Baking & Dessert

By Lindsay Hunt | December 22, 2010

Photo: Lindsay Hunt

In winter, I find myself with a version of Seasonal Affective Disorder specific to the kitchen.  I flip through my cookbooks, lusting after upside-down plum cakes, mixed-berry cobblers and lattice-topped peach pies.  The dearth of fruit leaves me feeling melancholy, and at a loss in the kitchen.  Citrus is my winter option, but often lemon desserts leave me unsatisfied, wishing I had eaten a strawberry tart, instead of one filled with lackluster lemon curd.  Cue an Italian treat called a Torta di Limone.  It has returned some sunshine to my kitchen, and has banished the winter blues.

Even though I am indebted to this lemon treat, I have rechristened it The Tablespoon Torta.  Yes, it has lemon, and perhaps that is integral to the title, but for an avid baker with no dishwasher, a cake that comes about with very few utensils is a heavenly treat.  Instead of multiple cup measures, the ingredients are compiled with a tablespoon.  It may seem frustrating and redundant to keep dipping-and-sweeping that tablespoon measure, but if you dislike dishwashing, you might be a convert.

Admittedly, I created extra dishes by whisking up a cloud of whipped cream with which to top my Tablespoon Torta, but it was worth it.  The sponge-like cake melts in your mouth with the creamy topping.  Extra lemon zest gives a piquant freshness to the cake, and leaves you ready for another bite.  Leave it to the Italians to show me how to get through winter with food.  Next time I feel snow-induced melancholy approaching, I know to get out a tablespoon measure and start baking.

From A Baker’s Odyssey by Greg Patent

Torta di Limone Recipe

Servings: 8

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs
  • 7 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 7 tbsp whole milk
  • 7 tbsp fruity extra-virgin olive oil
  • 9 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
  • 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • Confectioners' sugar, for dusting,
  • Whipped cream and additional lemon zest, for serving.

Directions

1. To make the torta, adjust an oven rack to the lower third position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan or coat it lightly with cooking spray. Line the bottom of the pan with a circle of parchment. Grease or spray the parchment and dush the pan with flour. Knock out excess flour.

2. Put the eggs, in their shells, into a small bowl, cover them with hot water, and let stand for 5 minutes. Dry the eggs and crack them into a medium bowl. Add the sugar and whisk vigorously for 1 minute. In a small bowl, whisk together the milk and olive oil just to combine well, then add to the eggs and whisk briefly.

3. In another small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to the batter and whisk gently only until the batter is smooth. Whisk in the lemon zest and juice. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.

4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the cake is golden and springs back when gently pressed in the center. Cool the cake in its pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then run the tip of a sharp paring knife around the sides of the cake to loosen it. Cover the pan with another wire rack and invert the two. Lift off the pan and remove the paper. Cover the cake witha wire rack and invert again to cool completely right side up.

5. Dust the torta with confectioners' sugar or cover with whipped cream before serving.

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