Attraction aside, on our first date, S met just a few of my “must haves” in a potential mate.
The most important? He didn’t smack his lips.
To this day, I still remember my initial disappointment when he told me he had season tickets for MSU football. And when he told me he “wasn’t really hungry” when we were seated for dinner? Yeah, that broke my heart.
Ravenous, I proceeded – embarrassingly – to eat most of the order of Crack Fries we were “sharing,” subsequently – accidentally – drink myself goofy on a nearly empty stomach. When he dropped me off at my apartment later that night, I was certain there would be no date #2. I was stumbling – I’m not joking – and fell, defeated, on my couch, set on the fact that all he had gleaned from our conversations across that wobbly table was obsessed with food and had a soft – nearly rotten – spot for beer. I was positive that he’d determined that there was nothing else to me.
And I was sad.
Despite our differences, I’d been charmed by the grin that crossed his face while he recounted fond memories of watching games with his friends and family. I loved to hear him talk about his nephews and his mother, and I was thrilled to hear him talk about his passion for his education and career.
And even though he seemed generally disinterested in food, he did seem genuinely interested in the fact that I cared about it, which meant a lot to me.
Lucky for me, different interests aside, there was a date #2. And #3. And more.
Looking back, I always thought that I wanted to date someone who was into food. What I realize now is that I just wanted to date someone who was open to trying new things. With how controlling and impatient I can be in the kitchen, the last thing I need is someone I care about trying to keep up (or, worse yet, compete) with me. I’m thankful that S is so patient and supportive – disappearing when I’m in the midst of creation (hello football), and returning to give honest thoughts.
I’ll admit that he was not a complete fan of this recipe. The thought of chewing through the pith and the skin of the citrus threw him in a way most unpleasant. That said, S is not my final sounding board.
At the mercy of friends, this cake went down a treat. Though I hesitate to say it’s a crowd pleaser, do feel free to serve it at a gathering where you know people are receptive to treats the likes of marmalade and shaker pie. To my palette, gentle simmering leaves the citrus slices beautifully bitter and candy sweet.
All things aside, it’s hard to find a dessert more simple and beautiful than this.
- Candied Citrus:
- 1½ c sugar
- 1½ c water
- 1 clementine
- 1 lemon
- 1 navel orange
- Crumb Topping:
- 4 Tbls (55g) butter, melted
- ½ c (70g) flour
- ¼ c (50g) sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- Butter Cake:
- ½ c (110g) butter, room temp
- 1 c (350g) sugar
- 1½ c (355g) flour
- 1½ tsp baking powder
- 1½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp orange zest
- 1 tbls fresh orange juice
- 2 eggs, room temp
- 1 c (240ml) ricotta
- Candy the citrus.
- Combine the 1½ c sugar and 1½ c water in a large saute pan. Heat over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved.
- In the meantime, slice the citrus into very thin slices. When the sugar syrup has come to a simmer, drop in the slices. Set heat to medium low and just barely simmer for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally, until the slices are translucent. Turn off the heat and allow to cool.
- Make the crumb topping.
- Stir together the melted butter, flour, sugar and salt until crumbly. Set aside.
- Make the cake:
- Preheat oven to 350F (175C).
- Butter a 9-inch round cake pan (2 inches deep). Dot with 4 tablespoons (55g) butter (cut into pieces). Arrange the candied citrus in concentric circles over the bottom of the pan (start with smaller slices and work up to larger ones). Reserve the simple syrup for another use (fabulous in cocktails and tea).
- Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, beat ½ cup (110g) of butter and cup sugar with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 10 minutes. Beat in zest and juice. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, until incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl. Beat in flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with ricotta, until smooth. drop by dallops over the citrus slices and spread evenly. Crumble the crumb topping evenly over batter.
- Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and top springs back when touched, about 1 hour. Let cool for 10 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cake, and invert onto a wire rack. Let cool completely before serving.