They say learning something new and doing something new is good for the brain and keeps us young.  Well, yesterday I did two things that I’d never done before and it all started with my “staying young” 90-year-old friend, Irene (here at her b-day party last week)Irene blowing out her birthday cake.  One of her visiting sons brought her a bag full of large Meyer Lemons so she gave me four of them to take home.  Now, we have a Meyer Lemon tree that we’ve managed to keep alive in our cold winters and not-too-hot summers, but I seriously doubt I’ll ever see large lemons off of it like Tom brought her from the Sacramento valley.  It was a great opportunity to use a recipe I’d been saving for a few years since we planted our tree: Meyer Lemon Cake. The recipe is a Sunset Magazine reader contribution: .  After googling to find the link I see it has been the subject of a number of blogs, even featured at a B&B in Nevada.  I guess its claim to fame at our house is that half of it is gone already and I never did get the glaze done! Anyway, the two things I’ve never done before: 1. Butter and flour a tart panPrepared tart cake pan. (I suppose I’ve never done this before because I’ve always used a tart crust in a tart pan.  Truth be told, one reason I chose this recipe is because I didn’t need to make a separate crust) and 2. Boil lemons! Meyer Lemons Boiled This action mellows the flavor and softens them till they collapse.  It was very fun to see what happens when you simmer whole lemons for half-an-hour. So, anyway, the other neat thing about this recipe is that it has no added fat in it.  It’s quite amazing, made mostly with eggs and almond meal.  The recipe calls for whirring 1 1/2 cups of whole almonds, but I had almond meal already on hand and so had to do some calculating by weight on how much to use.  I went with 2 cups of meal and the cake came out very good and moist.  It’s a dense cake even with folding in the egg white separately and I’m missing the candied ginger flavor, so I’d probably up the amount of that.  I did cut out about 1/4 cup of the sugar just because we don’t like things too sweet, but I’d recommend tasting the batter before baking as using the whole lemonsBoiled Lemons in Food Processor does lend a slight bitter quality from the pith.  I’m not sure a child would appreciate this cake, but we sure do!  Thanks Irene (and Tom) for the lemons!  I’m sure the cake is even prettier with the glaze and lemon slices on top, but we’ll have to wait for next time for that.

Cake Done

Cake Done


It looks like it would take too much time to figure out how to move the first blog (which I abandoned because of trouble uploading photos) to here, so I’ll just post the url for now…

Lavender PinocchioWell, it does seem that in late August and September all the little rodents of this place begin to take over. We invested in some more Black Box gopher traps last weekend, which I am highly in favor of, and now I’m checking five traps daily with seven gophers and a handful of voles notched into my belt. They’ve got their own tally going too. While we were both quite busy in June and July we lost more than a couple of plants to those critters and are learning there are fewer and fewer plant roots that they won’t eat. I even have a yarrow potted up struggling for survival with a few roots rescued from their gorging two nights ago.

Last spring I almost posted about my Lavender Pinocchio that a gopher killed. It was an own-root rose that Tracy didn’t want to carry anymore and I have always loved the different colors it performs in our climate throughout the blooming season.   I hadn’t been able to walk past it in more than a week, so when I found it, the roots were totally gone and the young plant was dry and definitely dead. I took a photo of the dead plant, the gaping hole, and the “thing” that did the damage which I caught a few days later. My photo has it laying so peacefully in the garbage can on a pile of rose petals. A nice send off, considering, but Tracy intervened with that post, calling it a might distasteful. I guess I’m an educator and wanted to share what we suffer with here. Besides, some people have told me that they’ve never seen a gopher. I suppose those Californians have cats that are good hunters.  Anyway, imagine my surprise when I saw a baby Lavender Pinocchio starting out of the ground a few months ago.  I couldn’t be sure until it bloomed, but yep, there is a remnant left.   I guess that gopher didn’t quite get it all (hurray for own-root plants!).   Now let’s hope this one survives, with regular surveying of the area for new gophers.

While I waited for our various  traps to snap I had a little time on my hands. To commemorate a friend’s birthday and as an ode to the Julia Child movie out right now, I made Child’s Reine de Saba (Queen of Sheba) chocolate cake.  I doubled the recipe to make a large cake for a  crowd of 8 adults and 4 children. Wow it was good, and even though you can only see the photos and not taste them, they’re much better than any look at a dead gopher, for sure. Here are the steps:

1.  Get the recipe.  With the movie out, there is not a single copy for sale of Julia’s French cookbook in the entire county, so to the internet I turned.  I found out later that there are at least two versions of this cake, as Julia tweaked things now and then.

2.  Melt the chocolate in a double boiler.

3. Prepare the 8″ baking pans.  I like to dust with cocoa powder when making a dark cake.

4.  Cream the butter and sugar.

5. Separate the egg yolks from the whites.

6.  Add the yolks.

7.  Fold in the melted chocolate.

8.  Fold in the almond meal and the almond extract.

9.  Whip the egg whites to stiff peaks.

10.   Sift the flour, then alternately fold it in with the egg whites.

11.  Divide evenly in the pans and bake.  Cool upright for 10 minutes.

12.  Watch out for cake spies!

13.  Invert onto cooling racks to cool completely.

14.  Melt more chocolate in a glass bowl for the frosting.

15.  Once cool, add butter to melted chocolate one tablespoon at a time while the bowl is over another bowl full of ice water.

16.  Start frosting.  Even after doubling the frosting ingredients I found I wasn’t going to have enough to do the whole cake, so I opted to use the frosting as a filling and on the sides, and just dust with powdered sugar on the top.  Others have omitted the frosting altogether for such a naturally rich, dense and moist cake.

17.  Decorate as you please with almond pieces.

18.  Don’t forget to take a photo of the last piece before it gets eaten!

Until I learn this new blogging program I guess all the photos will have to be in one group like this: