That was one of the reasons I bought Michael Ruhlman’s “Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everday Cooking” so I could feel more confident dissecting a recipe and making it my own without messing up the right ratios (and turning a cake into a pudding, for example) or playing with some basic ingredients and building them up into a recipe that is all mine.
Don’t expect a big colorful cookbook from Ratio. It’s more like a science textbook, analyzing ratios and providing some basic recipes, and it’s one I see myself referring to more and more in the future. I would even suggest the ebook version as it’s more of a reference and the photos are black & white in the hardcover version anyway.
The weather this winter in Milan was unusually rainy, cold, and grey. It can often be rainy, cold, and grey in Milan, but it was for far too long. I say was, since we’re technically in spring for more than a month, but it’s only been warm this past week that I’ve been able to feel it at all. For a while, I rebelled in my own “American in Italy” way – nixing the omnipresent scarf (which I love) but still having a completely zipped-up jacket, or trying not to wear 2 pairs of pants to the gym (like I do in winter) during my 100m walk out in the “elements.” Finally it looks like I can shed that heavy winter jacket for good.
But while I was deep in the still-in-winter-blah (only last week), I started obsessing about lemons. Lemons are one of my favorite ingredients, and scents – I rub a lemon beeswax hand salve on my hands every day in my form of aromatherapy – and I wanted a lemony cake to snack on. LEMONS! I couldn’t stop thinking about lemons.
I started jotting notes down in a moleskine (I have a small cahier where I write down weekly menus / recipes which you can see below) just to try and get it out of my head. But the lemons wouldn’t go away. I made a special trip down to the store to gather a few ingredients and over lunch, in a frenzy, I whipped up this Lemon Almond Cake.
I have sacks of raw almonds in my house which is why I turned again to them as the “flour” for this cake (it’s a gluten-free cake!), and wanted to keep it really basic so that I could continue to tweak it as I moved on. Eggs, almonds, greek yogurt, and sugar. That’s it! Oh, and of course lemons.
I wanted to post this, pre-tweak, in its basic form, to encourage you to make this recipe your own.
The tweaks I have thought about? Less sugar, more almonds, maybe add some coconut flour/unsweetened flakes, more eggs, honey instead of sugar, whip egg whites with sugar? Leave the skins on the almonds? Poppyseeds? What about chia seeds? Obviously I won’t do all of those tweaks together, and I’ll think back to the ratios I want to achieve as I tweak, but those are some ideas to experiment with. Experimenting with the pan and cooking times, too!
And as for Ratio? This cake is a hybrid because I’m still a bit of a rebel. It’s close to a pound cake, with some characteristics of a sponge cake, but still very dense and crumbly.
Lemon Almond Cake Recipe (Gluten-free)
Super moist, definitely crumbly which is why I recommend letting it cool completely before cutting (and it sticks together nicely even more the day after) with a slightly caramelized “crust.” I also made a lemon sugar glaze (below) with a few teaspoons of lemon juice and confectioner’s sugar, but this cake is pretty sweet already and doesn’t really need it. Taste it and make it your own!
170g (approx. 3/4 cup) greek yogurt (i.e., one of Fage’s single serving containers)
2 medium eggs, separated
180g (approx. 1 cup) dememara / cane sugar
225g (approx. 1 1/2 cups) blanched almonds (skins removed)
2 lemons (organic / unwaxed/unsprayed skins)
1 pinch salt (optional)
- Preheat oven to 180C (about 350/355F). Cut a round of parchment paper to fit the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan (optional – I left this step off the second time I made the cake and I liked the crusty bottom better).
- Zest the two lemons with a microplaner or zester, and mix the zest with the sugar, yogurt, and egg yolks. Beat with a whisk or hand mixer until well blended.
- Pulse the blanched almonds in a food processor until finely ground (about a minute). Add the almonds to the wet mixture and mix well.
- Taste the batter for “lemony-ness.” It wasn’t lemony enough for me, so I added the juice of 1/2 a lemon as well (about 2-3 T.) and mixed well. I also added a pinch of salt here, because I wanted to. You can leave it out.
- Whip the egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the mixture with a spatula or wooden spoon until well incorporated.
- Pour the batter into the springform pan and put into the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, checking for doneness after 20 minutes. The cake will brown quite a bit and the center will spring back when touched lightly. Let cake cool completely before serving. Run a knife around the edge of the springform pan before releasing the sides.
Are you a lemon fan? What about experimenting with recipes, or making your own? How would you tweak this cake to make it your own?