Jordan: Kitra has been all in on Julia Turshen’s cookbooks recently, so that’s obviously where our next cake needed to come from.
Kitra: I’m always all in on Julia Turshen, but especially since her new book came out a few weeks ago, because it is perfect in every way (beautifully written, great food, easy to make things, gay, so many dogs, and have I mentioned beautifully written???) and I’ve eaten from it about 4 times a week since I got it.
This cake is… not from that book.
But it is conveniently from another of her books, which both of us happen to own. (Okay, I got Jordan’s copy for her but it was on her wishlist!)
It’s titled “afternoon cake” in the book, but this is really an anytime cake—which, to be fair, is the best kind of afternoon cake.
And since we both planned to bring cake to outdoor afternoon gatherings on the same day, it seemed like a sign that this was the cake to go with.
It’s also something of a choose-your-own adventure cake. The original uses orange zest and juice; we both used lemon instead, though we took it in different directions.
I went with the lemon poppyseed variation offered in the book, because I will use any excuse to add poppyseeds to something. Muffin-esque cakes > other cakes.
I swirled in some jam—with limited success, to be fair, but that may have been user error rather than the recipe’s fault. Both of us added a simple lemon glaze as well.
I ate 65% of this cake in one afternoon in my front yard, and my only regret is not just eating all of it.
And mine got good reviews at the farewell picnic I went to, despite my having overbaked it. Fortunately there’s almond flour in the batter, which keeps it from getting too dry and crumbly if you make the same mistake.
We’re both pretty tired while writing this, but the real takeaway is cake = good, make some and revel.
Lemon Snack Cake
Adapted from Small Victories by Julia Turshen
You can use any kind of ground nuts here, if you want a different kind of flavor. To make a more heavily almond-flavored cake, swap the vanilla extract for ¼ teaspoon of almond extract. For the jam option, Jordan used the original method—dollop it on top and gently swirl with a knife—but it largely mixed in and sunk to the bottom, so we’re suggesting a slightly different strategy in the instructions below. The cake would also be good plain, with neither poppy seeds nor jam, so don’t feel obliged to use them if they don’t speak to you.
- ½ cup (100g) sugar
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup (100g) olive oil
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- ¼ cup lemon juice, plus more for glaze
- 1 cup (120g) flour
- ½ cup (50g) almond flour/meal
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon poppy seeds OR ¼ cup raspberry jam, optional (see note)
- Powdered sugar, for glaze (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease an 8- or 9-inch cake pan, line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper, and then grease the top of the parchment paper as well.
In a medium bowl, combine the lemon zest and sugar and rub them together with your fingers to release more of the lemon flavor. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs just to combine them, then add the oil and sugar-zest mixture. Whisk for about 2-3 minutes, until well-combined and the sugar is dissolved. (You shouldn’t be able to see any grains, and if you rub a bit in between your fingers it should feel smooth.) Add the vanilla and lemon juice and whisk until smooth.
In the same bowl you used for the sugar, whisk together the flour, almond meal, baking powder, salt, and poppy seeds (if using). Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and stir with a spatula until just combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. If adding jam, dollop very small spoonfuls—a teaspoon or so each—evenly across the top of the cake.
Gently tap the bottom of the pan on the counter to pop any air bubbles, then bake 25-30 minutes, until the top is golden and a toothpick stuck in the center comes out free of batter. (The toothpick may have some crumbs or look moist, which is fine; you just don’t want any liquid batter on it.) Let cool fully on a wire rack before turning out and glazing, if desired.
To make the glaze, pour some powdered sugar (start with about a cup) into a small bowl and whisk in lemon juice (start with about a tablespoon) until it reaches a consistency you’re happy with.
This cake keeps well for a few days (covered, but on the counter is fine) and is even better after a day or so.