Some days life calls for cake. For a birthday, a graduation, a special date night, or even if your toilet is in your bathtub, which is where ours is right now because we’re replacing the bathroom floor. Having the one full bathroom ripped apart with a family of four is a little goofy, that’s for sure. So what am I doing? Baking, because the next thing we rip up will be the kitchen floor.
Oh the joys of old houses. I love them, but I’m weary of the many disasters one often uncovers when they start to dig under layers to redo things. The bathroom is out of order, boxes of tile, grout, mortar and sponges litter the living room, a tile cutter joins the rest of the debris on the dining room table and as much as I like a good project, I really just want this one to be finished.
I’m not a huge sweet tooth, and sometimes baking stresses me out, but this cake is seductive and easy and it’s not too sweet which is perfect for me. As I grate the tablespoons of lemon zest, I feel better already. Mmm, the scent of freshly grated lemon zest, so divine. Good aromas and scents in the kitchen are like therapy for me. Here, the lemon shines, not like a shockingly sweet lemon candy, but baked-in warm with the almond flour, it’s really the main flavor, the flavor of comfort. Hints of cardamom add one more mystery; like dabs of perfume on a woman’s neck; they keep you wondering, “What is that lovely scent?”
Although this cake is easy to make, every time I get to the step of folding in the egg whites, I think, “No way is this going to work.” The batter of egg yolks, lemon zest, sugar, almond flour, cardamom and baking powder is so thick and dense and there’s not much of it, which leads me to think I’ve made a mistake. It looks like really thick, dry polenta.
But, if I’m patient and gently fold in the egg whites in batches, I can see when the final cake batter takes shape, all pale and glossy, and that moment always gives me such a good feeling. Even with four beaten egg whites, this won’t ever be a thick cake. What it will be is so amazingly delicious you’ll be elbowing for the last slice. It makes a wonderful snack with your afternoon tea or a perfect dessert decorated with a bit of powdered sugar and fresh berries.
And, we’ve even been known to sneak bites for breakfast in this house.
Maybe this cake will help me face the bathroom floor project. Although I cringe at what the re-muddlers, who owned the house before us, did to the floor, and I question whether we will ever finish this crazy project, I just have to be patient and think of those egg whites as I gently fold them in and that moment when I know this cake was meant to be.
- 4 eggs, separated into 4 egg yolks and 4 egg whites, room temperature
- 2 Tbsp lemon zest, packed
- 1/2 cup (100g) white sugar, divided 1/4 cup (50g) and 1/4 cup (50g)
- 1 1/2 cups (170g) finely ground almond meal or almond flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 teaspoon white or cider vinegar
- Pinch of salt
- Powdered sugar for sprinkling
- Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Place a round of parchment paper on the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan, and grease it and the sides of the pan with butter or cooking spray.
- In a large bowl, beat together with a wooden spoon the egg yolks, lemon zest, and 1/4 cup sugar until smooth.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the almond flour, ground cardamom and baking powder. Add the flour mixture to the egg yolk mixture and beat until smooth. (I have a hard time getting this step very smooth.)
- With an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites, starting on low speed and gradually increasing the speed. When the bubbles start to form, add a pinch of salt and the teaspoon of vinegar. As the egg whites begin to increase in volume, sprinkle in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, a little at a time, as you continue to beat the egg whites. Beat until soft peaks form.
- Fold the beaten egg whites into the almond mixture a large scoopful at a time. You won't get much lift with the first third of the egg whites, but as you add more, you'll be able to gently fold in the whites in such a way as to create a light batter.
- Gently pour or scoop the batter into the prepared springform pan and place in the oven. Bake for 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Run a sharp knife around the edge of the cake helping it to separate from the side of the pan. Release the springform pan sides, and gently move the cake to a plate. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.