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A Load of Lemons, Part I: Meyer Lemon Cake

That’s what my backyard tree gifted me this winter: a load of Meyer lemons.

After last season’s dismal crop that netted me barely enough lemons to make a couple quarts of lemonade, I was overjoyed to see the bumper harvest this year from my one little dwarf tree.

When life gives you a load of lemons, you just have to use them, of course. In everything you can think of — and then some.

So, I couldn’t have been happier to spy this recipe for “Meyer Lemon Cake” in the new “The Sunset Essential Western Cookbook” (Oxmoor House), of which I received a review copy. The cookbook, by the editors of Sunset magazine, features more than 150 recipes that are so very Californian in spirit — everything from “Hangtown Fry” to “Char Siu-Glazed Pork and Pineapple Buns” to “Tagliatelle with Nettle and Pine Nut Sauce” to homemade fortune cookies.

This quite citrusy cake uses more than a pound of lemons. Most of them are pulverized — rind, pulp and all — to go into the cake batter, which contains no butter. Instead, ground almonds give it richness, along with five large eggs.

Because you beat the yolks and whites separately before incorporating, the batter ends up quite fluffy and the cake initially puffs up quite a bit in the oven before settling down. If you find your cake browning too much along the perimeter before the center is done, just drape aluminum foil around the edge of the pan until fully baked.

The cake boasts an airy yet coarse texture from the ground nuts and bits of diced crystallized ginger that give a hit of background heat. A glaze of more lemon juice and confectioner’s sugar goes over the top to add sweetness and help keep the cake extra moist.

You can use regular Eureka lemons in this recipe, but the taste will be sharper than with the more floral Meyers.

If you’re lucky enough to have a load of lemons like me, this cake is perfect to showcase their zingy nature.

Meyer Lemon Cake

(Serves 10)

1 pound Meyer lemons, plus 1 tablespoon Meyer lemon juice and 10 thin Meyer lemon slices (or substitute regular lemons)

1 1/2 cups whole almonds

1/2 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

5 large eggs, separated

1 1/4 cups sugar

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/4 cup candied or crystallized ginger, finely diced

1/2 cup powdered sugar

Put whole lemons in a large pot over high heat, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium and simmer until soft, about 30 minutes. Drain; transfer lemons to a bowl of ice water. Cut lemons into quarters when they have cooled and gently remove seeds, retaining as much juice as possible. Blend lemons in a food processor until they’re a smooth, thick puree

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pulse almonds in a food processor until nuts resemble coarse cornmeal. Put in a large bowl and add flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir to combine.

Butter and flour a 9-inch pan with a removable rim. Whisk together egg yolks and sugar in another large bowl until thick and pale yellow. Stir in lemon puree and almond extract. Add almond-flour mixture and stir to combine. Stir in candied ginger. Set aside.

Beat egg whites in another large bowl until they form firm peaks. Gently fold egg whites into lemon batter. Spread batter in prepared pan.

Bake until edge of cake begins to pull away from side of pan, about 1 hour. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely.

Combine powdered sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl. Spread glaze over cake. Garnish with lemon slices.

Per Serving: 333 calories, 36 percent (119 cal.) from fat, 8.3 g protein, 13 g fat (1.9 g sat.), 51 g carbo (4.7 g fiber), 209 mg sodium, 106 mg chol.

From “The Sunset Essential Western Cookbook”

Tomorrow: A Load of Lemons, Part II — Northern Greek Braised Pork and Leeks

More Baked Lemon Goods: Best Damn Meyer Lemon Cake from Saveur

And: Rosemary Olive Oil Cake with Lemon Glaze

And: Emily Luchetti’s Lemon Squares

And: Lemon-Walnut Biscotti

And: Lemon Ricotta Muffins

And: Meyer Lemon Marmalade

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