Last week, the food world was all a buzz about the death of Maida Heatter, cookbook writer and “queen of cake.” She was 102 years old. I was intrigued by her obituary, and her notoriety in the world of baking. I am embarrassed to say that I had never heard of her. I’d never heard of her famous Chocolate Mousse Torte,nor had I heard of her East 62ndStreet Lemon Cake. She had a cult following, but I wasn’t a part of it. How was this possible, being the cookbook lover that I am? She published her first cookbook “Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Desserts” in 1974, when I was in my heyday of baking. I made a cake a week in those days. I was just married and loved every minute of baking in my very own kitchen. Dinner had to include dessert, which almost always meant cake. Was my head under a rock then? The culinary world was overjoyed with the publication of this cookbook in 1974. I wish I’d known.
As I thought more about this in the past few days since her passing, I realized that when I was first married, I only baked from the recipes that came from my mother and her friends, Ann and Ginny. I had countless index cards full of wonderful desserts from family and friends. ! I only owned one or two cookbooks. It’s no wonder I didn’t know anything about Maida Heatter
I’m so happy I know about her now! Her recipes were floating all over the internet this week, since her death. I didn’t know which dessert to make first. They all looked fabulous, and I’m sure I’m going to bake my way through all of her most famous ones. Since summer is upon us, my mind (and tastebuds) always turns to lemons. I want lemon everything once the temperatures climb and the sun shines. So it was only natural that I’d bake her East 62ndStreet Lemon Cake. It is a delicious Bundt cake, and so lemony that I couldn’t have been happier that I choose this one to bake. Everything about this cake was just perfect….the texture; the sweetness; the moistness; the light, lemon taste. The only problem with it was that I couldn’t stop eating it. It was delicious for breakfast with a cup of cappuccino or mid afternoon with a cup of tea.
I enjoyed Maida Heatter’s cake for several days, enjoying every morsel. Once the cake was finished, there was only one thing to do. I ran out to the Kitchen Arts and Letters Bookstore, a bookstore on Lexington Ave in NYC devoted only to cookbooks, and bought her recently released ( 3 months before her death) cookbook,“Happiness is Baking.” I can tell that she has many more dessert recipes that will soon become “favorites.” I’ll keep you posted!
FOR THE CAKE:
butter and flour to coat the bundt pan… OR I always use Baker’s Joy spray
3 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 cups sugar
1 cup milk
2 TBSP lemon zest
FOR THE GLAZE:
1/3 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup sugar
- Heat oven to 325 degrees. Coat the bundt pan with butter and dust with flour or use Bakers Joy.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.
- Cream the butter and sugar together. Beat in the eggs one at a time.
- Fold in the dry ingredients alternately with the milk. Stir in the lemon zest. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top of the batter. Bake 1 1/4 hours, or until the cake tests done.
- While the cake bakes, make the glaze. Warm the juice and sugar in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until all of the sugar is dissolved. Cover and remove from the heat.
- When the cake is done, immediately unfold onto a cake rack or cake plate and apply the glaze with a pastry brush to the top and sides of the cake until it is all absorbed.