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One Bite Won’t Kill You.

April 13, 2011

lemon cake

“One bite won’t kill you, Ann,” I said to my 70 year old dad’s significant other as I passed on a bowl of shrimp curry.
“But I don’t like shrimp, Jon,” Ann stammered at the thought of trying something new.

We all know our share of finicky eaters.  My favorite is when someone claims not to like something before ever actually trying it. This is Ann.  She has made up her mind she doesn’t like onions, shrimp, most vegetables, and of all things, cake.
I decided to take it on myself to win Ann over and show her how cooking is fun and new ingredients can be yummy. My first attempt was a complete debacle after making the devilish mistake of moving too fast and serving up sashimi. As I grabbed my gas torch to slightly sear a beautiful piece of hamachi, Ann’s eyebrows raised in outright suspicion. I topped the fresh fish with a tangy, yet sweet, citrus soy sauce and creatively arranged the pieces on Ann’s plate.  Her response?
“You’ve got to be joking. I am not a cat.”

Back to the drawing board!   Next stops, in order, included chicken pot pie, Spanish style garlic shrimp, and a really lovely lemon and mushroom pasta so enticing it had the power to even awaken a zombie’s taste buds.
“I’m not eating that,” Ann said in protest.

Day four and 16 cups of tea later, I recalled Granny’s favorite phrase. “Find someone’s food weakness, and you will always have a friend forever.”

A light bulb clicked on as I recalled Ann saying she loved lemon meringues.  As I started to replay the DVD of times I have been in Ann’s company, I remembered her always saying she didn’t like cake.  Interestingly enough, she has a remarkable way of making it disappear! With Granny’s sage words echoing in my ear, I set off in the kitchen to create a lemon vanilla butter cake complete with lemon/lime glaze drooling down its sides.

I purposely invited Ann to grate the zest of the lemons and the limes to arouse her culinary senses.  She was love struck at the first whiff of fresh Florida citrus mixed with vanilla.  With the batter mixed and ready to be poured into a loaf pan, I questioned if I should let her lick the spoon.  Why Not?
I expected “MMMMM, Yummy!”  Instead, I was met with a stoic Mona Lisa face. Was it a smile? A frown? And then silence.
We stood by the oven and switched on the interior light to watch the magical transformation of flour, sugar, butter, and eggs into a perfect pound cake.

“This smells gorgeous,” Ann exclaimed in delight.

Frosted and ready to serve, I invited the neighbors over to join us for a pot of tea and a slice of cake. To Ann’s delight our dessert was met with rave reviews. Rightly so, this divine cake can convert the most finicky eater.
Completing my week’s culinary conquest, I left Ann with a steaming cup of tea in the kitchen and the quickly vanishing cake.  T-R-I-U-M-P-H-A-N-T!!!!

Lemon Butter cake with zesty drizzle
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs
zest 1 lemon, finely grated
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Lemon & Lime icing
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 lime
Juice 11⁄2 lemons
3/4 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 325°F with rack in middle. Butter an 8 1/2- by 4 1/2-inch loaf pan.

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.

Mix together sugar and zest with an electric mixer at low speed until sugar is evenly colored, then add butter and beat at high speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Add eggs 1 at a time at medium speed, scraping down side of bowl frequently, then add in vanilla. At low speed, mix in flour mixture until just incorporated.

Spread batter in loaf pan and rap pan several times on counter to eliminate air bubbles. Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Cool in pan on a rack 30 minutes.

While the cake is cooling in its tin, mix together the lemon zest, lemon juice and sugar to make the drizzle. Prick the warm cake all over with a skewer or fork, then pour over the drizzle – the juice will sink in and the sugar will form a lovely, crisp topping. Leave in the tin until completely cool, then run a knife around edge of pan and invert cake onto rack. Cool completely, top side up.

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