Come January, my body does not crave sweets in the same manner as the other months of the year. Perhaps I require a period of reprive after spending countless hours baking during the holiday season. Or maybe it is my overconsumption of Christmas cookies and goodies. Whatever the reason, I naturally transition into wanting hearty, healthy eats.
For most chilly January days my diminished sweet tooth presents no issue - Mike must usually be coerced into eating anything other than chocolate chip cookies, so the lack of dessert is no cause for concern. But his mother and aunt joined us for lunch last weekend and not serving dessert was an unimaginable option.
Per their request, we decided to order lunch from our favorite neighborhood Italian restaurant. Flipping through my recipe file, I stumbled upon a recipe for a lemon olive oil cake. It may not be a traditional Italian dessert, but I figured it would pair beautifully with the thin crust, wood-fired pizza and rich, creamy penne vodka.
At the store, a basket of Meyer lemons beckoned me like a ray of sunshine and I immediately decided to utilize these yolk-colored beauties for their traditional relative. As a cross between a mandarian orange and a lemon, Meyer lemons provide a distinguishable sweetness, with far less acidity than a regular lemon.
The cake perfumed the apartment with its bright sweetness. The long, escaping strands of steam danced their way into my nose and suddenly I could not wait to plunge my silver fork into the crumb, cracking the golden souffled crust and tasting the fresh, moist crumb on my tounge.
Meyer Lemon-Olive Oil Cake
adapted from Gourmet, April 2006
makes one 9-inch cake
I substituted a Meyer lemon in my version of this recipe, instead of the traditional lemon called for in the originial. Meyer lemons provide a sweeter, less acidic taste to desserts and are perfectly ripe in the winter. If you cannot find Meyer lemons, you can use a traditional lemon in its place.
1 Meyer lemon
5 large egg yolks
¾ cup granulated sugar, divided
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup cake flour
4 large egg whites
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons fine sanding sugar
Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare a 9-inch springform pan with non-stick spray.
Finely zest the lemon, cut in half, and squeeze to release juices from fruit. Reserve 1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice.
In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat together yolks and ½ cup granulated sugar on high speed until pale and thick, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium, slowly and steadily drizzle in olive oil until mixture is emulsified. Slowly add reserved lemon juice and continue to whisk until smooth and there is no visible separation of ingredients. Change to paddle attachment and on low speed, incorporate flour and reserved lemon zest just until mixture comes together. The batter will not be perfectly smooth, but there should be no visible lumps of flour.
In a clean bowl, beat egg whites and kosher salt at medium-high speed until foamy. With beaters still running, slowly incorporate remaining ¼ cup granulated sugar. When all of the sugar has been added, continue beating until egg whites just hold soft peaks.
Gently fold one-third of the egg whites into yolk mixture to lighten. Fold in remaining whites until mixture is homogeneous, meaning there should be no distinction between the yolk mixture and egg white mixture.
Transfer batter to prepared springform pan and firmly rap against counter-top to release air bubbles. Sprinkle top with fine sanding sugar.
Bake until puffed and golden and a cake tester emerges cleanly from the center, about 45 minutes. Cool cake in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes, then release springform from the bottom of the pan. Cool cake to room temperature before serving.