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A Lemon Tea Cake, My Dear Watson.

This week’s entry would not have been possible without the help of the fine folks at Chicago Computerland at 2640 N. Halsted.  First, a story of my own stupidity.

A few weeks ago, when I was posting La Macchina, I wanted to put in a few extra photos of Actual Ravioli that I’d made a few days prior, since the pasta shapes pictured in that entry were tortellini.  I was chatting up my roommate at the time, and I happened to be looking at him and not at my laptop as I moved to put my camera’s SD card into the laptop’s designated slot.  Welp.  I inadvertently slid it into the optical drive: the felt-lined slit where CDs and DVDs go.  Couldn’t get it out.  Cursing, and growing increasingly anxious, I tried to figure out how to remove the optical drive, and discovered that, on my laptop, it was a process so complex that it would have resulted in deconstructing the entire machine.  I can handle replacing a keyboard, or reconnecting the trackpad, but I’m not prepared to confidently reconnect every single part of my computer – that’s above my paygrade.

So to Yelp I went, and I found a willing assistance at Chicago Computerland; they performed the delicate computer surgery necessary, and restored my machine to its original glory.  It was $60, which was a small price to pay for my own foolishness.  Thanks, guys!

ANYWAY.

Back in March, I went to Seattle to visit my friends Heather and Kyle, and we cooked a ton: we made pizza, and mussels, and I taught Kyle to enjoy the tender mercies of a seared brussels sprout.  Heather taught me how to make this cake, which, true to the familial precepts that guide Heather’s absurdly-palatable pie crust recipe, contains oil instead of butter.  Some months later, I had a glut of yogurt in the fridge, and I decided I’d make the lemon cake.  But it wouldn’t do to simply reproduce the recipe, no indeed – not when you can just read it here.

Well, okay – the only difference here is that I changed the infusing syrup, but that does change the profile of this cake a bit – the tea adds a gentle astringency to balance the sweetness, which is, in turn, equalized by all the lemon.

A final note – always use parchment paper to line the loaf pan – this cake will get sticky, and no amount of pregreasing will ease its passage out of the pan.  Keep the cake in the parchment paper, even after removing it from the pan; it’s just easier for everyone.

Let’s get cracking!

Heather’s Lemony Yogurt Cake, Now With A Hint of Tea!
Makes one 9-inch loaf-pan full of tasty cake
The Set-Up

I mixed all the Dry Team ingredients in a tupperware container and set it aside for later, because I was originally down to two eggs and I needed three.

Ingredients:
Dry team:

  • 1 1/2 cups AP flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Wet team:

  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla (or, if you want an even more pronounced lemon flavor, some lemon extract, although I might recommend almond)

And

  • 1/2 cup neutral-tasting vegetable oil (like canola, soybean, or corn)

Lemon-Tea syrup:

  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp loose black tea, bagged

The Heist

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a smallish bowl, combine the Dry Team ingredients; in a larger bowl, combine the Wet Team ingredients.The Wet Team
  3. Fold the Dry Team into the Wet Team with a spatula until everything is incorporated and there are very few lumps.  Then pour the 1/2 cup of vegetable oil into the mixture and beat it soundly.  Ew, that’s creepy.  I’ll have you arrested for battery.  (Hiyo-o.)That's not funny, Ed McMahon.
  4. Line a 9-inch loaf pan with parchment paper and pour the batter into it.  Give it the old tappa-tappaand hurl it into your hotbox for 50 to 70 minutes, depending on A) the way your oven behaves, and B) how gooey you like your tea cake.  I like mine hella gooey, thank you much, so I tend to undercook it.  In this case, I don’t measure my toothpicks for whether or not they come out clean, but when they come out coated in batter, do they have too much batter on ‘em or just enough?The Old Poura-Poura
  5. As the cake cools in the pan, heat the lemon juice and the sugar in a tiny saucepan, and cook it over medium-high heat until the sugar dissolves.  Meanwhile, make the cup of tea and let it steep for about five minutes – you want to oversteep it a little bit, because we want some of that tannic overextraction.  Not a lot of it, but since the tea is going to be spread out across the entire cake, you want it to be a little bitter and noticeable.Oh, Tea.  You are my only friend.
  6. Give your nearest friend a high five.  Failing that, give yourself one.
    After all, you just made THIS!
  7. Mix the tea with the lemon syrup to taste – I might start with a quarter cup and add no more than a half; discard the rest of the tea, or drink it, if you like it bitter.Careful.  It is totally possible to just mainline this.
  8. Pour the lemon-tea syrup over the cake and let it soak – the cake will drink it up (and, in fact, the drier you cook the cake, the more tea you can probably add to the syrup.  Your call, though.).Bluaaaaaargh.
  9. Once the cake has cooled to room temperature, place it, and the pan, in the refrigerator until cooled through; then you may depan, slice, and serve.  Beware – these slices will be sticky.So okay Carolyn got this really silly alcoholic whipped cream and I've been putting it on everything.  Blame her!  I'm not a lush. *hic*

This whole Infused Cake thing has got me electric with ideas.  There’s no reason you couldn’t put any kind of syrup over this cake, really – I mean, why not blueberry syrup?  Why not ginger syrup?  Why not beer-batter cake with a hop-syrup infusion?

These things may await me in the future.  God, especially the hops syrup.  Has anyone ever done that?  Now I have to know.

Happy cooking, my friends!

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