Baby, it’s cold outside

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.

10 thoughts on “Baby, it’s cold outside

  1. When I recently found myself with several dozen Meyer lemons, I made tons of bakes goods. Then I juiced the rest and froze the juice in ice cube trays for later. Nothing revolutionary, I realize, just sharing what I did. I had never frozen fresh lemon juice before, so I hope it doesn’t ruin it.

    Also, I haven’t tried this but this month’s Saveur had a tip for citrus zest – spread zest out between two layers of wax paper overnight, and it dries to the point that you can easily crush it to powder and use as you would fresh zest. Wish I’d read that before the great lemon harvest of ’09.

    • I saw the very same zest trick in Saveur…I’m gonna try it out this week. I see long strips of dried orange & tangerine peel for sale in Asian markets; seems like I should be able to dry big strips as well as finely shredded zest, no?

  2. Poor little fruits! The thought of all that citrusy baked goodness is really alluring though. That pound cake looks mouth watering. I’ve been wanting to make a deep dish lemon meringue pie lately. Those meyer lemons would be so GOOD in one.

    • Lemon meringue sounds great….except I’m not gifted in the meringue department (weeping, deflating, overbrowning–I’ve done it all). I’m contemplating a Meyer lemon eclair recipe I found in the Chez Panisse Cafe cookbook. I can handle choux paste just fine.

  3. We make the very best lemon drops using Meyers when we can get them (invented after we shared lemon drops with you at Zuni in San Francisco):
    2 oz. vodka
    1 oz. Citronge or Cointreau
    2 oz. Meyer lemon juice
    ½ oz. simple syrup
    juice of one key lime
    Shake with ice, then strain into martini glass rimmed with sugar.

    We have a small crop of Meyers at home this year, but we’re considering buying a crate at the farmer’s market to juice and freeze.

    Also, I make some preserved Meyer lemons each year from a Chowhound recipe:

    Cut lemons into wedges and cover completely with kosher salt in a shallow dish. Freeze for 24 hours and then refrigerate for a few days. Rinse off the salt, pat the wedges dry, and place in jars and cover with olive oil. Let sit for a few weeks before using.

    • Damn, those WERE good lemon drops, weren’t they? We’re headed to the Amalfi Coast soon, and I’m looking forward to all of the lemon-centric foods (and the limoncello).

      I made preserved lemons several years ago, and I never really found good ways to use them. They do look pretty in a tall jar…

      • I like to add strips of preserved lemon to chicken or lamb stews. Paula Wolfert stuffs a roast chicken with them. What I do most often is slice a couple of onions and lay them on the bottom of a wide skillet (no oil or butter), layer a bunch of chicken pieces, skin side down, over, season with s&p and some herbs, throw on the preserved lemon and some olives (whatever’s on hand), and cook over medium heat for about an hour with the lid on the pan. About half way through I turn the chicken over, and sometimes I add some of the oil from the lemons. This produces lovely juices for mopping with bread.

        It’s probably a good idea to keep the lemons in the refrigerator, and I am a little squeamish about eating them without first cooking because this method probably carries some risk of botulism. But surely if you drink enough lemon drops at the same time the alcohol will beat up the organisms.

  4. Pingback: Improv pie « Bouillie

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