A {gluten-free} Lemon Cake

[Kehoe Beach, August 2015.]

Yesterday we were on a beach in the blazing sun watching the Pacific roar and hurtle itself onto the sand; today we’re on a plane bound for the desert. It was a long and lovely summer full of mountain vistas, afternoons spent at the coast, walks around the neighborhood, visits with friends and family, and hours at various parks. Though this counters all Foreign Service ‘wisdom’ that counsels embracing what you have, I do hope the next 18 months pass rather quickly and that we’ll have a more weather-and-lifestyle-friendly posting in our near-term future. Until then, lemon cake.

This recipe is an oldie but a goodie and one I rely upon when I want to make a simple yet rich gluten-free dessert. (And I will note that it is indeed rich: you’ll need not a little butter in addition to a 1/2-dozen eggs yolks here. So it goes without saying this cake is meant to be shared with a lot of friends.) I first made it three Augusts ago when I was visiting my brother in Maine; we’d just come back from a quick trip to Vermont to see our cousins and aunt and uncle and I had stayed on for a few slow, leisurely days in Bath. We went to the beach there, too, and drank iced coffees in the warm mornings, and ate very well and occasionally I baked gluten-free cookies or a cake, the momentum for the work I’d soon do on my cookbook building as the days waned.

I didn’t include this recipe in my book because it’s not really mine; it’s adapted, rather, from a recipe from Darina Allen’s wonderful The Art of Country Cooking. That cookbook, as well as many others, will ease me back into that very strange life I live in Saudi Arabia. I haven’t seen most of my cooking implements, books of all sorts, and the bulk of my possessions in six months which is odd yet not terrible. Still, it will be nice to feel like our house is ours, at least for a short while, with our familiar paintings and furniture and little bits of pottery and crockery. Things are just things, sure, but they are welcoming for all they are inanimate objects. I’ve especially missed my old blue armchairs that are perfect for settling in with a good book – I have some Stegner to revisit, as well as my yearly Steinbeck read of Sweet Thursday, and maybe some Muir, too – and a cup of tea. A slice of cake would just be the icing on that little scenario.

This one is so nice. It’s lemony and almondy and not complicated at all. Using melted butter means you don’t have to turn on the mixer and you can probably put the batter together in less than 10 minutes. Save the egg whites for a meringue piled high with whipped cream and sliced plums sprinkled with cinnamon or make lemon meringue cookies or macarons or macaroons. You could also try a different citrus – grapefruit would be lovely! – in place of the lemon zest.


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