I baked the BEST cake the other day. I know that this is not a cooking blog and that my beloved readers are accustomed to my slightly sad, too confessional, almost-at-a-crisis-but-not-quite posts. Guess what? You deserve a break today! If I wrote a food blog, it would be a baking blog, and that would be bad for all of us, but mostly for the size of my ass.
But I digress. We have this lemon tree in our yard that produces more lemons than our whole neighborhood could use. (I know. Totally annoying California problem. Even I hate me.) But I managed to make good use of about half a dozen of those puppies when I found this recipe.
I implore you to make this cake next time you’re craving something sweet. It’s insanely good and easy and almost caramelized on the outside when it’s fresh out of the oven. My house smelled incredibly good all afternoon. Then the dog farted and it smelled normal again.
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups white sugar
5 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 large lemon, zested
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease and flour a fluted tube pan (such as a Bundt®).
2. Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer in a large bowl until light and fluffy. The mixture should be noticeably lighter in color. Add eggs one at a time, alternating with flour, allowing each egg and portion of flour to blend into the butter mixture before adding the next. Stir lemon juice and zest into flour mixture until batter is just combined; pour into prepared pan.
3. Bake in preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 45 to 55 minutes.
4. Let it cool, flip it over and pop it out of the pan. Put a dab of icing or sprinkled powdered sugar on top. Eat half of it before anyone else gets home and blame it on the dog. Don’t use a knife for cutting while eating, because that’ll give you away. Rip off pieces like the animal you are.
“Wow! You going to be doing a lot of baking?” the cashier woman at Trader Joe’s said. I felt caught because as I shopped, along with the usuals, I just allowed myself to grab what looked good. I ended up with brownie mix, blondie bar mix, pumpkin bread mix, and white icing. I decided to be honest with her. “Baking makes me happy,” I said.
On the drive home, I fretted. Am I unhappy? Not really. I’m doing okay. Most moments are good moments. So what motivated me to buy all those sweets? “Food is not love,” someone said recently. I’d heard it before, but this time it clanged like a gong in my ears.
I bake because I love to, but as I pulled the car up to the house, I thought about how I also bake now for my daughters, ages 5 and 8. I want to treat them. I want them to come home from school and walk into a house filled with dogs and cats, markers and crayons, music, flowers and cookies that are still warm and gooey. I want them to take a bite (after finishing their healthy snack) and feel safe, feel release. It’s okay. It’s allowed here. It’s all allowed here. Your messy feelings about your friends, the mistake you made in front of the teacher, the fact that you didn’t wipe your bottom well enough and now you have a rash. I bake as a signal that my girls can let go. They’re safe in this house with me.
And I’ll tell them a few things about my day, that I made mistakes too, that my hard work felt arduous at times, but that because we’re home together, sitting around a table with milk and cookies, I feel great.
I look at my girls, my beautiful little beings and I feel such hope and such fear—because I could be doing this all wrong. The mom who has the no sugar policy in her house, who races in triathlons; she doesn’t think I’m teaching my kids good eating habits. Do I tell her that when her daughter comes to our house, she pries open the pantry without asking and pilfers it? Do I stop her? Do I tell?