Originally Posted April 17,2020 in the Archive
I opened Nothing Fancy during my third week of self isolation, and I’ll be honest, I didn’t know what I wanted to cook as I flipped through the pages. It’s literally a book about entertaining, AKA having people over for dinner, and neither you nor I will be having people over for dinner anytime soon. I have so many chicken recipes that I don’t want to cook another whole fucking chicken for the rest of this quarantine thing.
One of her most famous recipes from Dining In was a dessert, and Nothing Fancy has an appropriately sized dessert section for anybody looking for something different during their quarantine baking. I stumbled upon a recipe that I had every possible ingredient I needed without needing to make my husband go pick up another grocery order, and that was her Lemon Turmeric Tea Cake.
The idea of turmeric in a cake is a new one for me. It’s been a trendy spice for quite awhile, touted for health benefits while white people appropriate turmeric lattes and shit in the big cities. What I found was that the turmeric coupled with the lemon zest helped add a bright color to the cake which makes it very appealing once it’s come out of the oven, so perhaps it wasn’t such an odd ask for a baker.
The actual process of preparing the cake is very easy compared to some of the bread projects I’ve been working on since the start of our COVID-19 isolation time. Zesting a lemon into some sugar and distributing the zest through the sugar with your hands is perhaps the hardest part. The rest is very typical, wet ingredients and dry assembled separately until you need to make the batter.
Cut some thin lemon slices to distribute on the top of the cake as you see fit, dust it with granulated sugar, and throw that baby in the oven for about an hour. What comes out is a lovely, table center worthy cake that would be a temptation to look at through an entire meal, much less another week of time without seeing anyone but your immediate family.
This is part of why I have such a great love for Alison Roman’s first book. The recipes come together easily, and the final result is something to be proud of. I have only struggled with her recipes once, and frankly it was probably my fault. This time, I found no struggle. This time, I made a pretty cake for the first time in my adult life. I don’t bake cakes. I might now.
My husband and I did not cut into the cake immediately, so we wrapped it up for consumption the next day. It’s still a very pretty thing to look at even if the warmth of the oven has passed from its gentle exterior. The row of lemon slices I assembled on the top descend by size, and I love it.
It’s a simple dessert that can be made from things that a lot of us have just laying around the house, and that’s the special part of this dessert for me in the time of COVID-19. I’ve got lemons most days if my grocery order went through okay, and I do not go through turmeric fast enough to be concerned that I have depleted my little spice shaker more than maybe once a year. This is one of the few recipes I have ever tackled for Eating Normal where I required zero pre-emptive shopping.