Lemon cake is forever festive in springtime

Almond paste complements the tart lemon and nutty poppy-seed flavors in this rich-tasting, festive cake topped with a drizzle of icing. It's an attractive dessert to serve for any occasion, holiday or family day, especially if you play up the spring-like look and decorate it with a garnish of little marzipan lemons.

These baby lemons can also be served alone for in-between nibbling, piled in a candy dish. The lemons' "stems" are made from the star ends of whole cloves or cardamom seeds.

Lemon Almond Poppy Seed Cake

7-ounce package almond paste

2 lemons

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature

4 large eggs, room temperature

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1Ú2 teaspoon baking soda

Scant 1Ú4 cup poppy seeds

1Ú2 cup sour cream


1 cup powdered sugar

4 to 6 teaspoons lemon juice

1Ú2 teaspoon almond extract

(Optional) 1 or 2 drops yellow food coloring

Preheat oven to 325 F. Grease and flour a 91Ú2-inch fluted pan.

Grate almond paste on large-hole side of a box grater. Grate lemon rind on smallest holes of grater, being careful not to include the pith (white part of rind). Set 1 tablespoon rind aside. Squeeze juice and reserve for icing.

In mixer's mixing bowl beat almond paste, sugar and butter on high speed until well combined. Add eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Beat on high 3 minutes, or until light-colored.

Sift flour with baking powder and baking soda. Mix grated rind and poppy seeds into flour. Add flour mixture to batter alternately with sour cream. Beat on low until just combined and smooth. Do not over-mix.

Spoon batter into pan, and smooth top with a rubber spatula. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until cake turns golden and a toothpick inserted near cake middle pulls out clean.

Cool cake in pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Invert cake out of pan onto wire rack and cool completely. Drizzle with icing or dust with powdered sugar.

Icing: In a small bowl mix the powdered sugar, 4 to 6 teaspoons of lemon juice and almond extract until smooth. Add a drop or two of yellow food coloring if desired. Drizzle icing around top of cake and let it run down the sides.

For an extra festive touch decorate with Marzipan Lemons (recipe follows) or grated lemon peel.

To store: After the cake is completely cooled, wrap in plastic wrap. The cake will keep for 3 days at room temperature or 1 week if refrigerated.

To freeze: Wrap first in plastic and then with foil.

Marzipan Lemons

7-ounce package marzipan

Yellow food coloring, paste, gel or liquid

Star end of whole cloves or cardamom seeds

Roll marzipan into a ball and make a well in the center. Add 2 to 3 drops of yellow food coloring. Knead in color. Pinch off 36 to 38 pieces of marzipan and roll into balls. Slightly taper ends. With tweezers or fingers press in star end of clove stem (bud removed), or a cardamom seed, rounding that end just a bit. Leave smooth or, for a dimpled effect, gently roll lemon on fine-hole side of a box grater or a nutmeg grater.

Place marzipan lemons on a plate and loosely cover with plastic wrap. Let dry overnight. Covered lemons will stay soft for 1 to 2 weeks at room temperature. They can be frozen for up to 3 months in an airtight container. Makes 36 to 38 mini-lemons.


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