Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Birthday! Happy Mother's Day!

Today is not only Mother's Day, but also the day after my elder child's birthday, my first "qualification" to celebrate Mother's Day to begin with, some 29 years ago.  

We decided to go out to eat someplace special tonight as a double celebration, something we do fairly regularly for birthdays.  We chose Jeffrey's because somehow in all the special family meals we have celebrated with our adult children, we'd never treated them to Jeffrey's.  Fino, Wink, Vin Bistro, Uchi, Zoot, we've eaten around pretty thoroughly, but until tonight, no visit to this long time star in Austin's dining crown.  This is an oversight we are happy to correct. 

While I am certain without even checking their menu that Jeffrey's has amazing desserts to go along with their outstanding dinners and respectable wine list, for my son's birthday, for as long as I can remember, no celebration would be considered complete without his favorite; Lemon Quick Cake.  
This recipe is an old one that came from a co-worker at my first full time job working at M.D. Anderson Hospital and Tumor Institute.  It dates from my earliest days in the kitchen, when I was a new wife, suddenly trying to cook in ways to please palates other than just my own.  These were days when most of the women I worked with were always looking for a shortcut, some easier way to arrive at "delicious" without spending all day doing it.   I still have the photocopy of my fellow employee's original recipe card  in my notebook.  DK?  Wherever you are - here's to you!

Lemon Quick Cake/Betty Crocker

1 package yellow cake mix (plain - not butter mix)
4 eggs

1 small package Lemon Jello in 3/4 cup hot water.  Add to mix alternately with 3/4 cup vegetable oil.  Add 2 teaspoons lemon extract.

Put mix in greased and floured Bundt pan and bake at 325 degrees for 50-60 minutes.  Ice while hot.

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (1 1/2 lemons)
Pour on while hot.

I have made this cake and taken it to families with new babies, to wakes, to pot luck dinners, and I have made it every year for my son for his birthday since he was 8 years old.  

This year I opted to incorporate a nod to my recent efforts to eat locally and organically whenever possible. I used some edible flowers from our garden and candied some organic lemon to decorate the cake. I realize there is little else "local" or "organic"  about this recipe, but Lemon Quick Cake is a time honored family tradition. In certain situations, I believe it is the emotional connotation of a dish rather than it's correctness, that makes it the best choice.

The candied lemon was easy although I ended up with half rounds rather than round slices due to the extremely seedy organic lemon.  I would ordinarily have gone out early this morning to snip the flowers at their peak, but we had a sudden thunderstorm with hail move in on us last night so my husband and I had to rush out and cut flowers so we'd have choices that had not been battered to the ground by rain and hail.  We make plans and God laughs. 
The recipe for the candied lemon is as follows:

Thoroughly wash and then thinly slice one organic lemon.  Combine the lemon slices, one-half cup organic sugar, and one quarter cup organic lemon juice in a small saucepan.  Over medium heat, bring to a low boil and cook, stirring constantly, seven to ten minutes until sugar has dissolved and mixture has slightly thickened.  Cool about 10 minutes.  Place lemon slices in desired intervals on cake and pour syrup over to glaze.

And here it is - the Lemon Quick Cake, updated ever so slightly with candied organic lemons and edible flowers from our garden. Happiest Birthday, Chris!

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