There was a point in time when I “Liked” Food & Wine Magazine on Facebook; I don’t remember when, but I’ve been noticing their updates on my feed lately. A recipe for a lemon upside-down cake contributed by a certain Cal Peternell accompanied a cool-looking photo, and a stamp of approval that indicated it was tested and perfected by the publication’s staff made it even more attractive. I’m such a sucker.
For Easter weekend, after planting the season’s seeds out in my patio and getting slapped by birch tree leaves in a Russian banya, I decided to bake it. I got home past 10pm, but I was still wired from the different temperatures of water I was subjected to at the bathhouse that I decided to play in the kitchen to wind down.
Of course, I don’t own a cake pan; a loaf pan had to do. I just had to adjust the time of cooking and go by the toothpick trick, which I still haven’t gotten used to, by the way. (50 minutes at 350º and another 20 at 325º.) Every time I try to bake, I am tempted to slice whatever I’m baking to see if it’s cooked inside. I don’t have the touch, you see. I can press down on a piece of beef and know immediately if it’s perfectly cooked inside, but I can’t seem to get used to baked goods. It’s a matter of trial and error for me, so I’m going to keep trying. I’m also happy to report that I beat my first egg whites until they formed “stiff peaks”–I finally understood what they mean when they say that! It was very cool to see the egg whites transform from clear to white foam. The arm workout was worth it! And lastly, I think I am starting to fall in-love with my KitchenAid mixer. I’m still in awe at how easy mixing is now!
By the way, I cut the brown and white sugar measurements here because, as you know, I don’t have the sweet tooth. You might want to keep the original 3/4 cup- and 1 cup-measurements, respectively, if you want to stay sweet and true. It is Easter weekend after all.
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 lemon, very thinly sliced crosswise, seeded
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsps baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup whole milk
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1. Preheat the oven to 350º. Set your loaf pan over moderate heat. Add 4 tbsps of the butter to melt. Stir in the brown sugar until dissolved, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Arrange the lemon slices in the melted brown sugar. Set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder and salt. Set aside.
3. Using an electric mixer, beat the remaining 8 tbsps of butter with the sugar in the bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and the egg yolks, one at a time. At low speed, beat in the dry ingredients in 3 batches, alternating with the milk.
4. In a stainless steel bowl, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until stiff peaks form. Fold one-third of the beaten whites into the batter, then fold in the rest. Mix well. Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for about 50 minutes at 350º, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then invert it onto a plate.