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Let Us Eat Cake

Spring officially arrives today, though if you’re like me, you’ve been enjoying the later daylight hours for over a week already. But this is the day it all begins — warmer weather, daffodils and tulips, apple blossoms, and the return of beautiful new produce to the markets.

California in spring is beautiful. When I went up to Salt Point State Park a few weekends ago, the hills were muddy and green with new grass, and small irises clung to life alongside the trail. Fog drifted in and out, and except for a gaggle of abalone divers, the wind-blown rocks were deserted. The air was energetically whipping about the coast, and smelled wonderfully of wet, growing things, and water — of new.

Spring, the hopeful season, is finally here — even if some temperatures across the country are decidedly un-springlike at the moment (New York, I am looking at you), and here in San Francisco it is raining. Weather woes aside, what better way to celebrate winter’s conclusion than to bake a lovely, lemony cake?

I think you’ll like this one: it’s light, in both fat and texture; simple; and rises beautifully. I made a quick blueberry compote (a cup of blueberries simmered in a splash of water, tablespoon of sugar, and tablespoon of cornstarch) to go alongside it for my vegan friends, but it really is begging prettily for a tall mound of whipped cream. Strawberries, another sign of the season’s turn, are more than appropriate here, and I snatched up a basket of on-sale organic beauties that I cut into thin slices and arranged on top. The lemon glaze may be omitted if you’re pressed for time, but I recommend taking the extra few minutes if you can; once brushed lightly across the cake’s surface, it seeps in and keeps it wonderfully moist.

Welcome, spring.

Light and Delicious Spring Lemon Cake, with lemony glaze and fresh strawberries

2 cups unbleached flour
1 cup cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 T. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup water
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 T. vanilla
1/2 t. lemon oil (optional)
2 T. cider or white vinegar

Strawberries, washed and sliced

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly oil a springform cake or bundt pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, place the water, lemon juice, oil, vanilla, and lemon oil (if using), and whisk well to combine. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk well to combine. Drizzle the vinegar over the top of the batter and whisk quickly to thoroughly incorporate.

Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Lemon Glaze

1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup freshly squuezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)

Mix the lemon juice and sugar together until the sugar has dissolved. While the cake is still warm, poke tiny holes all over the surface and pour the glaze over it. Let cool to room temperature before eating.

I covered the cake with sliced strawberries, but it would be fine plain, or served with a generous helping of whipped cream. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

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