There is so much about food and cooking that I am enamored of (obsessed with), but one of my great culinary loves is citrus (especially Meyer Lemons), which is kind of handy since one of my favorite gardening pastimes is growing them.
Meyer Lemons growing in the kitchen at Christmas time.
They have many qualities to recommend them—easy to grow indoors or out, glossy dark evergreen leaves that contrast with starry clusters of creamy white blossoms, not fussy to care for (as long as their nitrogen requirements are met), and that fragrance! Oh my goodness, the sweetness of these beauties saturates the air so heavily that it almost clings to you! But wait! It gets even better—those flowers turn into fruit!
As an aside, they’re also cheap therapy. I think citrus blossoms have restorative powers as well. There’s been many a rough day that has been smoothed out simply by walking out to the patio, sitting in the sun with closed eyes, and just breathing in that sweet scent while listening to the chorus of honeybees feeding in them.
What has now become a collection of citrus started innocently enough. I bought a Meyer Lemon tree, not only to cook with, but to keep me connected with my childhood and ‘home’. (Now I have five trees, with four different types of fruit.)
One day, while indulging in another of my favorite past-times (haunting junk and antique shops) I found a small tree for sale that really needed a new home. It had no price on it, but I had a definite amount in mind that I was willing to pay for a shabby, thirsty, three-foot, unnamed citrus tree in a junk shop. I asked the owner how much the ‘bush’ was, and she replied, “Oh, that thing. I don’t even know what is is—some kind of laurel I think. How about 20 bucks?”
Yep, you’re all mine little tree!
I took it home, fed, watered, and re-potted it, and we christened it “The Mystery Citrus’. After a year or so of waiting, it was FULL of little orange fruits, and so its true identity was revealed…
The former ‘Charlie Brown’ tree was no more. In its place was a Kumquat, with each tiny fruit a Lilliputian package of sweet-tart-lemony-orangey tanginess!
I love kumquats in sauces, drinks, for munching on (really nice after a shot of espresso—with no need to peel them, because their skins are paper-thin and more sweet-than-not) and for baking. Especially baking! I love, love, LOVE them in icing on a simple cake.
They’re easy to incorporate into recipes. You don’t have to grate or zest them—no pith—so just squeeze out the juice, fish out the couple of seeds, and chop the peels into small bits.
Soooo, before I go off on the marvelous-ness of Meyer Lemons, or the glory of grapefruit, I’d better get to the cake part.
The other day I was desperate for a little cake. Come on. You know exactly what that feels like, so don’t look at me like I’m pathetic.
Okay, maybe I am, just a little.
Since I am currently blessed with an abundance of kumquats, it was a perfect opportunity to wander through my cake collection on Pinterest and look for some new inspiration. I settled on one from a blog called “Culinary Concoctions by Peabody”, started adapting, and now I’m sharing it with you!
If you don’t have any kumquats, substitute lemons, oranges, limes, or nothing at all! It’ll just be vanilla cake then, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that! If you make this (in any form) please let me know how you like it.
Happy day, happy baking, and thanks so much for visiting me!
Vanilla Yogurt Cake with Kumquat Icing
adapted from http://www.culinaryconcoctionsbypeabody.com
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 egg yolk
1 cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, seed scraped out, pod discarded
1 ½ tbls vanilla extract
¾ cup plain yogurt
½ cup vegetable oil
2 tbls kumquat juice
½ tbls finely minced kumquat peel
2 tbls Triple Sec, or other orange liqueur
Preheat your oven to 350F
Grease and flour two 6 x 3.2 x 3.4 inch loaf pans, or use baking spray
(The pans were very full, so I think I’m going to use a mini-bundt pan next time. Besides, mini-bundts have a cuteness factor going for them)
Using a mixer, beat together the egg, egg yolk, and sugar on medium-high speed, until it turns pale yellow, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla beans, vanilla extract, chopped peel, and oil, then beat another minute until all the ingredients are fully incorporated.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
With the mixer on low speed, add half the amount of dry ingredients. Then add half of the yogurt, and the kumquat juice. Mix in the remaining dry ingredients, followed by the remaining yogurt mixture. Remove from mixer and finish mixing by hand using a spatula until all of the ingredients are blended together .
Pour into prepared pans and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out with no wet batter remaining on it.
Take the cakes from the oven. Using a toothpick or wooden skewer (a small chopstick works well for this step, or even a fork) poke holes into the cake. Take a pastry brush, and brush the Triple Sec over the hot loaves.
Let the cakes cool for 10 minutes and remove them from their pans. Cool them completely on wire racks, and then ice them.
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
3 tbsp kumquat juice
½ tsp vanilla
1tsp kumquat peel, minced fine
Combine the two ingredients together with a whisk, and spoon it over the cakes.