June 21, 2008

Lemon-syrup soaked hazelnut cake

We have a rain garden in the back yard that has been suffering from neglect. We acquired this garden as part of a neighborhood rain garden initiative that was funded through a grant. Our neighborhood lies in a watershed that drains to a nearby system of lakes, and the intention was to keep rain water from washing directly into the lakes. We did all the labor of digging and planting the garden, and the plants were donated to us through the grant. Because I didn't personally select the plants the way I usually do after much studying and pondering, I was unfamiliar with most of them, and found that I couldn't recognize them or even remember what they were the following spring. Not wanting to pull out the "real" plants, some of which were grasses, I pretty much let everything grow except obvious weeds like dandelions.

Finally, last weekend I decided that the rain garden looked really bad, and I bought a few new plants for it and set about removing the extensive number of wild violets that have taken up residence. My body was in the garden pulling weeds but my mind was far away, and the thought that my gloved hand had encountered something unusual was only the faintest speck of dust drifting past my brain. Suddenly, three very large mice ran across my foot and into the yard screeching, "eeek, eeek,eeek." They weren't the only ones screeching eek!

What does this have to do with lemon cake? Absolutely nothing. Nothing at all. Unless you can see the connection between weeding the garden and weeding the house. I've been digging through piles of saved stuff trying to recycle or put away as much as possible. In the course of pile sorting, I came across some old Natural Health and Vegetarian Times magazines, and just had to read through them to see if there were any good recipes. This one for lemon cake caught my eye, and I decided to make it for my son's birthday instead of the usual layer cake. I found it in an Aug. 2002 Natural Health magazine. (Of course, it's a bit changed.)

This cake tasted just like I imagined it would - moist and sticky and lemony. It's sweet and satisfying. The recipe called for honey for the glaze and I used agavé syrup, but it didn't really thicken like I thought it would. I recommend using maple syrup instead, and letting it cool slightly before spreading onto the warm cake. If you use agavé, expect the topping to be fairly liquid. (It thickens as it cools.) I also used Brazil nuts instead of hazelnuts because I had them in the house. (And you don't have to skin them) When I make this again I'll try hazelnuts. And I sprinkled unsweetened shredded coconut over the top of the cake and served it with berries.

Lemon-syrup soaked hazelnut cake
4 ounces raw whole hazelnuts (about 1 cup), skinned (see bottom of page)
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup granulated cane juice, divided
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (organic lemon)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
6 ounces vanilla soy yoghurt
3 tablespoons maple syrup or brown rice syrup

1. Preheat oven to 350.˚ Spay an 8-inch non-stick round cake pan with oil. (or use parchment paper and oil in a regular round cake pan)
2. Place nuts, cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a food processor and process until nuts are finely chopped. Remove mixture to bowl.
3. Place oil and 2/3 cup granulated cane juice in processor and process until smooth. Add zest, 1 tablespoon juice and yoghurt and pulse to blend.
4. Add nut mixture back into processor bowl and pulse about 5 times until just combined.
5. Pour batter into prepared pan, smooth top and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cool cake on rack for 10 minutes.
5. While cake cools, combine 1/3 cup water, maple syrup, remaining 1/3 cup granulated cane juice and remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice in small saucepan. Bring to a low boil over low heat and cook until syrupy, about 5 minutes. (This took longer than 5 minutes with agavé syrup) Invert cake onto platter and coat the top and sides of warm cake with syrup until it soaks in. (I let some soak in and let some stay on top.) Let cool completely before cutting. Cake can be wrapped and stored at room temperature for up to 5 days. (I made my cake the night before I needed it and covered it with an inverted bowl. It was too sticky to wrap.)

For useful information on skinning hazelnuts click here.
For more information of the benefits of eating hazelnuts click here.
For more information on the health benefits of consuming nuts, click here.
For information on the difference between hazelnuts and filberts, click here.
Now, I hope all this clicking hasn't driven you nuts!

Note: I just made ths cake again and used Brazil nuts. I think I'm always going to use Brazil nuts. It just seems like too much trouble to skin the hazelnuts. Maybe I should change the name of this recipe!


  1. Looks great! Hope he had a good birthday, too :). Oh, and what's the difference between filberts and hazelnuts? I always thought they were the same thing!

    (PS I'm sure I'd have been screaming more than just "eek"!!)

  2. Thanks, Ricki. He went out to dinner and ate cake with us and then went out to celebrate with his friends.

    You're right. Filberts and hazelnuts are closely related and essentially the same small, round nuts. What I meant to say was I used Brazil nuts. Thanks for catching that! I've added some information links to the post.

  3. Hi Andrea!
    Yesterday couldn't wait to bake! and I had to wait till today to try the amazing results. Just winderful, very soft texture and mild sweet.

    I also baked it with Brazil nut because I don't like much hazelnuts.

    Great Post!

  4. I'm glad you liked it! Another nice thing about Brazil nuts is you don't have to skin them.


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