My Musings on Life

Lemon-Olive Oil Bundt Cake

{"focusMode":1,"deviceTilt":-0.5281429290771484,"whiteBalanceProgram":0,"macroEnabled":false,"qualityMode":3} I was destined to make this bundt cake. Well, maybe not this bundt cake, but definitely bundt cake.  You see, I've had a bundt cake pan sitting atop my refrigerator in my 350-sq foot Manhattan studio since December 2014.  That December, while visiting home in Louisiana, I decided to take one of my mother's bundt pans back to New York with me, even though I had never made a bundt cake before.

This particular bundt pan had been in that kitchen pantry for as long as I can remember. My mother has had it for decades. But, I knew she wouldn't miss it because she has several.  You see, my mother is a collector.  And I have heard her justifying having multiples of the same kitchen tool. For example, when I pointed out to her that she had four rolling pins, she quickly reminded me that she has four daughters. One for each of us.

I'm not sure when my mother planned on distributing her wealth of kitchen gadgets, but I took the stainless steel rolling pin back to Los Angeles with me after that conversation. My mother used to say, "Well, when you get married, ...."  Considering that I'm 30 years old and single, those conversations have ended. But now I feel quite fine helping myself to my birthright of kitchen gadgets whenever I'm visiting home in Louisiana. ...which is how I ended up with this decades-old bundt pan.

lemon olive oil bundt cake

I was feeling celebratory this weekend, so I planned to make a bundt cake!  I had no clue which cake to make--none of the recipes I had were speaking to me. Then, I stumbled upon my new favorite cake-book "Grandbaby Cakes" (which you should seriously buy) and this recipe that combined some of my favorite Mediterranean flavors--lemon and olive oil. It even used Greek yogurt instead of buttermilk. I instantly knew that this was the cake that would christen my tenure with this bundt pan.

There was just one problem. Tiny apartments have tiny appliances. So, I have a sub-standard-sized oven.  Most regular-sized cookie sheets and pans don't fit in my oven!  The bundt pan fit, but only on the bottom rack.  I decided to take my chances since this was the only way to actually have the pan fit in my petit oven.

[SPOILER ALERT: Do not bake a bundt cake in the bottom rack of the oven!!]

I spent an entire morning juicing and zesting lemons, while whisking and stirring, pouring and baking.. cooling.. Everything just looked so perfect!  Until I finally removed the cake from the pan. The top was definitely burnt. My burnt bundt was no looker, but I did taste a piece, and WOW.  I loved the tangy and bright lemon, tempered by the sophisticated and floral flavor of the olive oil. Plus, there was this "pudding cake" quality to it. It wasn't quite a cake-cake. It was just one step past moist. And trust me, I'm not complaining!

But, I had this burnt top that a little lemon-confectioner's glaze couldn't fix. So, I made another cake in my tiny oven. This time, I put 9x13 inch pan upside down on the bottom rack, and then I put my bundt cake on top of that pan. This was the only way I could raise the cake from the fiery bottom of the oven with the bundt pan still actually fitting in the oven! I'm pleased to report that this worked; although, it did increase the baking time by about 10 minutes.

This cake is seriously satisfying, and anyone who loves unique desserts and the floral flavor of olive oil will love this cake! If you don't like olive oil, you can substitute the olive oil with vegetable oil.  And it may be tempting to use bottled lemon juice, but use fresh lemon juice. Lemon is the star of this cake, and the fresh juice helps the lemon to shine.

Lemon-Olive Oil Bundt Cake
Author: Vallery, adapted from Grandbaby Cakes
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 12 servings
You need about 5 large lemons in all. Buy organic lemons for zesting. (Organic lemons don't have the layer of wax that the others do, making them ideal for zesting.) ALSO, this recipe is for a 10-cup bundt pan. I used a 9-cup bundt pan and just estimated how much 90% of the batter was.
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 scant cup extra virgin olive oil + additional for coating the pan
  • 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 large eggs
  • 3 cups cake flour, sifted + additional for coating the pan
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cups full-fat Greek Yogurt, at room temperature (this is exactly 2 of the 7 ounce Fage containers)
  • GLAZE (optional)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  1. Adjust the oven rack to make sure it's in the middle, or top 1/3 of the oven. Preheat oven to 325F. Using a paper towel, coat the inside of the bundt pan with the additional olive oil. Evenly dust the additional flour thoroughly inside the bundt pan.
  2. Combine the 3 cups cake flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  3. Combine the sugar and olive oil. If using a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, mix on low, then gradually increase the speed to medium and mix for 5 minutes in all. Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla extract. Mix for about 1 minute. Add the eggs, two at a time, and mix just until no yellow streaks remain.
  4. Pour 1/3 of flour mixture into the batter and mix on low until just combined.
  5. Add half of the Greek yogurt and mix until just combined. Continue alternating with flour and Greek yogurt for the remaining two additions of flour and remaining one addition of Greek yogurt.
  6. Pour the batter into the bundt pan and bake for 70-80 minutes. The cake is ready when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  7. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool in its pan for 10 minutes.
  8. Then, turn the pan over and remove the cake onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
  9. Prepare the glaze by mixing the powdered sugar and lemon juice until thoroughly combined. Spoon it over the cooled bundt cake.
  10. You may store it in an airtight container for up to three days.

Adapted from Grandbaby Cakes.

(Passport) Renewal

I just finished applying to renew my passport. I couldn't help but sing as I pranced my way from the Post Office. Getting my passport renewed feels better than even getting my passport for the first time. I guess that I now know what's in store: adventures on top of adventures, freedom and soaring and infinite possibilities! Well, I guess that's my interpretation of travel moreso than having a passport.

I got my first passport nearly 10 years ago... 8 days shy of my 19th birthday, and just a week or two before my third trip out of the country.  I got a passport in preparation for my summer study abroad course at L'Universite de Bourgogne (Burgundy University).  I was headed to Dijon, France for four weeks--the capital of not only Dijon mustard, but most importantly, big red Burgundy wines from France's Burgundy region.  It wasn't my first trip out of the country.  My first trip had been three years prior when I spent three weeks in Guadeloupe visiting our former summer exchange student, Cin-dy (emphasis on the dy).  I had also gone to the Bahamas. But, I was a minor--and traveled with just my birth certificate in those pre-9/11 days.

That first stamp from France in 2004 hallmarked the beginning of my francophilia.  I wasn't planning on majoring in French or pursuing any French courses outside of the required "3 semesters," but I was hooked.  As soon as I got home from France that summer, I changed my major from "Health and Humanity, Pre-Med" to a double major in psychology and French.

Many stamps (and Visas) from France--and many other places--soon followed.  I've traversed the Sahara on camelback and waded through rivers in Jamaica.  Ate tapas in Barcelona and had adventures befitting the quirkiest indie film. I've visited Norway in the winter and Mexico in the summer.  I've seen the winter olympics in Torino, learned to make handmade pasta from an Italian nonna in Verona, and made croissants at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.  I've snorkeled in the Caribbean Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.  I am so incredibly grateful for all of the international travel and experiences that I have been blessed to embark on in the past 10 years!

In front of the Italian Alps en route to seeing freestyle skiing at the 2006 winter olympics in Torino, Italy

I have traveled for a variety of reasons--work, school, and play.  But mostly, self-enlightenment.  I vividly remembering sitting on my balcony in Paris's 15th arrondissement--watching the Eiffel Tower twinkle, as it does at night.  And I had an epiphany or two.  First, I realized, I have to dream bigger.  In a strange way, I felt rather fulfilled at age 20.  My dreams needed to grow just as I was.

I also had the epiphany that we're all the same.  Us people, I mean.  We may speak different languages and have different customs and religions, live in different countries with different climates and natural disasters.  We may have different facial features, heights, and amounts of melanin in our skin. We even may express emotions in different ways.  But there is far more that unites us than what separates us.  And what unites us are the things that are really important and make us human--we all have goals and dreams, wishes and desires.  We all want the best for our children and the best for ourselves.  We all have pride and anger--envy and disappointment.  These are the most important lessons I carry with me when I return home.     

Maybe it's for those reasons of self-enlightenment that I crave travel.  Or maybe it's far more simple.  Maybe I'm just looking for the next adventure, or I want to challenge myself by visiting a francophone country where I can intensely listen to the nuances of various dialects--and my brain stays active.  Maybe I just want to feel fully alive.

The simple act of renewing my passport has flooded me with emotions.  Maybe this is why being born again is more important than being born at all.  Or why concepts such as Rebirth and Renaissance carry more weight than simply "birth."

I can't pinpoint any particular reason for why I must travel. But, I know certainly, I travel, therefore I am.