A couple of weeks ago, I got up earlier than usual, while the light was still blue, and baked a cake.
We are having a very adult fall - not adult in the sense of, I don't know, the adult film industry, but in the sense that we now have a child who is enrolled in a real school. I remember only bits and pieces of my own first year of school, but I do remember operating under the happy illusion that my parents were bonafide adults who had things figured out. Having now crossed over to the other side of that illusion, I can report that, whoa, hey, it's an illusion! June is no fool, but she's content to play along as necessary. Yesterday, in the car on the way home, she informed me, apropos of nothing, that she has no blood. When I asked what's inside her body instead, she paused and stared out the window - Moms, man! Totally clueless! - and then replied, "Pee and poop, silly." (She gets it from me.)
In any case, we are now firmly into fall. My child, who has no blood, is now a child who goes to school. I am, as ever, a person who will bake a cake before the sun is up, after the sun is down, and anywhere in between, because I like to.
This is Alison Roman's Coconut-Lemon Tea Cake, from her Short Stack mini-book Lemons. I picked up a copy of Lemons on a whim one day at Book Larder, and I immediately wanted to make everything in it, starting with a Campari/lemon/rosé drink called "Rosé All Day," or maybe "Meyer Lemon Moonshine" (which, as Roman explains, "is one of the easiest things you can do with lemons, and of course the most fun (because it will get you very drunk)."). But I went for cake.
There are a certain few cooks whose recipes I trust instinctively and always. It's not to say that I trust only those few, but theirs are the recipes that most consistently appeal to me, make me feel confident, and in the end, make me proud. The late Judy Rodgers, for instance, is one of those cooks. Another is Alison Roman. I don't know her, and she doesn't know me, but she was a senior food editor at Bon Appétit, and I first saw her name in the magazine, attached to a lot of good recipes. That raspberry-ricotta cake I wrote about last March, that was hers. She's now moved over to BuzzFeed Food, but in any case, wherever she is, she knows her way around a lemon.
This cake uses lemon in two forms: the grated zest, which you rub into sugar to infuse and perfume the batter, and the juice, which you make into a syrup to pour over the finished cake. There's also coconut in two forms, though its flavor is more subtle: there's coconut oil in the cake itself, and coconut flakes on top, which get toasted and sticky with the lemon syrup. What you wind up with is a texture and heft a lot like pound cake, but with a heady whack of lemon and the satisfying chew of coconut. June and I ate it for breakfast, and I took another slice after lunch. My mother, who loves a lemon dessert, came over a couple of days later and stumbled upon what was left of the loaf, still moist, when she went to put away an upturned aluminum mixing bowl on the counter and found that I'd co-opted it as a cake dome. She raved about it. This one's for her.
Coconut-Lemon Tea Cake
Lemons, by Alison Roman (Short Stack Editions, Volume 13)
- 1 ½ cups (210 grams) all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 ¼ cup (250 grams) sugar, divided
- 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
- ¾ cup (210 grams) whole-milk Greek yogurt (see note above)
- ½ cup (80 grams) coconut oil, melted
- 2 large eggs
- ½ cup (35 grams) unsweetened coconut flakes
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice