where troubles melt like lemon drops

The laptop that I’ve written this blog on for several years now is continuing to suffer from a very specific condition that occurs when someone kicks a bottle of beer on top of it. At first I was so happy and baffled that it wasn’t me that did it for once, clumsy hoyden that I am, that it didn’t occur to me how long I might be without this precious technology, and how wince-makingly expensive fixing it would be, and how many files were on it. (But: Tim and I just discussed for the eighteenth time how, even with all his contrition, it is a miracle it wasn’t me that kicked over the beer first.)

So: take a good look, because this instagram, grainy and overcast with the Rise filter, is the only record I have left of the lemon cake with white chocolate buttercream that I made last week. All the nice photos I snapped from various angles are stuck somewhere in a no-person’s-land on my stupid beer-sodden laptop.

Which is excellent timing, since my cookbook is out on the 23rd of this month and I’m just starting to do publicity and it’s like “hey everyone, come check out my blog with this one badly-lit photo that I took on my phone”. But also, this is essentially a lovely problem, since I wouldn’t be worrying about it if I didn’t have a cookbook to promote in the first place, and the whole situation is still somehow rosily tinted with relief that it wasn’t me for once doing the stupidly clumsy, ruinous thing.

Tim is terribly apologetic though, of course. It wasn’t even nice beer.

Without twee photos to pad this out, I might as well cut straight to the chase. This cake is delicious. Lemon and white chocolate are rather wonderful together, both delicate flavours in cake form, but with the airy tang of the former lifting the richness of the latter, and vice versa. Both the cake and the icing are very easy, and the cake itself is dairy-free if that’s of use. Make sure you zest the lemon before juicing it for the cake – the feathery strands of zest look so pretty on top of the cake and add pure lemon-oil zing to the buttercream. Pistachios are less necessary, but they look really lovely with their muted dusty green against the swelling white icing, for what it’s worth.

lemon cake with white chocolate buttercream

A recipe by myself, with thanks to a loaf recipe from the Best of Cooking for New Zealanders book.

1/2 cup plain oil (rice bran is nice and doesn’t taste heavily oily)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 eggs
200g sugar
pinch salt
250g flour
2 tsp baking powder

Set your oven to 180 C and line the base of a 22cm caketin with baking paper. You could probably make this easily in a 20cm tin as well, which would likely result in a smaller-but-taller cake.

Whisk together the oil, lemon juice, eggs and sugar till thick, then sift in the flour and baking powder and continue to stir briskly for another couple of minutes, until the mixture is thick and smooth and your upper arms are burning. Tip into the caketin and bake for about an hour, but check it around 45 minutes. It probably won’t rise very high. Allow to cool before icing.

75g soft butter
2 cups icing sugar, sifted if stupidly lumpy
100g white chocolate, decent stuff if you can

Beat the butter and icing sugar together- it will likely end up very thick and crumbly. This is okay. Melt the white chocolate and stir it in to the butter mixture, adding a little hot water if you need to, if it’s far too thick. Carefully spread across the top of the cooked cake once it’s cooled. Top with lemon zest and pistachios if you like.

Seriously, what can I do? Copy-paste that instagram photo again here? In the absence of photos, use your imagination to perceive that light, densely fluffy lemon-tinted cake spread thickly with buttery white chocolate icing is really excellent stuff, and worth your while for sure.

Other things you could look at instead of the photos of this cake, trapped in a stickily beer-tainted laptop:

Remember how I’m trying to read more books written by women? This wonderful story is another addition to that list, as is Orlando by Virginia Woolf, Don’t Tell Arthur by Nancy Mitford, and The Rehearsal by Eleanor Catton.

 I finished my knitting project! I am very proud of myself. I tend to have lots of grandiose ideas that I throw myself into and then never finish, so there was some danger that this blanket would end up much the same. But look! I made a thing! (Don’t look too closely, or you will see a lot of dropped stitches and uneven knitting tension. This blanket is a bit of a Monet. )

And…introducing my cookbook, by way of this little ten second video!

Just to sensibly reiterate, my cookbook will be on the shelves of all nice bookstores on August 23, and I will be doing some giveaways in the leadup. I had my first interview for it today, which was partly thrilling, because I like talking about myself – in a way, every interview is like a therapy session – and partly terrifying, because what if I come across as a dick, or if I made no sense, or I got nervous and rose in upwards inflections at the end of every sentence? But overall, looking back, the person I was talking to was very nice and I felt like I represented myself well enough. There’s a lot of new land to navigate – I’ve been wanting this book to exist for so long, with so much of myself, that it’s strange to be right on the edge of it all. Trying to organise my schedule and a book launch that’s vaguely credible and pay all my bills and still work full time and also make sure that I’m not defined by this book entirely, that I don’t live or die by its success (considering I’m the kind of person who lives or dies by the most relatively trivial things, like are there rice bubbles left for my breakfast this morning, this is a bit of a challenge.) Hopefully you can bear with me through all of this…especially as it’s very exciting…

Till then, here’s a small, fun interview I did for mac+mae’s 100 days project.
title via the song that always guarantees tears in my eyes, Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Judy Garland. I am totally a friend of Dorothy.
music lately

Irene Cara, Fame. Gosh, my obsession with this soundtrack knows no bounds, and it might sound completely pride-goeth-before-a-fall but it felt like a good time to play the title track.

The Carter Family, Can the Circle Be Unbroken. Ye olde country to get you right in the ye olde heart.
next time: Real photos! From my camera!  

7 thoughts on “where troubles melt like lemon drops

  1. Genie says:

    Bummer about your laptop but awesome on your book. The 23rd is not very far away at all!

    I'm not usually a fan of white chocolate but I recently tried Whittaker's L&P white chocolate and I loved it. You're right, lemon and white chocolate are great friends. I wonder if your icing could be made with that chocolate and how popping candy would work react in icing?


  2. Hannah says:

    My computer won't let me watch your 10-second video, but I adore your interview and it makes me love you so. Even though parts of it break my lonely heart, but that's about me, not you.

    Also, it is better than it wasn't very good beer, because otherwise Tim would have to be doubly apologetic for breaking the laptop AND wasting delicious beer. Perhaps this was the universe's way of helping you out by making you not have to continue drinking shoddy beer?

    Also: lemon and white chocolate YES.


  3. Hila says:

    Haha, when I published my book, I knew that like 10 people would read it. So alas, no Fame soundtrack for me. BUT, congratulations!! I meant what I said about a free book plug on my blog, just send me an email if you'd like to do that. Well done you, I know how much hard work goes into all this, and you should feel proud.

    p.s. I love your kitty trinkets.


  4. Emma says:

    One of the best egotistical moments of my life was when I was in Fame. Having everyone backstage counting how long my on-stage kiss lasted every night? It was like the world really was all about me, for a few minutes every night.

    I hope your cookbook release is just like a juicy on-stage kiss, followed raptly by clusters of young people with goggly eyes and breathy whispers. Yeah, good luck!


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