Sunday, March 28, 2010


Yea, it is spring!  We've had some really nice days here this week, and it seems that everyone is happier now that the flowers are blooming and a winter coat is not required for biking around town.  My husband's birthday happened to coincide with this week's lovely weather giving us the chance to get outside to do some celebrating.  He did ask me for one thing this year: to bake him a birthday cake.  In the years that we have known each other I have never made him a cake, a fact he has brought up on many an occasion.  I think it was just rubbing salt into the wound that I have made birthday cakes for other people, just not for him.  That's what happens when you do the long-distance thing for a while.  What was I supposed to do, mail him a cake from 6000 miles away?

So have I griped about not being able to find cake flour here?  Pretty sure I have. It's probably in a post about not being able to find other such niceties of the civilized world like vanilla extract and tape measures with centimeters and inches printed on them.  Fear not, this will not be one of those posts.  Imagine for a second what I looked like when I walked into the supermarket on Friday convinced that I would not find what I was looking for, convinced that control over Dutch baking supplies remained firmly in the hands of the powerful cake mix companies, only to discover in the moment I stood in the small baking corner, the world had been turned upside down.  Unfortunately, I did not have a camera with me to record this historic event, but I re-enacted it the next morning for you.
I look a little more comatose than surprised in the picture, but it was kind of early so I should get points for effort.  Can you read the package?  It says "cake flour!" So what if it's not real cake flour like I could get at home.  In an effort to make it light and airy, they mixed regular flour with a bit of rice flour, but still it's a step up, and I'll take it.

With my cake flour firmly in hand, I could being the task of making a lemon cake.  Lemon flavor is what Niek wanted, and I'm only too happy to oblige considering how obsessed I am with making lemon desserts.  I had a lemon tree in my backyard in L.A., which is where this love affair began.  Anytime I needed a quick dessert, I would just walk out back and pick a few.  It was so easy and of course so delicious.  It's not quite as easy here, but it's not as if buying a few at the Moroccan market is a really trying affair.  And now that spring has made an appearance, I suddenly feel like fresh and light flavors again.
The Dutch don't really do cakes well.  Various cookies?  Yes, delicious.  Apple pie-type things?  Also quite awesome.  Cake? Meh.  Cakes just aren't the same here (as if I should expect them to be the towering layers of an American cake).  It usually involves a few really thin spongey layers  really thick layers of some sort of mousse.  Don't get me wrong, they can be delicious.  They're just not cakes to me.
Here's an example from our wedding last year.  The pink layers are a raspberry mousse.  There probably something very American about me that craves something much grander than this for a celebration, something that indicates just by looking at it that it is decadent and loaded with tons of eggs and butter.  

Maybe cakes are a little more restrained here, because they are almost never considered a dessert.  It's what you are supposed to serve in the afternoon with coffee.  Even at our wedding, we had to explain that we would be following the American tradition of serving the cake last instead of directly after the ceremony the way the Dutch do it.  It still throws me for a loop that celebrations start with something sweet before moving on to a savory meal.
The many layers of cake, frosting and lemon curd created an effect that was anything but subdued, and it proudly took its place of honor at the end of the meal while we wished my husband a happy birthday.  I have no idea what we'll do with a cake that was meant to serve twelve, but I'm sure we'll enjoy our coffee time a little more for the next few days.
The recipe was wonderful and fairly easy.  If you feel like a lemon cake, you can find it here.

1 comment:

  1. Why don't you write about gross Dutch food so that I'm not starving by the end of your posts?!