The weather outside is messy. Ferocious winds are whipping through the city, pelting the windows with tiny bits of hail. All day it has alternated between wet flakes of snow and icy rain. Once dusk fell, walking around was miserable and cold, each block feeling like a marathon. Just one more block, I told myself, as I trudged home through the windy streets. Now one more, I encouraged, not long now!
*Author's note: I am working on becoming a champion pep talker for myself, which is a very important life skill to cultivate. See this illustration as my goal.
I tried not to think about how deliciously warm my shower would be. How cozy my pajamas would feel. How happy I'd be to sink into the couch with a glass of bubbly.
Up four flights of stairs I went, discarding my snow boots and umbrella outside the apartment, turning the key in the lock as I brushed bits of snow off my jacket.
Only two days ago, we were luxuriating in the glorious and unexpected warmth of a spring day come too early. The air was soft with a light breeze. People jogged in shorts through Central Park. I ordered an iced coffee at the bakery around the corner! Sunshine drenched the city, giving the day a dazzling brightness and the evening light a beautiful golden tinge.
It wasn't hot, per se, but rather that perfect temperature where you are aware of how close it is to being truly, downright warm. Standing in direct sunlight is warm enough, but step into the shadows and you get a slight chill. This might be the best weather of all time, because you're so appreciative of it, as it feels tenuous. I liken it to the sensation of leaving a good vacation while you're still having a very excellent time: You want just a little more and a little more, and the wanting more heightens your awareness of how great this very thing is to begin with.
Oddly enough, this reminds me of dessert (oh wait, what doesn't remind me of dessert?); bear with me here, this isn't a crazy leap. I consider lemon one of the nicest, sunniest flavors and it has a fantastically versatile quality to it. It can be intense and mouth-puckering, as in a glass of lemonade or a classic lemon square topped with powdered sugar. But when folded into a canvas of creamy, rich dairy (think lemon gelato or whipped cream streaked with lemon curd), and it becomes subtle with just a slight hint of tangy brightness.
That quality—that elusive hint of tartness—is what reminds me of this sort of weather. It calls to mind the fantastic adjective the Brits use: "moreish", meaning you want just a bit more and a bit more. This lemon buttermilk cake is a perfect example. It's tender and incredibly moist with just the right amount of sweetness to let the lemon flavor come through. The citrus isn't shouting at you, and every time I eat a slice, I want just another bite (and another and another) to get more lemon. I promise it will have a similar effect on anyone you feed, so pull out this recipe when you want to please a crowd.
I like to use both lemons and limes in this cake, but of course you can stick with just lemons. Any citrus will do in a pinch: try grapefruit-lemon or orange-lime or get wild with your bad self and zest some yuzu. It's your cake, guys, and you should live accordingly (with wild, citrus-happy abandon).
Lemon-Lime Buttermilk Bundt Cake
Adapted from Bon Appetit
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
zest of 2 lemons
zest of 2 limes
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease a 10-cup Bundt pan very thoroughly: it's easy for Bundt cakes to stick so you really want to get into all the little nooks and crannies. For this cake, I used the Nordicware crown Bundt pan, which is one of their prettiest pans, in my opinion.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the sugar, lemon zest, and lime zest. With your fingertips, rub the sugar and zest together until well blended (don't skimp on this step!).
Add the butter to your citrus sugar, and beat on medium-high speed until very fluffy and pale in color. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl between each.
Add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk, and mix on low speed until just combined. Pour batter into your pan and rap the pan firmly on a counter a few times to level the batter.
Bake for about 60 minutes, or until the surface is a light golden brown and just begins to pull away from sides of pan.Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Flip the cake onto onto a rack, remove the pan, and let cool completely before glazing.
To glaze, mix together the confectioners' sugar with the lemon juice. If it's too thick, add more lemon juice. Too thin? More sugar! Pour slowly over the cake.