I spent the day before we left clearing out the kitchen like I always do before a trip that’s going to be more than a couple of days long. I promised myself I wouldn’t cook anything so I could focus my attention on cleaning up, packing, getting the dog squared away with the pet sitter, and paying stray bills. That all went out the window when I saw I had four plump Meyer lemons sitting in the fruit bowl. You can’t throw Meyer lemons in the garbage. That’s a sacrilege.
My Flourless Tangerine Cake was the inspiration here. Cakes made with whole citrus fruit are a Mediterranean specialty; they’re made with the whole fruit, peel and all. There is no wheat flour in this cake, just almond meal, so it has a fabulous moist dense texture and is naturally gluten free. In addition to the 3 whole lemons in the cake I added a touch of lemon extract and a super tangy lemon icing so this cake is really the essence of ‘lemony-ness’.
This kind of cake is probably not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you are a citrus fanatic like I am, I think you will love it. The fruit is boiled before pureeing, and that takes away any unpleasant bitterness in the peel. The combination of the whole pureed fruit and the almond meal makes for a very moist, but not soggy, cake. Traditionally this kind of cake would be served plain, maybe with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar, but I went over the top with a puckery lemon icing. I originally added it because the surface of my cake was a little jagged and wasn’t very attractive for photographing, but I’m so glad I did, it makes the cake extra special. It’s the kind of cake you can serve to guests, or eat, sliver by sliver, all week long.
- 3 or 4 large Meyer Lemons (approximately 12 oz, total to yield 1 cup of whole lemon puree)
- 3 large eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 cups almond meal
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp lemon extract
- 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
- Set oven to 325F
- Wash the lemons and put them in a pot. Cover them with water and bring to a boil. Boil for 15 minutes.
- Drain the lemons and let them cool until you can handle them. Cut them open and remove the seeds, but keep everything else. Do this on a plate so you can retain all the juices. Once you have removed all the seeds, put everything into a food processor. Process until finely pureed. You may need to pulse the machine at first, and scrape down the sides as necessary to get everything smooth. This will only take a couple of minutes. You will need one cup of lemon puree for the cake.
- Beat the eggs and the sugar until pale in color. Add the lemon extract.
- Fold in the almond meal, baking powder, and lemon puree. Mix until thoroughly combined.
- Turn the batter into a greased 9" springform pan. Smooth out the surface so it is even.
- Bake for about 50 -60 minutes, just until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then gently release the sides of the pan and remove the cake to finish cooling.
- Make the icing while the cake is cooling. Combine the sugar with the butter and lemon juice. Beat until smooth and creamy. Adjust the texture by adding more sugar or more lemon juice. If you prefer a less tangy icing, use less lemon juice and add a little milk or cream. Spread the icing on the completely cooled cake.
A note about flavor — I am a big fan of pure flavor extracts. I’m talking about pure natural extracts, not artificial flavorings. I think they add a nice boost in certain cases and in this case the lemon extract just enhances the citrus flavor of the cake. It’s handy to have a selection in your cupboard, especially as we go into the holiday and baking season. In addition to almond and vanilla I keep spearmint, peppermint, lemon, orange, rum, and coconut extracts around. I’m searching for maple extract, which is a little harder to find. There are lots of varieties available, ranging from pistachio to watermelon and cardamom. Just remember to say away from anything with the words ‘artificial’ or ‘imitation’ on the label. Olive Nation has a great selection if you’re interested.