Simple Lemon Berry Cake with Lemon Cream – 12/67

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The past weekend has felt approximately two weeks long. I feel like I just need to document it all so I remember in 20 years what a lazy “stay at home” long weekend was like right before I turned 30. Thanks for joining me for this xanga entry! 

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Friday – Went to grocery store, casually made this cake for tomorrow’s BBQ, meandered to local bookstore and ended up with a copy of Indian-ish which I cannot WAIT to cook from, met friends at a bar and bragged about my new cookbook. Then came home and made a riff on this soba tofu bowl for a dear friend who came over for dinner. After she left, friend from Boston arrived to stay the weekend. Late night catch-up ensued.

IMG_036586F1A670-F948-441E-A6A3-98C406F06CD6Saturday – Coffee and bagels, then a yoga class. Don’t recommend that order. Took ferry(!) to Astoria for lovely rooftop soiree. Brought cake, with frosting in its own refrigerator bag. Not the easiest cake to travel with, but definitely not the worst. Ate my weight in salads and dips and veggie burger (just one, to the chagrin of the hosting couple who are now left with three mediocre frozen patties). Left BBQ early to rush to BAM for a DanceAfrica performance that blew my mind. Home for frozen watermelon drinks and another late night.

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Sunday – brunch and omg this weekend is killing me. How do people maintain this lifestyle? Ask questions later! Let’s go into the city! For Chinatown noodles, a crowded salsa bar, and cocktails around the corner. Another late night.

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Monady – byyye friend, have a safe drive, and oh shit we’re supposed to bring things to a BBQ. I didn’t prepare cake in advance, dang. Whipped together this really delicious artichoke white bean dip (but parsley instead of basil because I thought it went better) and Ottolenghi’s gingery cucumber salad from Plenty, which I thought would complement the various izakaya-style organ meats being grilled. (I cannot attest to its success in doing that, but it was mostly consumed, so I’ll consider it a success.) Then I fell into a stupor on our couch.

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I’m exhausted. And now I go to work. xo, gossip girl.

IMG_2118IMG_2120A couple things about this cake — this is a really easy and really delicious cake to whip together at the last moment if you know someone is coming over. The only tricky ingredient it has is pre-made lemon curd. I bought the Bonne Maman variety, which I’ve been eating with a spoon ever since. It makes a surprisingly luscious topping when beat with fresh whipped cream. Also, I didn’t feel like splurging on fresh berries, as I knew we had a bunch of frozen ones in the fridge. I ended up with half a cup of frozen blueberries, then picked the other half cup out of a bag of mixed frozen berries. A couple blackberries made it in too. They were also delicious. No need to be picky about your fruits. I forgot the demerera sugar on top, but don’t think I missed it.

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I talked about a different blueberry lemon cake recipe on here some years ago. That one is a decadent layer birthday cake, not to be confused with this delicate, weekday-afternoon-appropriate version. Both are hella delicious.

Simple Blueberry Lemon Cake with Lemon Cream aka the Best Psuedo-Frosting

from my friend Liz!

1 cup flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
⅔ cup sugar
zest of one lemon (about 1 ½ teaspoons)
½ stick (4 tablespoons) butter, room temp
½ teaspoon (or a bit more) pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
¼ cup plain Greek yogurt (whole or 2%)
¼ cup milk
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (no need to thaw)
1 ½ tablespoons turbinado sugar (I forgot this…)
fresh berries to serve (optional)

Lemon Cream

I doubled the original recipe and did not regret it. This is the ratio I used —

½ cup heavy whipping cream
4 tablespoons store-bought lemon curd

Preheat oven to 400F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch cake pan (I used springform but it isn’t necessary). Cut out a circle of parchment paper for the bottom of the pan.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

Put the sugar and lemon zest in a big bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix together with your fingertips to combine, until the mixture is sand-like and smells like lemon candy. Add the butter and beat for 3ish minutes on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy. (I used my Kitchenaid but hand mixer should work fine.) Beat in vanilla and the egg until combined. Add yogurt and beat well.

At low speed, beat in half the flour. Then add milk and beat until just combined. Add rest of the flour and mix until just combined.

Pour batter evenly into prepared cake pan. Scatter berries on top and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until cake is golden-brown and a tester comes out clean.

Let cool for 10 minutes in pan, then invert onto a rack. Peel off parchment and let cool all the way. Invert again onto a nice plate.

Meanwhile, back with your mixer, beat together the whipped cream and the lemon curd until creamy and thick. This took 3ish minutes for me. Texture should be the consistency of yogurt. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Dollop lemon cream on top of completely cooled cake. Top with fresh berries, if you’d like. Let your guests gush over how good this simple cake is.

Liz’s notes:

  • You can substitute ½ cup buttermilk for the yogurt and milk
  • This cake bakes quickly. (true!) Start checking it at 20 minutes.
  • Cake can be made one day in advance — just wrap it well in saran wrap overnight. Lemon curd can be made 8 hours in advance and stored in an airtight container in the fridge.
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Blueberry Lemon Buttermilk Cake with Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting

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You know, I’ve always been averse to baking professionally because, well, I’ve already tried to turn one of my passions into a career and I’m not sure I’m the better for it (sarcastic thanks to high school theater teachers who gave me too much encouragement).  Also I like having a stress reliever which doesn’t keep me up at night, memorizing lines and reevaluating life choices. AND which tastes delicious and makes people happy. Seriously, everyone likes being made a cake. Not everyone likes sitting through experimental clowning meditations on life and Brecht.

Daniel had a birthday and so of course I made a cake (also we’re going to a knife skills class today that I couldn’t be more excited about!). Mmm. The flavor combination came from a blueberry-ginger-almond biscotti we were selling at work and that everyone raved about. But alas, as I am almond-digesting deficient, I had to translate the flavor combo to an acceptable alternative. And hence was born the blueberry (and lemon) buttermilk cake with ginger (cream cheese) frosting. The parts in parenthesis were not part of the original plan but I’m glad they finagled their way in to the final picture.

I did no innovating here, just combined recipes scourged from across the vast blogosphere. Thank you, baking blog ladies, for creating such lovely recipes! I got the layer cake recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction (it stayed moist for DAYS!), and the fresh ginger frosting from blahnik baker.  No need for me to post their already-perfect recipes, but I urge you to check them out and then combine them! And then cover the result with crystallized ginger and invite a bunch of friends over.

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And while I’m at it, here’s the lovely cake I made myself for my birthday last August — Joy the Baker’s oreo-strawberry bonanza piled high with slightly-too-sweet oreo buttercream frosting. Everyone needs cake on their birthdays, even (especially) if you make it yourself. Even my dentist agrees, who gave me a slice of cake after my 9 am birthday dental session! I think he felt really, really bad.

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I think I’ll stay an amateur cake maker for now, but I have a pretty good photo collection going on if I change my mind someday, right??

Spicy Lemon Fregola with Artichokes and Caramelized Onions

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A February defined by performance, something a bit rare these days. A month full of those moments–when an audience member is excited with you, sad with you, surprised by you. When you feel your intentions and delivery and energy hit their mark and transform.

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This past month I’ve given a handful of performances of Amelia and Her Paper Tigers, a theatre for young audiences production I co-created about Amelia Earhart. It’s moments like when the little girl in the front row turns 180 degrees around in her chair to follow a prop going into the audience and then gasps with delight, or when a seasoned older theater-goer sheds a tear as Amelia stilts offstage for the last time and we are all left to wonder about her final moments and her legacy, that keep the acting dream alive. It’s so exciting to breathe life into a story I find so compelling. (Read more here!)

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Also this month, Cuban salsa has strengthened its grasp on my heartstrings (and schedule). That infectious audience energy when we nail an up-in-the-air move, or perform a long turn pattern in complete synchronization, or break into an intricate group move is so necessary for a good performance. We recently came back from San Francisco, where we had the opportunity to perform for what felt for the entire Cuban Salsa world. Hundreds of people from all over the country, and Mexico, Cuba, Italy, etc. The energy of this event was pure electricity and camaraderie; everyone excited to learn, observe, meet people, and, of course, dance. In the past week I’ve taken ladies rumba styling, salsa with Afro, group rueda classes, advanced casino partnering, ladies suelta, and most recently a crash course on son from the masters, Yanek and Karelia. I’m excited by how far I’ve come (two years ago I would’ve thought that previous sentence was pure gibberish) and what my body can do–adapt to new rhythms, styles, extended positions. It’s powerful.

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As such, not much cooking has occurred. This simple artichoke and fregola dish from Ottolenghi’s Plenty More was definitely the tastiest thing (and perhaps only things more complicated than scrambled eggs and one misguided cooking-while-sick soup attempt) to come out of my kitchen in February. In his liner notes, Ottolenghi calls this dish unphotogenic, and no picture appears. Well, Internet, may I present to you the not-stunning but certainly not ugly deliciousness of fregola artichoke pilaf with a bold and powerful jalapeño lemon sauce (page 82).

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These are the first pictures taken with my new camera (Olympus E-PL5). for the site! Daniel has been instrumental in taking and editing photos up to this point; I’m hoping to begin taking on some of the responsibility from here on out. Any tips would be appreciated 🙂

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Spicy Lemon Fregola with Artichokes and Caramelized Onions

barely adapted from Ottolenghi’s Plenty More

2 T olive oil
1 very large onion (or 2 small), cut into thin strips
1 T butter
about 11 ounces artichoke hearts (I used one and a half cans), liquid drained, each heart cut into sixths
9 oz fregola (about 1 ¼ cups) (you can substitute Israeli couscous or mograbiah)
2 ½ c veggie stock
1 ½ T red wine vinegar
¼ c kalamata olives, pitted and halved
¼ c toasted pine nuts (or almonds if you aren’t me)
chopped parsley to garnish
s&p

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large saute pan. Add onions and ¾ t salt and cook for at least 10 minutes (more like 13-14), stirring occasionally, until caramelized. While onions cook, place stock in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil.

When onions are done, add butter. Stir until butter melts. Next, add the boiling veggie stock, artichoke hearts, fregola, and 3 good grinds of black pepper. Give everything a good stir, then cover and cook over low heat for 18 minutes without stirring. (Apparently stirring leads to gumminess and starch build up.) At 18 minutes, liquid should be mostly absorbed (you can give a tiny peek). Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 10 more minutes.

After 10 minutes, add the red wine vinegar, olives, and pine nuts, and stir everything together gently. Serve with a big dollop of Lemon-Jalapeno Sauce (recipe below) and extra chopped parsley to garnish.

Lemon-Jalapeno Sauce

3 jalapenos, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
1 c parsley, coarsely chopped
1 T fresh lemon juice
3 T olive oil
1 preserved lemon, (or use my cheat: cut lemon (skin and all!) into thin slices and sautee with olive oil over medium low heat for 5 minutes; then add 1 t sugar and 1 t salt. Add water if sticks. Voila!)

Combine all ingredients in food processor. Blend until smooth!

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