When I was younger, I hated any and all lemon-flavored desserts with a passion. Lemon bars, lemon meltaway cookies, and even lemon meringue pie were all on my list.
(But oddly enough, I was a big fan of super sour lemon-flavored WarHeads candy – does anyone else remember those? Incidentally, I consider this proof positive that there is no rhyme or reason to kids’ tastes.)
These days, however, lemony treats are something I thoroughly enjoy. (I can’t say that my tastes have done a complete 180 though, because I haven’t had Warheads in years…so who knows, I might still like them!) Pairing lemon with vanilla in this cake is a sublime combo, made even more so by the addition of sweet-scented almond.
This cake is lovely; dense but not heavy, moist with a tender crumb, aromatic, and flavorful. I’d say it’s rustic (which I know is a term frequently used to cover up the fact that a dish is a bit of a mess to behold), but only because it’s quite moreish in a humble way.
It’s the sort of cake that’s perfect to serve to friends over coffee during a leisurely afternoon chat about nothing and everything. But be careful because before you know it, the afternoon will have passed and the cake and a couple pots of coffee vanished along with it.
- 4 large eggs, separated into yolks and whites
- 1 cup (192 g) coconut palm sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- ½ teaspoon pure almond extract
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 8 oz (227 g) almond meal
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- Butter, for the pan
- Almond meal, for the pan
- Coconut “whipped cream” or regular whipped cream, for serving (optional; see Note below)
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter an 8-inch springform pan and add a sprinkling of almond meal; rotate the pan around to coat the inside and tap out any excess.
- Use a handheld electric mixer to beat the egg whites in a large bowl until they form stiff peaks; set aside for now.
- In a separate large bowl, beat the egg yolks, sugar, vanilla bean paste, almond extract, and lemon zest about 3 minutes, or until it’s pale-colored and falls off the beaters in thick ribbons.
- Add the almond meal, salt, and baking powder to the egg yolk mixture all at once, and stir to combine (the batter will be very thick at this point).
- Add ¼ of the egg whites and stir to fully incorporate them. Add the remaining egg whites ¼ at a time, stirring the batter with a rubber spatula only in 1 direction and being careful not to over-mix. (Seeing some streaks of egg whites in the batter is better than over-mixing.)
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until it’s golden, and feels springy to the touch, about 15 to 20 minutes. Be careful not to over-bake.
- Cool completely; serve with a dollop of coconut “whipped cream” or regular whipped cream if desired.