I love lemons. According to James Beard Award-nominated cookbook author Judith Fertig, that means that I have a “caustic wit and dispense sarcasm freely.” Pretty darn accurate. Lemon also sharpens the senses, brings flavors into focus, and refreshes us body and soul. In her new book, '”'The Memory of Lemon,” Fertig traces the love of lemon back through several generations in the main character’s family. The book continues the story of pastry chef Neely who has the special gift of tasting the flavors of people’s emotions. Flipping back and forth in time, we follow her as she tries to please a difficult bride, divorce her cheating husband, reconnect with her high school sweetheart, and deal with the reappearance of her father who abandoned her as a child.
It should come as no surprise that Fertig comes from a long line of lemon lovers. Among her mother and grandmother's recipes, she and her sister found recipes for more than 10 different types of lemon pie. This discovery has lead Fertig to believe that favorite flavors can be passed down through each family’s DNA. When researching “The Memory of Lemon,” Fertig researched this idea and found an Emory study that supports her theory.
Recently, Judith Fertig came to Atlanta to share her love of lemons and her new book at The Cook’s warehouse where she shared her favorite lemony desserts along with her personal memories of lemons. We sampled The Lemon-iest Lemon Bars, Lemon-scented Crackly-Top Pear Cake with Warm Pear Caramel, Polka-Dot Lemon Blueberry Cake Roll, and Lemon Balm Pound Cake with Lemonade Glaze. The latter we could not resist the opportunity to share with you!
Lemon Balm Pound Cake with Lemonade Glaze
16 fresh lemon balm (substitute lemon verbena or fresh basil leaves)
3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
3 cups sugar
9 large eggs
3 cups sifted cake flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon lemon zest
Confectioners' sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 325° F. Butter and flour a (12-cup) tube or Bundt cake and set aside. If you like, press fresh lemon balm leaves onto the sides of the pan.
With an electric mixer or food processor, cream the butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Beat in the sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the flour, a little at a time, until well blended. Stir in the lemon zest, vanilla and roughly chopped leaves.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a toothpick Inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert the cake on a wire rack to cool.
For the Lemonade Glaze, whisk the lemon juice and confectioners' sugar together until smooth and spoon over the warm cake.