Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Honey Cake with Lemon and Herbs

How's everyone enjoying summer? So far so good? Loving the heat and humidity? Making it to those lakes and/or oceans? Thinking about the waves? Water skiing? Skinny dipping?

I knew it.


My mom (who can't swim) is on a river rafting (skinny dipping) trip right now with my dad (who's a fairly seasoned rafter), so I'm spending the current span of the summer worrying. That's my M.O. But my M.O. isn't what this blog's about. (That can be found here.)

With respect to the summery recipe that I've got for you today, I have the following to say: (a) That just rhymed. I'm a poet and you didn't know it. (b) Interesting that it's "summery" even though lemons are totally not in season, right? Totally at odds with my seasonal/local aspirations, but that didn't stop me so maybe it won't stop you. Now go drink a glass of lemonade made with Argentina's finest. (c) This cake will intrigue you. Repeatedly. At first bite, it is so unique and complex - with flavors more often associated with herbal tea than cake - that you will have to pause and decide whether it's actually tasty. But then you will keep going back for more bites because you are intrigued by the uniqueness and complexity and because, well, the texture of the cake is indubitably perfect. Then you will be done and you'll think, "Hmmmm. I think that was actually really good." But you still won't be super sure of yourself - this cake makes you insecure! - so you'll have another. And then pretty soon you'll have eaten half a cake. (d) It's even better the next day and, if you're lucky enough to experience it, even better than that on day three. (e) I'm sorry I didn't get better pictures because it's not an unattractive cake. The honey sort of seeps to the bottom of the pan giving it an upside-down-cake-type sheen. The herbs give it a sexy green hue. Unfortunately though, the battery on my camera was dead when I was making the cake and I didn't recharge it until the cake was half eaten. (See (c), above.)

I think everything above is rather confusing. I apologize for that. What I meant to say is this: this is a sophisticated and indeed special little cake. If you like herbs and honey and adventure, you will love this. If you don't, well, those Independence Oreos are a safer and less cosmopolitan bet for you then.

Honey Cake with Lemon and Herbs
Inspired by this and this and this
Yield: 10-12 servings

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup sugar
1 large egg
½ cup honey
½ cup plain whole milk yogurt
1/4 cup lemon juice (from 1-2 Argentinian lemons) (that was a joke for those of you who didn't read the whole post; any old lemons will do!)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
zest from a lemon
a large handful each of fresh mint and basil, finely chopped (worked out to be about ¼ cup combined)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl with a wooden spoon, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the egg and stir until combined. Add honey, yogurt, lemon juice, and vanilla. Stir until combined - mine ended up looking quite curdled. No biggie.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until they're all combined and there are no large lumps. Gently stir in the lemon zest and finely chopped herbs. Pour into a thoroughly greased round pan, I used one that was 8 inches in diameter. I'm sure a 9" pan would work fine too.

Put pan in oven and bake for about 30-40 minutes. Mine started to brown right away on the top, so after about 20 minutes I put the oven temperature to 300 and baked it for 15 minutes more. I knew it was done using the knife in middle trick, plus it stopped jiggling. It was v. jiggly still at the 20-minute mark.

Allow to cool in pan and then run a knife or spatula around the rim of the pan before flipping cake over onto a platter for serving. Drizzle a glaze of two tablespoons of lemon juice + half cup powdered sugar, if you want. (I did. Best to do while cake is still somewhat warm if you want it to soak up a bit.) Alternatively, whip some cream with a couple teaspoons of sugar or honey and vanilla or lemon extract and serve with fresh berries. (I did that too.)

This really is a quite a fantastic dessert. Something I imagine they'd serve at Manresa in Los Gatos alongside a housemade tea-infused gelato. I hope some of you will be eager to try it. My treadmill was sure glad I'd made it after I ate half the cake. It had missed me, especially after I'd totally stood it up on the 4th of July because I was in an Independence Oreo-induced sugar coma.

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