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The Epicure Abroad

Passport & Plate - Meyer Lemon Bundt Cake

USA | Sunday, March 9, 2014 | 4 photos

- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for muffin tin
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for muffin tin
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated, plus juice, plus 2 tablespoons more lemon juice for the glaze
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar

How to prepare this recipe:
STEP 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a mini-bundt pan. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, vanilla, and zest and juice of 1 lemon. Set aside.
STEP 2. With an electric mixer, cream butter and granulated sugar until light. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk mixture.
STEP 3. Divide batter evenly in the pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a cake comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool 10 minutes in tin, then cool completely on a rack.
STEP 4. Set rack over wax or parchment paper. In a small bowl, stir confectioners' sugar with remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice until smooth. Pour over cakes and let set 30 minutes.

The story behind this recipe:
I had just returned to my apartment in Los Angeles after spending Christmas at home with my family in Northern California. Upon opening my suitcase, I found a note informing me that the TSA had checked my bag. I laughed – it must have looked very suspicious. If only I could have seen the serious face of a federal employee as he opened my suitcase filled with lemons. They weren’t just any ordinary citrus. They were Meyer lemons, but more than that, they were bright yellow, juicy capsules that tasted of home. In truth, “home” had not always been the house with the lemon tree. At the age of nine, when we moved from my childhood home, I was devastated and at first I refused to like our new residence, where I return nowadays to visit my parents. As I moped, my mom tried to point out the advantages of the new home to me. There’s a lemon tree out back! She had said. I didn’t yet understand what that meant – not until she brought in armfuls of the cheerful, little fruits and began preheating the oven. In the kitchen with the lemons, I stopped resenting my parents for making us move. Baking had always been something special that my mother and I shared; the warmth of the oven, our buttery fingers, the sweet aromas swirling around us – no one could be unhappy in a kitchen. Our culinary repertoire of lemon-inspired baked goods and savory dishes flourished, but nothing was ever so perfect as our Meyer Lemon Bundt Cakes. After moving to attend college, thoughts of these cakes hovered like pale yellow clouds in my mind. I found that store-bought citrus lacks an authenticity of flavor and so I packed a bag full of lemons to take to my apartment from home. An odd array of things have since filled my suitcase and I’m sure stranger things will occupy it in the future. My longing for the familiarity of my mother’s cake is now overcome with an insatiable wanderlust; I feel the emptiness of my suitcase and (though I may pack a lemon for comfort) I am ready to fill it anew.

About Me

Whenever I’m asked what I plan do to with my life, I answer (in all seriousness): eat, write and travel. The responses range from laughter to admonishment, usually accompanied by suggestions of “real” career paths; but just as any doctor prepares with med-school, I’ve been preparing my whole life for this sort of career. I was raised in a family that dearly understood the value of good food. As a poor Italian immigrant child, my grandfather nearly starved several times during his youth. He spent his adult life working to ensure his family would never know hunger and would appreciate food to its fullest. Each meal that we share is a sacred experience, an indulgence of the senses and a conveyance into the present. Before cooking a dish, I like to familiarize myself with its heritage and gather the advice of the culinary greats. Even the simplest dishes that I cook have a sprinkle of M.K. Fisher, a dash of Julia Child. My love of food is paralleled only by my love of language. I have studied Italian and French for several years so that I may fully embrace these foreign cultures when traveling, though I know I may always turn to the poetry of a fine meal as a universal means of communication. I connect with each food explorer category, but I feel compelled to take the journey as a Pilgrim, for I have been drawn to Italy as long as I can remember and I’m certain the experience will be redefining.

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