Photograph byGrant Cornett Food Styling by Maggie Ruggiero

Shiny: Sight

Lacquered Lemon Cake

Desserts from Issue 12 - Winter 2018 – The Senses

In Gioachino Rossini’s famous opera La Gazza Ladra (The Magpie Thief), young Ninetta is wrongly sentenced to death for a crime she didn’t commit—the theft of a shiny silver spoon—when the culprit was actually a magpie. While birds have a far superior sense of sight to humans—they can see farther and perceive more details, a trait they need to be able to track down food—the magpie’s purported attraction to shiny objects is nothing more than a centuries-old bit of folklore. Though we like to think that if they spotted our gleaming mound of Meyer lemon cake they wouldn’t be able to resist its allure.

serves 8 to 10

  • ½ cup hazelnuts, finely ground (⅔ cup hazelnut flour)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 stick salted butter, softened
  • 1 cup plus 3 Tbsp sugar, divided
  • 16 to 18 ⅛-inch-thick slices of lemon (from 2 thin-skinned lemons)
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ tsp almond extract
  • ½ cup Greek whole milk yogurt
  • 1 (¼ oz) pkg powdered gelatin
  • ¼ cup strained fresh Meyer lemon juice (from 2 Meyer lemons)

  • 1

    Stir together nuts, flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

  • 2

    Preheat oven to 350°F. Using a mixer, beat butter with 1 cup sugar until pale and fluffy. Measure out ⅓ cup buter mixture and spread along bottom and about one third up the sides of an 8-inch hemisphere cake pan (or you can use an 8-inch oven-proof bowl). Arrange lemon slices over buttered area, overlapping slightly. Set pan on a baking sheet.

  • 3

    Place remaining scant cup of the butter mixture in a large mixing bowl and beat in eggs one at a time until combined then mix in almond extract. Stir in half the dry mixture, then yogurt, then remaining dry mixture just until combined. Spoon batter into lemon-lined cake pan and smooth top. Bake until top is deep golden and firm to the touch, 45-50 minutes. Let cool in pan on a rack 10 minutes. Loosen sides with an offset spatula and invert onto rack. Let cool 10 minutes.

  • 4

    When cake is out of oven, sprinkle gelatin powder over ¼ cup cold water and let stand 5 minutes. Add mixture to small pot along with Meyer lemon juice and remaining 3 Tbsp sugar. Stir over low heat until gelatin dissolves completely. Once cake has been inverted and cooled 10 minutes, spoon about 1 Tbsp lemon glaze over cake and chill 10 minutes. Repeat glazing and chilling with rest of glaze. (If glaze starts to thicken, warm slightly to soften.) Chill glazed cake 1 hour. Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes before serving.