Saturday, August 6, 2016

Lemon Cakes: or, Our Family Reunion Strikes Again!

It's that time of year again when my extended family descends upon an unsuspecting state park and overwhelm the people manning the gate! Seriously, the line to get in lasted for fifteen minutes and we at A Book of Cookrye were related to someone in every single car in front of us. That is not hyperbole. And this year was my grandfather's birthday! Which means... cake!
All Electric-Mix Recipes Prepared Specially for your Dormeyer Mixer, 1946

I've made this recipe a few times with orange, but lemon-flavored things tend to disappear the fastest at family gatherings. So, lemon it is!

Fresh Lemon* Cupcakes
2 c flour
1½ c sugar
¼ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
½ c butter
Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
1 c milk
2 eggs

Heat oven to 350°. Line a cupcake pan with papers. Mix the lemon juice with milk to make 1 cup.
Put the lemon rind and the sugar in a bowl. Rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is yellow and smells very lemony. Add the flour, baking soda, salt, butter, and ⅔ cups of the lemon milk (which is probably curdled but will be fine). Beat on slow to medium speed for 2 minutes. Add remaining milk and the eggs. Beat 2 more minutes.
Pour into the pans and bake until golden on top and the center springs back when lightly pressed.

*The original recipe uses orange instead of lemon. Both are good.
The cake batter will be the same color as an ordinary yellow cake. If you want it to be a lemony yellow (or orange if you used that instead), add food coloring.

Adapted from All Electric-Mix Recipes Prepared Specially for your Dormeyer Mixer, 1946

The celebration cake (from the same book as today's recipe) has made me a bit leery of recipes where you flog everything extensively with an electric mixer, but it looked like it would indeed turn into cake and not disappointment.

I briefly considered cutting back on the lemon juice from the original amount in the recipe since lemon is so much more sour than orange juice. That's briefly considered. We're not going for delicate, refined things for delicate, refined people. We want a very lemony lemon cake.
That's not blood, it's yellow food coloring.

And indeed, that's what we got! Also, thanks to our friendly friends in the food coloring industry, it now looks as lemony as it tastes!

Our Mom of Cookrye likes to get these little foofy paper serving things when she espies them with a steep markdown on the price tag. It was perfect for making a birthday cake for one. I mean, what better present can there be (from someone short on budget but long on flour) than a whole birthday cake that's not so big it will sit on the counter going stale for two weeks?

There was also some excess batter, which means we get to taste the cake for ourselves.

As we hoped, the lemony birthday cake came out looking perfect and smelling wonderfully lemony. Also, it appears I got the batter amount exactly right! It rose up exactly to the bottom of the paper pan thing.
I hope nothing in that paper degrades to hazardous chemicals when baked.

Meanwhile, we decided to attempt decorative icing on the cupcakes. We had a one-out-of-three success rate.
We have made two brains and a sundae.

Given a thoroughly unjustified surge of cake-decorating confidence, we decided not to spread icing on our grandfather's birthday cake but to decoratively pipe it on in a sort of filigree design. As evidenced by the subsequent obliteration of the design with a spoon, we failed.
Similar spoon-flattening repaired the cupcake brains.

Also, for the same family reunion, we made brownies! Why? Because everyone likes brownies. We used the Betty Feezor brownie recipe but with one change: using whole-wheat flour instead of white. This isn't some attempt to make diet-friendly desserts (notice that we didn't cut back the butter), but an interesting discovery we found in an old cookbook (Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts, and yes you should at least interlibrary-loan it). It turns out that whole-wheat flour goes really well with chocolate. Like, it sort of amplifies the chocolate flavor and adds an earthy undertone that makes them a lot better. I don't mean they're better in a sanctimonious "quit complaining, it's better for you" sense; they really are better.
Why no, we didn't bother washing the bowl between batches.

Since we ran out of butter between batches 2 and 3, we ended up using all of the margarine in the refrigerator for the last one. And... honestly, the margarine ones look a lot better. Both of them were really delicious, though.

And besides, no one was going to notice any visible difference since we covered them in gobs of chocolate icing! Also, did you know that squeezing icing out of a bag makes it a lot easier to spread? We found this out since we already had the chocolate icing bagged up from writing FELIZ 80 on the birthday cake, but it works a lot better than gobbing it on with a spoon and trying to smear it flat.
Full disclosure: that wasn't enough icing and we had to squirt on more.

As you can see, we at A Book of Cookrye believe in quality control through thorough testing of brownies.

And indeed, everyone liked the brownies. As proof the whole-wheat flour doesn't make them taste weird, the only disappointment was when one of the pans got nearly empty.... and that ended when we got out another one.
As my uncle said, "Looks like refried beans."

One of my cousins now works in wildlife rescue. So, apropos of nothing, please enjoy these pictures of baby raccoons.


  1. I've been looking for a cake to make for my upcoming birthday. I was thinking lemon, and this is certainly swaying me in that direction! Such perfect lemony mounds. Yum.

    1. This really is one of the best lemon cake recipes I've found. If you try it, I'd love to know what you thought!