Tag Archives: Meyer lemon

Mini White Cakes + Citrus Curd + Mousseline Buttercream

My sister is coming from Virginia with her oldest daughter in a couple of days.  They used to be California types like us, but life’s necessities took her family to the East Coast for a few years before they were able to return to the Golden State, and then, opportunities not available here saw them back in Virginia.  Forever.  We stay in touch on Facebook, with occasional emails, and like a few mornings, ago phone calls from the grocery store while she was looking for cake flour.   My lovely, svelte sister is not a baker.  Lucky woman.

I miss her quite a bit these days, wondering if I’m suffering from the realization of not having taken advantage of her being closer when she was here.  There were quite a few years when she and I were each raising a house full of children and like most families, found time to get together for barbeques on birthdays and holidays, but we both had careers, so life was quite busy then.  I have three boys, and she, three girls.  She wanted a boy, and I a girl, but that wasn’t what happened, so I always thought I might get my fix of girls from spending time with hers — as in have sleep overs.  Tea parties.  Dressing up and painting toenails lots of crazy colors.  I guess one of my biggest flaws is idealism.  Silly me.  One can’t exactly have a tea party unless one invites a few tea party goers, can one?

Her youngest daughter– the last of our six boys and girls — is just finishing high school and so both my sister and I are facing very different times in our lives.  Mine has been focused on learning to live in a very quiet house newly void of boys since seeing my youngest off to college this past fall.  She is preparing for a wedding — her oldest daughter is to be married this coming summer.

As much as I missed many chances to get to know her daughters better than I have over the years, I was pleasantly surprised — humbled actually — to have my bride-to-be niece call late last year and ask if I might consider making her wedding cake.

Really?

Sure, I’ve made cakes.  Lots of them. But I’ve never made a wedding cake.

Ever.

I’ve never made anything with fondant, either, choosing instead to watch from afar as others work wonders with it.

The cake is to be round, not square.  Three-tiers of lemon with vanilla buttercream for 100 guests.  White fondant with varied shades of  yellow teardrops cascading down the sides.  Clean, sleek, simple.

And I have to figure out how to get it to L.A. where the wedding will be held.

Thankfully, I have many baking friends willing to share their experiences with fondant with me, as well as other great resources I’ve been learning from.  I’ve also buried myself in my favorite cake book, Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible.  I enjoy it because of the way the recipes are organized including both weight and volume in the ingredients list.

Since we’ve had an amazing variety of citrus to enjoy this winter, I decided to use that to begin my first experiments in wedding cake baking.  Three types of citrus curd and buttercream filling six little square cakes covered with a reasonably edible fondant may seem a bit over zealous for a first attempt, but I have a tendency to be that way in general.  It pushes my thinking while I make an enormous mess in my kitchen.

My next practice session begins today so my niece and sister can sample the flavors when they arrive, then I’ll make necessary adjustments and practice a few more times before the real cake is baked in July.

Wish me luck, and by all means, if you’ve done this before and have any recommendations, I will be more than happy to listen.

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Meyer Lemon and Blackberry Chiffon Pie

Meyer Lemon and Blackberry Chiffon Pie

In the months before my youngest was born, my mother suggested to my husband and I that she live with us to care for the baby after I returned to work.  We’d been looking for a larger house since my two older boys were on the verge of their teen years, and adding a third child meant room to stretch would be important for us all.  She knew I wasn’t looking forward to leaving the baby with a caregiver, and was growing tired of her own job, the hours it required, and the physical pain it caused her.  My husband is a far more easy going person than I could ever be, so he agreed and we changed the focus of our search to a home with four or five bedrooms instead of three.

We happened on to the perfect house one day by misreading the directions I’d written down.  An open house was just concluding and the realtors were preparing to leave.  We thought it looked perfect from the outside, but as soon as we entered — all heading in different directions — we were convinced.  It had only one owner in its 40 year history and was unique in so many ways.  Tucked into a hillside on a half acre shaped like a slice of pie, it faced east and overlooked the mature trees in the valley.  The back property hadn’t been cared for in years, but was a wealth of possibilities;  apricot, plum, tangerine, orange, grapefruit, loquat, and nut trees filled the space. It was perfect.

The year we moved in, the winter rains were especially heavy.  Slowly, the parched hillside turned green and bulbs planted years before began to push through layers of fallen leaves.  Sprigs of grape vines and berry bushes also appeared.  Saturday mornings before sunrise, the baby would wake earlier than I wanted, but it allowed us both some time alone.  With a bottle in his hands and coffee in one of mine, we’d walk up the hill in the early quiet of the day to see what new surprise we might find, finally growing after so many years of neglect. I loved that house.

Our trees often produced more than we could enjoy, so after freezer jam had been made, berries frozen, juice made, and sweets baked, we’d pack it up and set it down by the street with a “Free” sign.  It rarely took long for passers by to stop and help themselves to the produce, emptying the buckets we’d carry back up the hill to fill again.

Now, I have to depend on the market for most of what we used to give away, but I have learned recently of many organizations involved in gleaning urban fruit for a variety of purposes.  Whether it’s to gather and donate to those in need, or pluck and enjoy to keep it from rotting on the ground, interest in urban fruit foraging is gathering momentum as we all begin to think more responsibly about food.

I was gifted a big bag of Meyer lemons not too long ago, so had to pair them with the blackberries showing up at the market.  The berries will never compare with those we picked on our hill, but until I find them growing wild in San Diego, I’ll have to be tolerant — or do without.

But then, there is this pie…

76/365:  Blackberries

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