Fingers Crossed: Candied Lemon Cake
November 8, 2016
Today is the day. Election day. I am too terrified to look and yet I can’t look away.
Elections have always been bitter things. Nasty words are said. Lines drawn. But this election cycle more than any other, I feel like a tiny car stuck between two trucks in bumper-to-bumper traffic. We’re in what feels like a country-wide gridlock that won’t loosen up even after all of today’s votes are tallied.
Both sides stand on their soap boxes, shouting past each other, words ricocheting like rubber balls in a glass squash court. But neither side takes a moment to listen – because the other is already wrong on principle. What is there to debate when we know all the answers already?
We live in an age where we can tailor our news to fit our views. We can hand-pick our propaganda, read articles that support our opinion, watch only our favorite news channels, listen to reinforcing podcasts. And Facebook fools us into believing the whole world thinks like we do – a “customized” news feed sweeps us up in information our like-minded friends share – and anything that doesn’t fit the mold, well, there are always a few bad eggs in the bunch.
So we isolate ourselves behind party lines. We hear only the “truths” we want. And truth itself has become a nebulous phrase. Though facts are now easier to check than ever, we seem to care less and less about them. The other day I was listening to a podcast discussing this discarding of fact. When Rush Limbaugh says, “This fact-check technique is the latest,” it ties my stomach up in knots. Shouldn’t this be concerning for both liberals and conservatives alike? Because if you can’t check the facts, what’s left?
Not that rewriting history is anything new. We’ve done it before. We do it again and again and again.
I’ve already voted. I have my fingers crossed and my convictions about who will do what’s right. But the point is this: The world doesn’t end after election day. We don’t all have to agree; we don’t have to like the outcome – but we still have to be a country.
In many ways, the aftermath of an election is like a lemon cake. We’ve taken a handful of lemons – sour, bitter, unpleasant to eat – and done all we can to make them palatable. We’ve boiled slices in sugar until they’re candied and sweet as caramel. We’ve grated the peel and juiced the fruit and mashed it with enough butter and sugar to hide the tartness. When we set the cake on the table, it’s a beautiful, jeweled artwork, and when we take a bite it’s deliciously sweet. But those candied peels stick in our teeth, the citrus sting refuses to be cowed.
It’s not all good and it’s not all bad. It’s complex and varied, a little bit obnoxious and impossible to cut, sour and sweet, saccharine, satisfying.
As this election has gone on, I’ve seen a rhetoric of hatred sprout up, exposing issues in America that are deeper than any one candidate. They’re not new; they’ve been there all along. When we wake up tomorrow, we may have a new leader, but we will not be whole. No matter who wins, this is something we’ll have to combat together. And if we continue to talk past each other, if we keep listening only to what we want to hear, if we believe that fact is as fluid as convenience – we never will.
Candied Lemon Cake
It’s important to slice the lemons as thinly as possible for the candied lemon slices – or else they’ll break your teeth. I’m sure there’s another election metaphor in there somewhere.
For the candied lemons:
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
For the cake:
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
14 tbsp. (200 g) butter
1 cup (200 g) sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1½ cups (200 g) flour
½ cup (60 g) powdered sugar + 2 tbsp. lemon juice
First, make the candied lemons: Prepare an ice-water bath and set aside. Cut lemons into paper-thin slices. Discard the seeds and both ends of the lemon.
Bring a medium-sized saucepan of water to a boil. Remove from heat, add lemon slices and stir for 1 minute. Drain and plunge lemon slices into the ice water. Drain.
In a skillet, bring sugar and water to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Turn heat to medium-low. Add lemon slices in as close to a single layer as possible. Simmer until the rinds are soft and nearly translucent, about 1 hour. Check on your lemons every now and then to make sure the sugar isn’t caramelizing (i.e., burning). If it’s starting to look too dark, turn the heat down.
Transfer to a sheet lined with baking paper and set aside.
Pre-heat the oven to 350 ºF (180 ºC), and line a loaf pan with baking paper.
Wash lemons under hot water, then grate the peel.
Juice the lemons (about 4 tbsp.), and mix with lemon peel, vanilla extract, and salt. Add butter and sugar, and cream with an electric mixer. Add eggs one at a time, then add the baking powder and flour in increments until well combined.
Pour the batter into the loaf pan. Bake for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. If the top of the cake starts to turn dark, cover it with foil.
Without removing the cake from the loaf pan, poke holes into the top with a toothpick. Whisk 2 tbsp. of lemon juice with powdered sugar and pour over the cake, dispersing it evenly with the back of a spoon. When the cake has absorbed the glaze, flip it out of the loaf pan and onto a serving tray (it will now be upside down). Decorate with candied lemon slices.