist and fragrant. Beat eggs into the sugar & zest until uniformly light yellow; sugar will begin to dissolve. Add vanilla and milk, stirring to combine. Mixing at low speed or using a rubber spatula, stir in flour mixture in three batches, waiting for the flour to be completely incorporated before adding the next batch. Batter should be smooth and thick. Fold in the melted butter in three additions. Stir in the floured ginger bits. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a cake tester or bamboo skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes, then carefully invert cake onto a cooling rack. While cake is still warm to the touch, poke small holes in the cake’s top, using a skewer or toothpick. Place cake on a serving plate.
Combine syrup ingredients in a glass measuring cup. Stir gently until sugar is dissolved. Slowly spoon syrup over the cake, waiting for it to soak in before spooning additional syrup over it. Gently turn the cake onto its sides; spoon remaining syrup onto cake’s sides. Cake can be eaten immediately, although resting overnight at room temperature will yield a softer texture and more pronounced flavor.