It was the peak of citrus season in Southern California I wasn’t getting any! Since I didn't get any last year I was having quite a dry spell. There is nobody is more appreciative of my fruit tree growing friends’ largesse than I am but it was once again looking as if another season was passing us over for neighborly citrus gifts. The years past usually brought bumper crops of neighborhood citrus: clementines, moro “blood” oranges, grapefruits and my absolute favorite garden gift -- Meyer lemons. Much to my chagrin (and sorrow) last year was a citrus dud and my mind raced with possible reasons for the unfortunate shortfall.
Was it something I said? Perhaps I forgot to properly express my appreciation for that last bag-o-lemons? Maybe I shouldn't have flirted so brazenly with her husband at the barbeque last fall?
This past summer it had seemed as if I couldn’t go outside without someone trying to give me their zucchini. This gave me some hope that I was once again in position to receive citrus come citrus season. Hopefully whatever imaginary slights I had worried about were either that, imaginary, or forgotten. And yet as late as two weeks ago it wasn’t looking all that good for me as far as citrus was concerned. The weeks were passed by and not even a single grapefruit. It seemed as if my citrus growers were not putting out!
I was desperate for the attentions of a manly lemon bar a few weeks ago so I broke down and bought a single Meyer lemon at the supermarket. No sooner do I do that when quite suddenly my luck changed and I had more neighborly citrus attention than I knew what to do with.
I wonder why? Perhaps the tree owners were tired of being awoken at night by the loud dull thuds of juicy ripe citrus fruits falling to the ground...the only viable solution being to harvest their cherished fruits and give them away? To me. Maybe she realized that my flirtations are quite harmless and are actually a compliment to HER good taste in men? Maybe I think too much?
Whatever it was I was certainly grateful for it (and made extra sure to let them know so) as I received huge baskets full of blood oranges and several shopping bags full of Meyer lemons and grapefruit. It was time to play! (...and drink Greyhounds!) What was once bleak turned into a citrus-a-palooza.
This light and yummy cake came about when I needed a simple but effective desert for a Sunday dinner that entered dinner party territory when extra family joined us. I really enjoy these simple cakes which use egg whites as the leavening – they have an elegant,rustic aesthetic and who can argue with a cake that needs no further decorating once it is out of the oven? . (Check out Dorie’s double chocolate mousse cake for another tasty example of this.)
I had no time to go shopping but... when life gives you Meyer lemons… make cake.
- 3/4 cup olive oil (extra-virgin if desired), plus additional for greasing pan
- 1 or 2 lemons (I used Meyer) You will need 1 Tablespoon Zest and 2 Tablespoons of the juice. A large lemon can get you this but I needed two
- 1 cup cake flour (not self-rising)
- 5 large eggs, separated, reserving 1 white for another use
- 3/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
For the cream:
- 1 cup whipping cream
- a teaspoon ground cardamom
- 2 teaspoons sugar
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Grease springform pan with some oil, then line bottom with a round of parchment paper. Oil parchment.
Finely grate enough lemon zest to measure 1 tablespoon and whisk together with flour. Halve lemons, then squeeze and reserve 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice.
Beat together yolks and 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until thick and pale, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add olive oil and reserved lemon juice, beating until just combined (mixture may appear separated). Using a wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture (do not beat) until just combined.
Beat egg whites (from 4 eggs) with 1/2 teaspoon salt in another large bowl with cleaned beaters at medium-high speed until foamy, then add 1/4 cup sugar a little at a time, beating, and continue to beat until egg whites just hold soft peaks, about 3 minutes.
Gently fold one third of whites into yolk mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.
Transfer batter to springform pan and gently rap against work surface once or twice to release any air bubbles. Sprinkle top evenly with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar. Bake until puffed and golden and a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool cake in pan on a rack 10 minutes, then run a thin knife around edge of pan and remove side of pan. Cool cake to room temperature, about 1 1/4 hours. Remove bottom of pan and peel off parchment, then transfer cake to a serving plate.