Honey-Lemon Cake

[Easter table, April 2012.]

UPDATED TO ADD ON 4/19: Oops, I forgot that honey isn’t technically considered ‘vegan’. Still, ‘non-egg, non-dairy honey lemon cake’ doesn’t quite have the same ring … so I think I’ll just edit this to call it “honey lemon cake.” ça va?

Five days a week I eat one or two meals (plus snacks, plus coffee) while sitting at my desk in front of the computer. It’s actually more like two a day, if I’m being quite honest. Should I not admit that? I’m not proud of it … but it’s my reality. Which is perhaps why I get so manic about the concept of Sunday dinner, and dinner in general. I try to keep dinner sacred; it never involves computers or desks. A sit-down meal, bettered all the more by a nicely set table – this is something I dearly covet.

So on Easter Sunday, with thoughts of dinner already on my mind, I went out early with the dog to pick forget-me-nots and ferns growing wild along the road – so many forget-me-nots it would have been absolutely impossible to ignore (or forget) them even if one had wanted to. As I truly love those little blue flowers, despite their sticky pods that cling to fingers and shirts alike, and because right now ’tis their season, I couldn’t resist. I picked a lot. I had a clutch of daffodils from a few days earlier found whilst on a walk and those plus the forget-me-nots plus a bit of greenery graced my table.

[On the deck, April 2012.]

I set the table early, because there was hiking in the forecast. I placed the flowers just so and added hand-painted place cards and little spring treats because after all it was a holiday; holidays always need little treats. I checked to make sure the quiche was still in tip-top shape in the fridge (it was) and sliced the vegan lemon cake for post-meal noshing.

[Along the trail, April 2012.]

We took sandwiches – turkey and cheese for some, a cheese and avocado for me – and vegan almond butter cookies and water and potato chips, and ended up sitting along the side of the deserted road once we reached the top (could that have given me my poison oak?) as the wind was whipping about a bit and the rumored bench was too far to go. It was certainly not in front of a computer, and I was mightily grateful. Sometimes I think I live for the weekends, or at at least that’s when my ‘real’ life takes place. So unless I have a deadline I try to stay away from desks as much as possible.

Easter Sunday was: just a day, perhaps, but we made it ours. The sun drifted in and out and Tomales Bay was shrouded in fog. The dog showed off by carrying an enormous stick and jumped in and out of the lake (the best day of his life: a big swim and stick-throwing in the morning, then a hike and more swimming in the afternoon) We drank champagne before the fire upon returning home and ate my mom’s spanikopita. The meal was simple but still a little out of the ordinary. I roasted red and sweet potatoes with olive oil and thyme, made an asparagus-spinach quiche, a pot of soup and garlic toasts. As usual, there are few photographs because these days I’m lucky if I get 5 minutes, let alone an hour, to take pretty pictures of food (and, style and primp them beforehand). But it was all very good.

The vegan lemon cake was the surprise of the night – I’d tried out a new recipe and when I do that I’m always biting my fingers hoping all will turn out well. It wasn’t the most beautiful cake, probably because I’d baked it in loaf pan – cupcakes or doubling the recipe to make a layer cake would probably have looked more aesthetically alluring. But in the end, does that really matter? (Just so you know, it tasted wonderfully of lemon and vanilla with a bit of crunch from the almonds I added as an experiment.) What did we all do before cookery blogs made us think about how a dish looks, never mind tastes? Did we notice and/or care? I mean this about home cooking; restaurants are a whole other matter. When did it become such a big deal?

I guess I wonder about things like this because I do write a cookery blog and write about food here and there. I feel like I am failing if I don’t produce gorgeous photos regularly; or maybe it’s more accurate to say I feel like I’m failing when I don’t take the time to make the time. I know it’s there, even if I breakfast and lunch the majority of my days at my work desk (no one wants to see that; trust me). I used to post here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday; a little commitment to myself and my little corner of the Internet. Lately I’ve been woefully lacking in that – I’m lucky to get Wednesday and maybe a Tuesday or a Friday during a good week.

I’d like to do better. I’d like to at least post Wednesday and Friday, and if I can get another in there, all the better. And I’d like to have a bit more focus than ‘I went on a walk and set a nice table and we ate and it was goodness.’ Because, yes. But also other things, too. (What do you, my invisible readers, think of this? What would you like to see? Do you care?) I cook a lot of things I don’t document and I’d like improve upon that. I mean, the world certainly must know in detail about the fried tofu with brussels sprouts, carrots and shiitake mushrooms with sesame seeds and spinach quinoa I plan to cook for dinner tonight! Or if not in detail at least in recipe.

Or … I could just not think about it so much, yes? And just promise myself to post twice/week, no exceptions.

Meanwhile, I think this poem will be the theme of my weekend, not least because I hope to find fresh peas at the market on Saturday –


While the world
Spins on
Through seas
Of perilous stars,

Someone is shelling
Green peas
Into a cracked
White bowl.

— Valerie Worth

See you back here on Wednesday. Maybe earlier. But definitely Wednesday.



Join the Conversation

  1. Mmm, I’ll have to try this. I love lemon and honey together…so comforting. Sounds amazing!

  2. Elizabeth says:

    I’d just like to second what Janae said. I quite enjoy everything you write, Nicole! Don’t ever fret about subject-matter… For those of us who are (also) often at a desk, any wee adventures you have in the kitchen or on a hike are really lovely to read about…

  3. Yum! I just tried the Honey-Lemon Cakes recipe and they turned out beautiful thanks to my rose formed mini-cake dish (I wish I could post you the picture!). I made a couple of alterations…but I think it would be better if I hadn’t. I used 3 tablespoons of honey (but they weren’t sweet enough!) and had only 1 1/2 lemon’s to zest which ended giving me about 1 teaspoon instead of the 1 tablespoon, and I toasted the almond slivers which is the only thing that might be worth repeating from my version. So there you have it, delicious with alterations but my recommendation is stick to Nicole’s version!

  4. I made it tonight and it is delicious. I like how it is sweet but not overbearingly so.

  5. Well, I like your “‘I went on a walk and…” posts and think you should continue writing them because I feel as if I’m invited into your kitchen for a brief moment and its a place that inspires me. I also like your this is what I threw together for dinner posts (which I remember more of from your archives) because this is real life plus such meals teach people to cook with ingredients and spices on hand along with your hiking/camping/travel posts because I have a super sweet spot for northern California and the way you portray it. So you know, I’m happy to visit whenever you post—no matter how frequent they appear.

  6. Hi Nicole, I’m just stopping by to say I love your blog! Write about anything you like – food or otherwise – and we, your readers, will read. Yours is one of the few blogs that I immediately click to when I see it in my reader. I think your photos are lovely, and have never once thought they could use improving or more variety. I enjoy seeing what life looks like through your lens – no primping required. You have a certain style – earthy, natural – that is very nice to read and look at. Of course, if you wish to expand on it or change it up, I don’t think anyone would mind, either. But it is already great as it is. As for posting regularly, I think that’s something a lot of us with busy lives struggle with, so don’t feel too bad. We’re all just doing the best we can, which unfortunately rarely feels like enough (but it is!)… Have a great weekend :)

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