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Friday, May 12, 2017

Ligurian Cuisine: Tarta di Limone

Mother’s Day is upon us.  Although my mother has passed on, she’s with me everyday, and especially every time I step in the kitchen.  Even as a small child, often I was right there by her side, stirring this or pouring that.  I knew cup and teaspoon and tablespoon measures before I could read. My mother also showed me how to measure spoonfuls by the open palm, that-looks-about-right method.  One of her specialties was Lemon cake.  Gracious, I can still taste that lemony flavor that permeated my childhood dreams.  I was a championship bowl licker.

So, when I got to Cinque Terre and found out we would be making Tarta di Lemone with our hostess, Daniella, I found myself convulsed with inner turmoil.  You know the feeling: this can’t be as good as my mother’s, but I have to be nice to my hostess.  No need to fret, and one check of Daniella’s recipe will tell you why.  My mother’s was made with real lemons and no shortcuts.  No cake mix. No lemon curd from a can, or squirts of lemon juice from a plastic bottle.  Ditto in Daniella’s kitchen!  With just the heavenly aroma, you can instantly tell a cake made with fresh ingredients. Oh, my goodness!

So let’s get back to Cinque Terre and the task at hand.  Tarta di Lemone.  A quick check of the recipe and ingredients tells the story.

This cake goes together like a dream…a dream of my mother’s kitchen!

Preheat oven to 325
baking time 50 minutes

In a small bowl mix together:

1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
half tsp salt

In a small bowl mix together:

¼ cup yogurt (or milk)
1 tsp vanilla

In a medium bowl cream together: (I used a handheld, electric mixer)

1 stick butter (softened)
¾ cup sugar plus 2 T
zest of 2 lemons

Add 2 eggs one at a time and mix well after each.

Alternating, add the flour and yogurt mixtures to the butter/sugar mixture, then add 2 T fresh lemon juice.  (About one lemon’s worth)  Mix well.  You’ll have a light, fluffy batter.

Put the batter in a buttered/floured loaf pan and bake until a knife comes out clean.  Note: in my oven, the cake needed about seven minutes longer to bake. Let the cake cool 10 minutes then invert onto a rack. 

Slice the cake and pair it with berries and whipped cream.  And, don’t you dare use a can of pre-whipped cream…or sin of sins, Cool Fluff!

In this recipe, the cake’s deep lemon flavor isn’t overpowered by sugar and I like to keep it that way.  No icing.  Let the whipped cream and berries do their work of enhancing and adding depth to the flavor. Your only other job is to have a glass of milk close at hand…make that a quart!

Come on now!  Mother’s Day is only a day or two away!  Let’s be kind to our childhood memories!  Daniella sure helped me refresh mine!

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