I spent the last five winters in the damp, dark Pacific Northwest. Every year by January’s end, daydreams about tropical vacations distracted me constantly. Now that I’m back in California, I miss San Juan Island desperately, but I no longer need to fantasize about balmy weather as January trails into February — I can just go outside.
Last Saturday, we played on the beach in shorts and t-shirts. On Sunday, we worked up a sweat biking the shore trail to Adventure Playground. And on the Monday holiday, we headed to San Francisco, where sparkling sunshine warmed our skin as we romped in Golden Gate Park’s awesome playground.
I recognize that this is not actually a healthy state of affairs. I did grow up here, and I do not recall luxuriating through my winters in consistently fine, fair weather. I owned raincoats, and I got to wear them. Since we moved back to the Bay Area last August, it has rained only twice. Twice!
Now, as we prepare to plant citrus and apple trees in our yard, along with a variety of other plants both edible and decorative, we’re starting to feel concerned about water usage. Water rationing surely looms on the horizon.
Perhaps we should have left the gravel and juniper in place for another year or two, but honestly, we just couldn’t wait. We’ve finally broken our cycle of moving every few years, which means we can plant fruit trees and wait patiently for them to mature. We’re going to have to find other ways to conserve water so we can take good care of our trees.
Nearly every other yard in our Albany neighborhood features a gorgeous lemon tree. Right now, hanging heavy with golden yellow citrus as they are, I find it impossible to pass these trees without imagining desserts I would love to bake with their juicy, tart fruit.
For now, I’m stuck begging and buying lemons, but someday, I hope to harvest boatloads of lemons from my own yard. I know it may take years before my tree produce profusely, but I’m hopeful that next year I’ll have enough lemons to make this lemon-raspberry swirl cake at least a few times.
Chock-full of lemon zest and juice, it tastes like sunshine in cake form. A thorough soaking of lemon syrup and a sweet, tart lemon glaze make it extra moist and tangy, and the playful raspberry swirl imparts a hint of berry to this mouthwatering, citrus-packed dessert.
Now that I’ve soaked up five years of missed winter sunshine in just a few months, I wouldn’t mind some rain. Despite all the signs suggesting otherwise, it is still winter. And what’s winter without a good rainstorm every now and again. Especially if you can watch it pelt down while eating lemon-raspberry swirl cake.
Lemon-Raspberry Swirl Cake
The swirls also look lovely in a layer cake; see recipe’s end for directions. If dividing the batter to make the swirls seem like too much trouble for you, this cake tastes delicious as a straight-up lemon cake. Simply skip adding raspberries to a portion of the batter.
8 ounces raspberries, fresh or frozen (about 2 cups)
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup lemon juice
zest of three lemons
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1-3 tablespoons lemon juice
Bring raspberries to a boil over medium-low head in a small saucepan. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently to mash up the berries. Transfer to a fine-mesh sieve and press down on the pulp to strain out the juice (you should have between 1/3 and 1/2 cup). Set juice aside to cool.
Butter and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan. Whisk flour, baking power, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl to blend. Combine buttermilk, lemon juice, and zest in a small bowl.
In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, beat butter until smooth. Slowly add sugar and beat until well-blended. Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides several times to ensure even mixing. Add vanilla extract and mix well. Stir in dry ingredients in 4 additions, alternating with the buttermilk mixture in 3 additions, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl.
Transfer about 2 cups of the batter to a small bowl. Fold in the raspberry juice until evenly combined.
Scrape one third of the lemon batter into the Bundt pan, gently spreading the thick batter to make an even layer. Top with half of the raspberry batter, doing your best to make an even layer. Repeat with remaining batter, ending with the lemon on top. Don't worry about swirling the batters together--that happens magically during baking. Tap the filled Bundt pan gently on the counter a few times to release any large bubbles in the batter.
Bake in an oven preheated to 350° F until pale golden and cracked on top, about 55 to 60 minutes. A tester inserted into the cake should come out with just a few crumbs attached.
While the cake bakes, prepare the lemon syrup. Combine lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Set aside.
When the cake finishes baking, transfer it to a rack and cool for 20 minutes in the pan. Turn out the cake on a wire rack. Immediately place the rack over a rimmed baking sheet and brush the syrup over the cake's hot surface, allowing the syrup to absorb completely before adding more. Cool cake to room temperature.
Whisk together confectioners' sugar, lemon juice, and salt in a small bowl. Add more lemon juice or sugar as needed to achieve desired consistency. The glaze should be thick but pourable. Drizzle glaze over the cooled cake and serve.
To make a 6-inch layer cake: Before mixing ingredients, butter three 6-inch cake pans and line them with parchment paper. Butter the paper and flour the pans. When ready to fill the pans, divide half the lemon batter between them. Distribute all of the the raspberry batter between the three pans. Top with remaining lemon batter. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until pale golden and a cake tester comes out clean. Add lemon syrup to cakes once cool right before frosting.
To make an 8-inch layer cake: Before mixing ingredients, butter two 8-inch cake pans and line them with parchment paper. Butter the paper and flour the pans. When ready to fill the pans, divide one third of the the lemon batter between them. Distribute half of the raspberry batter between the pans. Add another layer of lemon batter and then add the remaining raspberry batter. Top with the rest of the lemon batter. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until pale golden and a cake tester comes out clean. Add lemon syrup to cakes once cool right before frosting.