We’ve had a couple of weeks of freakishly warm weather here in the Rocky Mountains–we are talking daytime highs in the mid-50’s and 60’s, which is a good 25 degrees above February averages. For the most part, this is a welcome thing. February can be a gray, brittle, frigid month. It’s been a relief to walk Mozzy on sidewalks that aren’t ice slicks.
The only unwelcome part of this equation is the thing causing this warmth–wind.
And boy, do I mean wind. We have had days where the gusts have reached well over 50 miles an hour; they’ve registered 75 miles an hour in some parts of Boulder county and 100+ in the high country. That’s some serious blowin’.
Nobody wants to be out in winds like that, even if the sidewalks are clear. Mozzy takes a few steps outside on his way to pee and then startles at the force of the gusts. His big, fluffy ears fly around his head like white propellers and he looks up at me as if to say, “What is this bit of assholery?” Then he takes care of business in a hurry and darts back inside.
Earlier this week, I was driving the Minxes to school and we noticed several construction zones behind our neighborhood in complete disarray. Wood, shingles, plastic tarps and orange cones were scattered everywhere. More impressively, the port-a-potties had completely blown loose and had tumbled over and across streets and into fields.
“Oh, Man,” Miss D. said, wrinkling her nose. “Totally sucks to be whoever has to take care of that mess.”
“Holy crap. Literally.” I said. The girls rolled their eyes at my joke.
“It’s like the cows in the Wizard of Oz,” Miss M. said. “But with port-a-johns.”
Thankfully, not all days have been wind-tunnel type affairs. Sometimes the gusts calm down, and Mozzy and I can relish the feel of the sun on our faces. Then we extend our walks and I try to keep my patience as he sniffs under every bush, hoping to scare up a rabbit (or five). Sometimes his persistence drives me batty, but I can’t really blame him–warm weather in February makes everyone hanker for spring.
“It feels like spring is coming,” Mama remarked when I called her the other day.
“Don’t get ahead of yourself,” I reminded her. “You know what March does to those high hopes.”
It crushes them. That’s what it does. March in Colorado is a notorious and spiteful killer of Le Spring Buzz.
“You’re so mean,” she tsked into the phone.
“A realist,” I corrected her.
“Hmph. A mean realist.”
I might talk a good game, but it’s hard for me not to get carried away, too. I find myself eyeing the tulips and the daffodils in the grocery store and poring over the seed catalogs, itching to plan my summer garden. Just the thought of digging into a tomato worth eating gets my heart pumping.
Slow down, Tonto.
It’s only mid (ish)-February. Mother Nature’s wrath is far from done with us, I know.
Faced with that hard truth, I decided to make lemon cake. What else is a girl to do? Well, she could channel her inner bear and go into hibernation, but that’s no fun and the sun is still shining and let’s dally with the idea of spring for maybe one more day, shall we?
The only proper way to dally with the idea of spring is with something sweet and lemony, in my opinion. I realize that most people think that February belongs to chocolate, but I’m a lemon girl. I’ll take anything citrus-perfumed and slightly puckery over chocolate any day. Bonus points if it’s light as air with a warm, gooey surprise in the middle, and better still if it’s cute as a button to boot.
Individual lemon pudding cakes are the perfect spring dalliance. They’ll cheer you up in a flash, I promise. Even if it’s howling and snowy and miserable in your neck of the woods, just the sight of these little darlings will give you the courage and the fortification to see winter through.
We can do this, right?
Especially if there’s cake.
Little Lemon Pudding Cakes*
3 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar, divided
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
juice of two lemons (1/3 cup)
1 1/3 cups milk
Preheat the oven to 350.
Separate the eggs, making sure that the egg whites go into a very clean bowl.
Beat the egg yolks and 3/4 cup sugar with an electric mixer until the yolks are pale yellow and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Stir in the flour and the salt and then beat another 2 minutes or so with the electric mixer. Stir in the lemon zest, the lemon juice and the milk. Set aside.
With very clean beaters, beat the egg whites with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar until soft peaks form (do not beat into stiff peaks–the peaks should slump over slightly).
Fold 1/4 of the egg yolk mixture into the egg white mixture. Then fold the egg white mixture into the yolk/flour/lemon mixture until incorporated but still slightly streaked and airy.
Pour the batter into 8 buttered ramekins. Place the ramekins into a large roasting pan, leaving a little space between each. Pour in about 1/2 inch of boiling water into the roasting pan (about halfway up the sides of the ramekins), being careful not to splash any water into the cakes themselves.
Bake about 40 minutes or until the edges of the cakes are beginning to pull away from the sides of the ramekins. Remove from the oven and let cool in the water bath for about ten minutes. Remove the cakes from the water bath and cool on a wire rack, just slightly–this cake is best eaten a little warm.
Sprinkle the tops of the cakes with a dusting of powdered sugar.
*Pudding cakes are pretty simple to make, as long as you heed a few instructions. The cakes do need to bake in a water bath–it keeps them tender and gooey in the middle. Also, make sure to only beat the egg whites until soft, slumpy peaks form. This is not the time to make meringue. And finally, be a little gluttonous and polish off the cakes within a day or two. They don’t keep well. I don’t think that last item will be much of a problem, though.