Tuesday, April 30, 2013

meyer lemon mini cakes

Before I went home to the Philippines last December, my childhood friend T. told me: "you HAVE to try the calamansi muffins in Real Coffee in Boracay!"

Calamansi is something I most definitely miss here. It's a citrus fruit that's smaller than a key lime and native to the Philippines. We use it in almost everything - squeezed to make lemonade (although that is a heck of a job to squeeze so many tiny fruits to get enough juice), as a marinade for seafood and meats, a flavor enhancer for grilled food, and so many more. In fact, many times a plate of food at a Filipino restaurant would include a calamansi, sliced in half, for you to squeeze the juice over top. We also make fruit shakes out of it. The taste is quite distinct - it's like a cross between a lime and a tangerine.

I'm shaking my head in disbelief now because I was going through my many photos from my trip and could not find a single photo of it. Perhaps because it's something I grew up with? Here is a photo from the Filipino food blog Burnt Lumpia. My good friend K, who came with us on this trip, took a photo of it - scroll about halfway down this post and you'll see it right beside a heap of noodles. Thank goodness one of us took a picture :)

So when T. told me about calamansi muffins, I was intrigued. This was not something I remembered from previous trips to Boracay island (and I do have a good food memory).

I imagined something like a lemon poppyseed muffin, like what you would get at many coffee shops nowadays... but so much better. Biased, I know.

The first time we attempted to go to Real Coffee and Tea, I was disappointed to see it was closed. I wasn't online much during this trip and didn't check the website for their hours. It was after dinner after all, and apparently it is only open during the day. We were leaving the next day, and I wondered whether we could still make it there. The day before, we got rained on all day so we missed out on being able to explore further.

Thank goodness the sun came out.

The day we were scheduled to leave, we booked morning massages for all four of us right on the beach. Let me tell you, there is absolutely nothing like it. And for the equivalent of... maybe $8 for an hour of massage, with the sound of the waves, the sea breeze, and the warm sunshine... oh what I would trade to have that right now...

A massage with a view.

And of course, after the massage, I had to maximize my time in the water, down to the last possible  minute. I found out that Real Coffee offers delivery, so it was the perfect solution. Tracking down this muffin was important business, right? I thought, "go big or go home", so I went ahead and requested a dozen muffins for delivery.

When the much-anticipated muffins arrived at our resort, I went ahead and sampled one immediately. It did not disappoint. (I don't have a picture of it either... it was so good). It had the perfect sweet-tart flavor of calamansi, and a moist crumb.

If I remember correctly, the four of us took turns schlepping this precious cargo box of muffins through multiple modes of transportation (hotel shuttle, bus, plane, and finally the car ride home from the airport).

So this is a long story to say that I have been craving these calamansi muffins. But I think Meyer lemons can stand in for calamansi for now, because that's all I have. And this might be my last hurrah with Meyer lemons until next winter. This isn't a recipe for muffins, but they're just as good, if not better.

Meyer Lemon Mini Cakes
(adapted from Cooking Light, August 2007, lemon buttermilk cake)

3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp Meyer lemon zest (zest of 4-5 meyer lemons)
1/4 cup butter (half a stick)
1 1/2 tbsp Meyer lemon juice
1 whole egg
1 egg white
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup buttermilk, shaken

Glaze (optional)
1/4-1/3 cup confectioners sugar
Meyer lemon juice

  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Butter and lightly flour your pan. For this recipe, I used a 6-cup mini-cake pan which I scored on sale and absolutely love. It's no longer available, but here is a similar one. You could also use a muffin pan or perhaps even a loaf pan, though I haven't tried it in those.  
  2. Add the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda to a bowl and whisk together.
  3. In a large bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer, rub the sugar and lemon zest together. I like doing this step, just as I did with the grapefruit yogurt pound cake I wrote about a few months ago. This step helps perfume the sugar and also separates the clumps of zest so that they get thoroughly incorporated into the batter.  
  4. Add the butter to the bowl and cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy.
  5. Add the lemon juice, followed by the whole egg and egg white, beating well after each addition.
  6. Mix in the dry ingredients in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk in two parts (so you begin and end with the dry ingredients).
  7. Mix together just until the wet and dry ingredients are combined. Do not overmix - excessive mixing activates the gluten in the flour, resulting in tough or rubbery cakes - which is a tragedy in my book.
    Spoon the batter into your prepared pan. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until the tip of a knife inserted in the center of one of the cakes comes out clean (a few crumbs sticking to the cake are ok).
  8. Place the cake pan on a wire rack to cool for ten minutes, then loosen the cakes from the pan and allow them to cool further on the wire rack.
  9. While the cakes cool, make the glaze: add enough Meyer lemon juice to the confectioners sugar to make a thick liquid. Whisk together until smooth. When cakes have completely cooled, drizzle the glaze over the cakes. 

These cakes turned out so moist, thanks to the buttermilk. The Meyer lemons impart a sweet, almost floral and citrus flavor that is just so distinct from the tartness of regular lemons. Although not exactly the calamansi muffins from sunny Boracay, I'd say it's close enough, being on the opposite side of the world where the earth is just waking up from a long winter*.

As a final note - you'll be zesting more lemons than you'll need for juice for this recipe, so might as well go on a Meyer lemon-themed meal after making these cakes. I am craving a Meyer lemon vinaigrette over some roasted asparagus or blanched peas... sounds like the perfect winter-to-spring meal to me.

*I know it's nearly May, but Cleveland always gets the memo pretty late. We still had a brief moment of flurries last week!

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Anne said...

another recipe of yours that i want to try making!! pinning it ;-D

that's a great tip by the way about rubbing the lemon zest and sugar!

Christine Duque said...

I wish I was as motivated to bake as you guys...

Feel free to send some baked goods to NYC...LOL

Mia (Savor Everyday) said...

Anne: yes, in fact you can do the same with salt and have citrus salt as a finishing ingredient for savory dishes. Some herbs are nice too... think lemon-thyme salt... Yum. But yes, I do that step all the time for pretty much any recipe with citrus. It's actually quite therapeutic ;-)

Mia (Savor Everyday) said...

Christine: I actually baked Evelyn's "super secret recipe" - but something was off with the sugar quantities - it was too sweet, so I didn't want to send those. Need to reduce the sugar next time...

krishwala said...

brought me back to Boracay. Great write up.

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