a cooler filled with bologna sandwiches, made with Wonder bread and slathered in French’s mustard. brightly colored pails and shovels. ditto beach towels. Bain de Soleil and zinc oxide. diametrical sun-exposure philosophies. four little girls and two moms in one-piece swimsuits and flip flops, all tucked snugly in an aqua-colored 1963 VW Beetle. headed for an adventure at a nearby lake, it was apparent someone in the back seat wasn’t very happy.
arms crossed over her chest and bottom lip stuck out in a pout, our next-door neighbor’s eldest daughter—then about age seven—wedged herself against the tiny rear window of the car and squinted at the passing scenery. don’t be such a sourpuss, her mom teased. the squint turned into a glare. i didn’t know what had transpired prior to our departure to warrant this gloomy state.
it took us only a few minutes to arrive at our destination, not enough time for a 180 on the mood. we piled out of the VW, grabbing beach gear and running toward the water with it. our sourpuss lagged behind, her mom grabbing her around the waist in an attempt to tickle her into happy submission. no dice. when you are ready to be civil, you can join the rest of us, her mom said quietly, applying a calm, matter-of-fact approach.
i got into the water and began to swim; my sister and her younger friend dug holes in the sand. a very exciting proposition for a three- and a four-year-old. the moms kept their eyes on us, as they chatted incessantly. sourpuss remained on the periphery, kicking a little sand up with her feet, lip still protruding. soon it came time for lunch, and even she could not resist the fabulous meal the moms extracted from the cooler. i actually think she became weary of solitary confinement. we all ate and laughed and went for a walk on the beach to comb for whatever. it was, after all, a manmade lake.
the six of us shared many wonderful adventures over the years. yes, we all had our little quirks. but they never tarnished the sheer joy of hanging out together. to celebrate sourpuss memories, i baked a tart and tangy, yet sweet, coffee cake. filled with robust lemon flavor and that zing of tart cherries. then i sat back with a cup of tea, a moist piece of cake drizzled with icing and wrapped myself in those good times. hope you can take some time to do the same.
Lemon–Sour Cherry Coffee Cake
a recipe from Leslie Mackie’s Macrina Bakery & Cafe Cookbook
for the cake
1 1/2 cups dried tart cherries
4 cups unbleached organic flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (i had Meyer lemons, so used those)
1 cup plain yogurt
for the glaze
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- preheat oven to 325F.
- oil a 12-cup bundt pan.
- place the dried cherries in a medium bowl, and cover with hot tap water.
- let the cherries soak for 10 minutes, then drain thoroughly; set aside.
- sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large bowl; toss with your hands and set aside.
- combine the butter, sugar and lemon zest in the bowl of a stand mixer.
- using the paddle attachment, mix on medium speed for 5 to 8 minutes, until the mixture becomes smooth and pale in color.
- add the eggs one at a time, making sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding another.
- after all the eggs have been incorporated into the batter, slowly add the lemon juice, and mix for 1 more minute.
- scrape down the sides of the bowl, and mix for 30 more seconds.
- remove the bowl from the mixer (i actually didn’t do this, and the cake seems perfectly swell), and alternately add small amounts of the flour mixture and the yogurt to the batter, mixing with a wooden spoon until add dry ingredients are incorporated.
- set aside 10 – 12 cherries for garnish, then gently fold the remaining cherries into the batter. be careful not to overmix.
- pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan, filling two-thirds of the pan.
- bake on center rack of the oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden brown.
- check the center of the cake with a skewer; if it comes out clean, the cake is done.
- cool the cake on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes.
- loosen the sides of the cake with a sharp knife (i didn’t need to do this; it fell right out of the non-stick NordicWare bundt pan), the place a serving plate upside down, on top of the cooled bundt pan.
- invert the pan to remove the cake, and let it cool completely.
- sift the confectioners’ sugar into a medium bowl; add the lemon zest and lemon juice.
- mix with a spoon until smooth, then drizzle over the cooled coffee cake.
- top with the reserved plump cherries.