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worth the wait

Lemon Cake_1I had long dreamed of owning Rose Carrarini’s Breakfast, Lunch, Tea. It began when some of my favorite food bloggers started posting recipes from it that were right up my alley (maple syrup scones? swoon! date and oat slices? yes, please!). The recipes were simple, made with natural ingredients and sweet-but-not-too-sweet. And the cookbook’s British author and her French husband run a darling restaurant called Rose Bakery in Paris. Could this possibly have more appeal?

I had bookstore funds from a returned Christmas gift, and Breakfast, Lunch, Tea was calling my name. When I ordered it, I agonized about having it sent to my house. I knew I’d miss the delivery (I always do), go back and forth with delivery people for several days and ultimately end up in a long line, waiting to retrieve my book. But it was the cheaper option, and I took it.

Sure enough, I missed the delivery. I left a note to have my precious cargo placed in a neighbor’s entryway more suited to such things. But day after day passed, and my book did not appear. When I finally consulted the UPS website, it told me it had been delivered! In a panic, I emailed said neighbor with a query about the package and hurried to my yoga class, which I spent attempting to channel things like peace and serenity rather than agonizing over my missing book.

I returned home to an email from the friendly neighbor: his roommate had signed for my package. Would I like him to bring it down right now?

Clearly, I had overreacted.

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Lemon Cake_3And so it came to pass that last Wednesday evening, I held in my hands a copy of Rose Carrarini’s brilliantly green cookbook, full of recipe descriptions written in a sweet prose, beautiful photographs of bakery cases filled with miniature tarts and sturdy rectangular cakes, comments about Rose Bakery’s regulars and images of quintessentially European bakery employees–including Rose herself, in a black-and-white-striped apron, standing with her husband. Dressed entirely in black, he is unsmiling yet, somehow, decidedly not unfriendly. Rose won me over immediately: I don’t know how you could not love someone who says things such as, “I think I could practically live on risotto, carrots and apricots” and “I could drink tea and eat cake all day, any time of day,” and then includes a picture of a drawing by a little girl who frequents her cafe. Furthermore, I want to make everything in this book, including but not limited to the lovely vegetable tarts, the spiced chickpea and lemon soup, the bakery’s famous carrot cake, all of the scones and something called an eton mess.

I could only wait so long to bake something (i.e. less than twenty-four hours). Ben worked both of his jobs last Thursday, and so that evening seemed an appropriate time for a warm and festive meal. I made an intensely flavorful bean stew spooned atop farro and served with a heaping pile of greens and bites of tasty cheese. It was successful enough, especially for a weeknight, but I can’t say it was everything I had hoped for. And tired as I was feeling, that was a bit depressing.

But I had also made this cake. As we ate, it sent out from the oven a glorious aroma, that of lemon and brightness and butter…

And it stole the show. Sitting on the couch and expecting something good but perhaps not exceptional, we took our first bites. And then we stopped. We didn’t find any appropriate adjectives to describe what we were tasting, but we managed a few unfinished sentences and appreciative noises.

This cake is good. Really, really good.

But to be sure I had not been deceived by the happy mood of the night or how in need of the soothing power of cake we were, I made it again this week. And we were correct in our evaluation, further verified by my parents on their weekend visit and the fact that my coworkers polished off all of the slices I brought to work. The cake is light but substantial, with a superb texture and perfectly crisp exterior. Bits of lemon zest are speckled throughout, the almonds contribute a slightly nuttiness and the glaze is lemony and sweet and bright.

Already I am convinced that this cookbook was entirely worth the wait and any semblance of trouble. And this cake was just what I needed in the midst of what has been a very long and exhausting month.

Because sometimes, both your work and your personal email accounts are filled to overflowing, and even a personal day taken in the interest of your mental health isn’t quite enough to cure all that ails you.

The floor is often dirty, and dinner isn’t always everything you hope for. And sometimes, you’d rather eat cake than dinner anyway.

This cake is for such times as these.

And in the instances in which you have responded to all of your emails and paid all of your bills, have a freezer full of frozen soup for weekday lunches and feel like you can conquer the world, this cake is an apt form of self-congratulation.

Thus, this lovely lemon cake is for ALL times, and I think you should make it very, very soon.

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Lemon Cake_5Lemon Cake

Adapted from Rose Carrarini’s Breakfast, Lunch, Tea

The corresponding weights and volumes here (as provided by the book) don’t match perfectly, but if you choose one form of measurement and follow it, you should be just fine. As for ingredients, use fresh lemons, as their flavor is so prominent, but feel free to experiment somewhat with the amounts of sugar and lemon. I made this once using half olive oil and half butter (out of necessity), and it was delicious; I imagine that it would work famously with only olive oil.

The cake is incredible served warm, with the glaze running down its sides, but tightly wrapped, it keeps well for several days, and the crisp glaze has its own particular charm.

For the cake

1 cup (250 g) unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing

1 cup (200 g) sugar

4 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

juice of 1 lemon

zest of 2 lemons

1 rounded teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (50 g) ground almonds

1 cup (140 g) spelt flour

1 cup (140 g) all-purpose flour

For the glaze (optional)

juice of 1 lemon

about 1 1/4 cups (150 g) powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9×5-inch loaf tin and line it with parchment paper.

With a hand or stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla extract, and then the lemon juice and zest.

In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients: the baking powder, salt, ground almonds and flours. Then, add them to the wet ingredients.

Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 1 hour, or until a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. To prevent the cake from getting too brown, tent the pan with foil at the halfway point, or when the cake’s top is golden, and then remove the foil for the last 5 minutes.

Remove the cake from the oven and cool slightly in the tin before removing it to cool further.

To make the optional glaze, mix the lemon juice with enough powdered sugar to create a thick but pourable mixture. Pour it over the cake, letting it drip down the sides.

Slice and enjoy!

Yield: 8-12 servings

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