I like to think I am pretty brave in the kitchen. I’ll try just about anything, as long as I am not expected to serve it to company, and I’m almost always game to take on big cooking projects – even when they involve risk of utter failure and the distinct possibility that $50 worth of ingredients might end up in the trash.
The more I cook, though, the more I realize that there are certain things I inexplicably avoid making. Perhaps I dodge them because I think they’ll be difficult, or maybe it just never occurred to me to try. Either way, I’ve got some serious blind spots in my repertoire.
A few weeks ago, our friends asked us to bring dessert to a dinner party. It was that annoying part of spring when no one wants to eat heavy, wintery desserts anymore, but there isn’t really any seasonal fruit available either. I didn’t feel like going to the store, so I rummaged through my pantry and found nothing that would make an appropriate dessert, except maybe a few cans of coconut milk. I settled on my trusty Triple Coconut Cake, but wanted something springy and bright to punch it up. Surely, I thought, we must have some good jam lying around that I could spread between the cake layers.
I hauled out all the jams my pantry-packrat husband had stashed in there – raspberry, apricot, cherry, fig, strawberry, and ginger-orange marmalade. I imagined encountering each one between the layers of rich coconut cake and creamy frosting, and they all seemed like pretty good options to me. Anthony, however, poo-pooed every last one of them. A fight ensued. (Yes, we regularly argue about things like whether raspberry and coconut taste good together.)
In desperation, I finally shouted. “WHAT ABOUT LEMON?” Silence followed as Anthony considered the flavor combination. “Fine,” he said, “lemon would be fine.” Trouble was, we didn’t have anything lemon-flavored to go in the cake. In a desparate effort not to shatter our delicate equilibrium, I grabbed the Joy of Cooking off the shelf and scanned the index for lemon curd. As I flipped to the right page, I steeled myself for a long and arduous process. To my utter surprise, there were only six ingredients listed and the instructions were about five sentences. Thank God, I thought to myself, and if it’s this simple why haven’t I ever made it before?
In all of ten minutes, I whipped up the lemon curd and got it chilling in the fridge while I made the rest of the cake. When it was time to assemble my dessert, I split the cake layers and spread creamy coconut buttercream between two of them and a thick layer of lemon curd in the middle. It was incredible! The brightness and tang of the lemon paired perfectly with the coconut. I am never making regular coconut cake again.
Whether or not you try this with coconut cake, promise me you’ll try it and stop spending $9 on precious little jars of lemon curd. I know I am!
- 3 large eggs
- ⅓ cup sugar
- Grated zest of one lemon
- ½ cup fresh lemon juice
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- In a medium saucepan, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and lemon zest until well combined.
- Turn the heat to medium, add the lemon juice and butter and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is thick and simmers for a few seconds.
- Using a spatula, scrape the curd through a mesh sieve set over a bowl. Once the curd is strained, stir in the vanilla extract.
- Let cool, cover, and refrigerate to thicken. This will keep in the refrigerator for about a week.