LONDON — There’s a lot of wrapping up going on at this time of the year. Presents get wrapped up as we prepare for the holidays. The year gets wrapped up in advance of a new one just around the corner. (Even our bodies get wrapped up as the temperature drops.)
Whatever we’re wrapping up, for ourselves or others, the elements of anticipation, surprise, comfort and hope all play key roles.
There’s a lot of consuming at the end of the year, too: food, drink, time, energy. In our mad pursuit to see nearly everyone in our address books, we all do a lot of running around, a lot of sitting around, a lot of eating and a lot of drinking.
Any dessert arriving on the scene, therefore, needs to work that much harder to gain a piece of everyone’s attention and appetite, and to deliver on hopes that it will be both comforting and delicious. If it can actually be wrapped up and then unveiled as a surprise then that’s brilliant. If it can be inverted onto a platter before serving — what ceremony! — then all the better.
A lemony sponge cake is the perfect thing. Wrapping a cake with parchment paper and foil before it gets its long, slow bake ensures not only the “ta-da!” element once it’s revealed, but also the retention of flavor and moisture within the cake when it’s served.
The addition of the lemons — squeezed into the maple butter and sliced into thin rounds and charred for the top layer of the cake — pulls the whole thing back from the brink of being too intense, waking up the palate for the next bite.
These little rounds of charred lemon also feel like sunshine to me, rays of the golden stuff signaling fresh hope and life for the new year — the new decade — once this year, finally, gets wrapped up.