When I started this blog in December 2005, I did it so that I could have a place to share my passion for baking and cooking. And I also did it so that I could use some of those cookbooks that keep appearing on The Overburdened Bookshelf.
I have no idea how they get there.
As I celebrated a year of blogging, I was thinking about how lucky I’ve been to first and foremost have met so many wonderful people, a few of whom I’ve been able to meet in person. Add to that the fact that I’ve tried so many new recipes and learned so much … well … I thought I couldn’t possibly be more fortunate.
But to be nominated, and then to make the top five in a category with such talented and worthy writers, well it’s just too much! From the bottom of my heart I thank you!
And I also urge you to go and vote. The polls are open until January 9th. There are so many talented nominees and the choice will be difficult. But please do cast your ballot for your favourites!
I’m so happy after this good news that I can share this beautiful cake with all of you. This is an orange and lemon cake from Patricia Wells’ book, Trattoria. For those of you that aren’t familiar with Patricia Wells, she’s a prolific writer who has been a food critic and restaurant reviewer. She is a highly decorated cookbook author who counts a Julia Child/IACP Award and a James Beard Foundation Award among her accomplishments. Besides Trattoria, she has written numerous cookbooks including several all the food of Provence. As if that’s not brilliant enough, Patricia teaches cooking classes in Paris! My dream is to be able to attend on of those classes one day.
Patricia’s books have an ease to them that is inviting and appealing to a home cook like myself. It’s easy to feel yourself in an Italian trattoria or in a Provencal kitchen while flipping through one of her books. Her recipes are clear and authentic, and I don’t think I’ve ever been disappointed.
I received Trattoria as a Christmas gift in 2005, and I realized recently that I had yet to really take an in depth look at the book. While on my trip in December, as the time to leave neared, I found myself beginning to yearn for the simple yet robust food of home. I enjoyed all that I ate while in Europe (believe me I did), but I was ready to come back to some good solid pasta! Without much hesitation, I chose Trattoria to be the Flavour of the Month for January 2007 as it contained so many of the soul-nourishing recipes I seem to be yearning for these days. Now while I would normally begin my exploration of a Flavour of the Month at the beginning of the book, I found myself drawn to the section on Desserts.
Me? Drawn to desserts? Shocking, isn’t it?!
One particular sweet kept tempting me and it took the form of Patricia’s Fragrant Orange and Lemon Cake (Torta di Arancio e Limone). There are no photographs in Trattoria, yet the description of this cake, so full of zest and citrus juice, had me envisioning what the final product would look like even before I tried it. I could already smell the heady aroma of this cake coming out of the oven. And something about the combination of orange and lemon, at this time of year, just felt so right. Besides the fact that it hasn’t been the coldest of winters (yet), it feels so virtuous to be eating a cake full of vitamin-packed citrus. Why it practically cancels out all the butter!
I said practically.
Beyond the health benefits of this cake (minimal though they may be), I love filling the kitchen with oranges and lemons, especially around the holidays. They lend such a festive air to the table so baking this cake made me feel like the best part of the holidays … the part where you bake and rest and enjoy time with your friends and family … could continue even though the holidays themselves are over.
I wish you all a wonderful January and I hope that if you have the chance, you will try this lovely cake and that it will warm your kitchens wherever you are.
Orange and Lemon Cake
Adapted from Patricia Wells’ Trattoria.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 2 tbsp. grated lemon zest
- 2 tbsp. grated orange zest
- juice of 1 lemon
- juice of 1 orange
- a few drops of orange oil (optional)
- 3/4 cup milk (preferably whole)
- 1 cup butter, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup vanilla sugar
- 3/4 cup sugar (if you don’t have vanilla sugar, just use 1-1/2 cups regular granulated sugar)
- 5 large eggs, at room temperature
- icing sugar for dusting
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and butter and flour a 9- or 10-inch cake pan or springform pan. If you use a 9-inch pan, make sure it has sides that are at least 3 inches high or your cake batter may overflow.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Once sifted, add the orange and lemon zests and mix well. Set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, using the paddle attachment on medium speed, combine the butter and sugar and mix for 2 to 3 minutes until the butter is light in colour and appears fluffy.
- Combine the lemon juice, orange juice and milk and stir.
- Add the eggs to the butter/sugar mixture, one at a time, on medium speed, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition.
- Begin adding the dry ingredients, in three additions, and then alternating with the milk/juice mixture. You should begin with the dry ingredients and end with the dry ingredients.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes to an hour. Check the cake after 50 minutes by inserting a toothpick or cake tester into the centre of the cake. If it comes out clean, it’s done. If not, continue baking the cake. In my oven the cake took an hour so the baking time may vary based on your oven.
- Once done, remove the cake from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool completely. Once cool, unmold the cake and dust with icing sugar before serving.
Note: The original recipe calls for 1-1/2 cups of vanilla sugar, but that would have completely exhausted my supply so I cut that down to a 3/4 cup of vanilla sugar and then used a 3/4 cup of regular granulated sugar. You can use 1-1/2 cups of regular granulated sugar and add vanilla extract for the vanilla flavour. If you want to make your own vanilla sugar, simply take a few pods of vanilla and place them in a container. Cover the pods with sugar and leave them for a week or two so that the sugar absorbs the aroma of the vanilla. Each time you use some sugar, be sure to replenish the supply in the jar. And any time you use a vanilla pod, don’t throw it away. Dry it off and then add it to your jar of sugar.
I also used orange oil in this recipe because I love the intense orange flavour that it imparts. You do not have to use orange oil. The zest and juice is fine.