If life gives you lemons, make lemon curd with berries

A couple weekends ago my lovely friend Emily came to visit. She endured a long and arduous bus ride and yet still arrived bearing key ingredients for a delicious summer dessert.

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Armed with

+ 6 eggs, separated (this recipe calls for 6 yolks and 2 egg whites; we saved the remaining whites in a little container for future low-cholesterol baking endeavours, or Sunday morning pancakes)

+ 3 lemons (zested and squeezed for ½ cup of juice)

+ ¾ cup sugar

+ ½ cup butter

+ A few cups of mixed berries (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries)

+ Something on which to pour the curd and berries (tarts, pieces of sweet bread, or scones, or croissants. Emily had brought yummy homemade raisin scones, which worked wonderfully.)

and Emily’s mum’s lemon curd recipe, we made one of the best Saturday evening meals in recent memory.

Yes, we made lemon curd and berries for dinner. We were going to have healthy dinner food, too, but when it came down to it we realised we weren’t that hungry, and as we say in my family: life is short, eat desert first.

This is what we did:

Melt the butter in a pot on low-to-medium heat. Whisk in the egg yolks, lemon juice, lemon zest, and the lemony pulp lemon-juicing by-product. Whisk and whisk and whisk on medium heat for 10 minutes until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and let cool. Place tart/scone/dessert foundation of choice in a bowl and ladle on curd and berries. Eat!

our thickened lemon curd

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This was quite simple to make, and a good team-effort sort of recipe what with the repetitive actions of zesting and squeezing lemons (for which I was thrilled to be able to use the 25-year-old juicer gifted to me by my parents), and whisking.

A super delicious, lemony, summer dessert!

hand-me-down retro hand-juicer

dinner

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Waldorf Astoria Red Velvet Cake

My great-grandmother was the original hipster: she was making red velvet cake before it was cool.

Though, in all sincerity, it does seem that red velvet cake has suddenly become A Thing. I’d never heard of it before, then suddenly the kids at ACAD are making it, the recipe is showing up in hip Friday newspaper supplements, and my parents claim to have found red velvet cupcakes at a high-end cupcake joint recently (…which about brings me to the limits of my pop-cultural awareness. Still. It seems to be cropping up a lot lately.)

No kidding people want to make red velvet cake: it’s a really beautiful colour, and it has a fancy (and frankly delicious-sounding) name; it’s an old-fashioned recipe, and there’s a real joy in this kind of interactive nostalgia.

My aunt made red velvet cake from this recipe and brought it to a family gathering, and it turns out that my uncle has my Great-Grandma’s original recipe in his possession: typewritten with handwritten comments in pencil. I have reproduced it below.

Apparently there is an urban legend that red velvet cake originated at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York, hence the name, but I suspect it has more to do with how posh you sound when you offer ‘Waldorf Astoria Red Velvet Cake’ to your family/friends/lover(s)/neighbours/co-workers. Undoubtedly, my Great-Grandma J was an impressive woman with or without the ‘Waldorf Astoria’.

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‘Waldorf Astoria Red Velvet Cake’

1/2 cup crisco

1 1/2 cups white sugar

2 eggs

1/4 cup red food colouring [my great-grandmother has crossed this out in the original, and hand-written,] Cochenial* [sic] from Drug Store (too strong, use less)

2 tablespoons cocoa

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour

1 tablespoons white vinegar

1 teaspoon baking soda

Cream crisco and sugar until fluffy, add eggs one at a time and beat one minute. Put cocoa and red food colouring in a cup and make a paste and add to above. Add salt. Put vanilla in buttermilk and add slowly to mixture alternating milk and flour. Put vinegar in a cup and add soda, add to mixture. Bake in 2 – 9″ pans at 350 oven, 30 to 40 mins.

Frosting

1 cup milk

5 tbsp. flour

Mix flour and milk to make a smooth paste; cook until thick. Cool.

1 cup butter

1 cup icing sugar (apparently my aunt used granulated sugar and that worked well)

1 tsp. vanilla

Beat with mixer. Add flour mix gradually till all blended.

*This is a misspelling of “cochineal”, a dye made from crushed bugs of the same name. As far as strange ingredients go, this one takes the cake (haha). (I’ll be writing more about this soon.)

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I do not have a photograph of what this cake ought to look like when it’s finished, which, I think, is part of the fun — no glossy, intimidating photographs to frighten me away from giving it a go. Instead, I’ll leave you with a photo of my Great-Grandmother J and my aunts.