Happy New Year!
We keep the tree and decorations up until at least January 7th, but then it is time . . .
Slowly, doing a little bit every day, I put away all the treasured symbols of Christmas for our family – the wooden nativity scene I brought back from the Philippines when I spent Christmas there years ago, the delicate snowflake mobile my mother crocheted, the twinkle-light garland twined around the banister and the many nutcrackers we’ve collected over the years. I take down the strings full of cards sent by friends and family. I carefully wrap up each of the blown glass ornaments and birds of all colours that decorate our tree. And lastly we’ll drag the tree out to the firepit (hidden under two feet of snow) to burn in springtime. I’ll have to vacuum up the drifts of dry needles it always trails out the door.
The rooms will look empty after the festive baubles are all gone, but somehow refreshingly new again, too. That emptiness feels clean and ready for a new year of happenings and life. Bring it on.
Here’s to 2013!
I didn’t make any specific New Year’s Resolutions this year – just to connect more . . . connect more with all the important people in my life: more phone calls to faraway friends, more time with my husband, more one-on-one time with my children, more conversations with my sisters, more reconnecting with old friends, more talks with my mom, more lunches with nearby friends, and more time with me. Time to do the things that are important to me . . . or time to do nothing at all.
Aren’t we lucky that each day is a new beginning – we don’t really have to wait for a new year to start all over again. But the hanging up of a new calendar in a new year means more, somehow, than just a new day’s beginning. It’s a tangible reminder, symbolic and more in-our-face. You see that clean new page and it feels like a bigger chance to start over again. So we make our resolutions. And even if we don’t successfully stick to each one, it’s the awareness of change and the moving in a new direction that counts. Even reaching a small portion of our goals brings us farther ahead and makes us a better person than we were last year.
So in the spirit of newness and light, here’s a recipe for a fresh and lovely lemon and olive oil cake.
This cake is moist and light and not too sweet. If you are lemon lover, you will be smiling with every bite. The glaze on top adds another lemon kick that makes a zippy counterpart to the intriguing herbal flavours of olive oil in a cake. This type of cake originates in the Mediterranean, and the three main ingredients – lemons, almonds, and olive oil – are all products grown in that warm sea-and-sun-kissed climate. The almond flour and eggs make the cake high in protein, and its lower sweetness makes it a great breakfast indulgence with a cup of coffee or tea. A slice with your afternoon tea is not so bad either.
And of course it’s also wonderful as a simple and sumptuous dessert.
So start off your year with a little Mediterranean sunshine.
Kitchen Frau Notes: This cake is great with regular lemons, but right now the Meyer lemons are in season and I can’t resist using their sweetness and juiciness. They are thought to be a cross between mandarin oranges and lemons, so their skins range from deep yellow to almost orange and the fruits are sweeter, milder and juicier than regular lemons. The cake isn’t quite as intensely lemony as when I make it with regular lemons, but that is more than compensated with the bright citrus flavour of the Meyer lemons.
I think the powdered psyllium husk helps hold the cake together better and makes a nicer texture, but you can omit it if you don’t have it and still have great results.
If you use regular all-purpose flour instead of the millet flour you can also skip the psyllium husk. (Your cake will no longer be gluten-free, though.)
You can use regular olive oil for this recipe, but if you have a nice, fruity, extra virgin olive oil (the kind that has a grassy-green or deep-golden tinge) – use it to add a complex, delicious ‘hmm, what is that interesting flavour?’ depth to your cake.
And do add the glaze. It’s what makes the cake.
Lemon, Almond Flour and Olive Oil Cake
- 4 large eggs
- ½ cup (120ml) natural cane sugar
- zest of 1 lemon
- ¼ cup (60ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
- ½ cup (120ml) olive oil
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup (110gms) almond flour
- ½ cup (75gms) millet flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon powdered psyllium husk (optional)
- juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons rum (or water)
- powdered sugar to dust top of cake
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Trace the bottom of an 8-inch (20cm) springform pan onto parchment paper and cut out the circle. Trim it so it lays flat in the pan. Lift it out of the pan, grease the pan, then lay the paper circle back into the springform pan and grease it, too.
With the whisk attachment of an electric mixer (or a hand whisk and lots of elbow grease), beat the eggs and sugar until they are light and fluffy and look like pale yellow softly whipped cream.
Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil and vanilla extract. Beat well.
Add the almond flour, millet flour, baking powder, baking soda and psyllium husk powder (if using).
Mix just until combined and pour into the prepared pan.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until the top no longer feels jiggly to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with crumbs attached. The cake will be quite dark.
In a small saucepan, heat the lemon juice, honey and rum (or water) until the honey is just melted and the mixture is hot. One spoonful at a time, so you can control where the glaze goes, drizzle the glaze over the top of the hot cake. Drizzle mostly around the outside edge of the cake so it gets soaked. The cake will have dropped slightly in the middle and most of the glaze will run there anyway, so make sure to douse the edges well so the cake is evenly moistened.
When the cake is cool, remove the outside of the springform pan. Just before serving, sprinkle the top of the cake with powdered sugar shaken through a small sieve or tea strainer.
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