It's a good thing that I like to laugh at myself, since I get so many opportunities, and one such time was a few weeks ago when I made my annual lemon cake. I'm not much of a baker. I admit that freely. And even when my baking tastes good, which it usually does, it mostly looks like this: A great big mess. Yes, those are crumbs in my frosting. Let's just say that in the kitchen I'm less Rembrandt and more Jackson Pollock. I guess I'm okay with that. Not that I have much say in the matter.
I'm also laughing, because as hard as I tried--And I really tried hard, over and over again--I could not get a decent shot of the cake. This was the best I could manage. So, if I didn't laugh, I guess I'd have to cry.
Lemon, the flavor of spring
Anyway, I don't know why, but as soon as springtime hits, I develop a maniacal compulsion to put lemon in everything. I suspect I'm not alone here. I make lemon pasta, lemon cake, lemon chicken, lemonade, lemon, lemon, lemon, until my hands are puckered and sore, and there are about twelve baggies of lemon zest tucked away in my freezer waiting to become additions to future cookies and salad dressings.
I also go nuts with lavender. (Have you ever made Lavender Lemon Chicken? You should, at least once, if only to say you've done it.)
And lavender lemonade is awesome, too. Just take your favorite lemonade recipe, This is mine, and follow these directions with 1/4 cup dried, culinary lavender.
Put the lavender in a bowl, and pour 2 cups (adjust as needed) boiling water over it. Allow to steep for about 10 minutes, then strain out and discard the lavender. Mix your sugar into the hot lavender water to create the simple syrup, then continue to follow your recipe.
Of course, to avoid pesticides and other chemicals, you'll want to be sure to use culinary grade lavender from a reputable source. I love the lavender that I get from Karen at the Savory Spice Shop on W. 6th St.
Culinary Lavender from the Savory Spice Shop
But the one thing that I make every single spring, no matter what, is Ina Garten's lemon cake. I adore this recipe, persnickety, though it can be.
And this year, I tried something different. Instead of pouring the batter into loaf pans, I poured it into two 9" round cake pans. (WARNING: You REALLY want to follow the directions with this cake and line your pans with parchment, as it loves to stick.) Then, when it was baked, I omitted the lemon syrup and glaze and instead made a Cream Cheese Frosting modified with lemon juice and zest, which was very yummy.
I would recommend making these lemon cakes as is, though, at least the first time, because the cake can be a little dry without the syrup, but with it they are powerfully lemony and refreshing.
Notes on the Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting:
I used about 2 - 3 teaspoons of lemon juice in place of the vanilla extract, which worked great, and I added a healthy toss of lemon zest into the frosting as well. Just add a little at a time and incorporate until you're happy with it, tasting as you go (as if you weren't going to be snacking on it already).
And, yes, I do recognize that it's directions like these that illustrate why I'm not a successful baker. :)
Enjoy, and happy springtime cooking!