Lemon as soft as love

Candied citrus birds, hearts, and ribbon find home in a sugar nest, resting on a lemon cake.
Candied citrus birds, hearts, and ribbon find home in a sugar nest, resting on a lemon cake.

In a culture where Valentine’s day is heralded with smarmy, trite gifts of inexpensive chocolates in heart shaped boxes, roses freshly flown in from Quito, shocked from the cooler, Northern climes, and a proliferation  of stuffed bears intended for grown women, it’s easy to misunderstand love.

In that commercialized world, love becomes a grand, sweeping emotion that causes birds to sing more sweetly, the sun to shine more brightly, and your beloved to glow angelically. And when instead we find ourselves surrounded by the quiet hum of life, it’s easy to think that, because we don’t feel like we’re in a Broadway musical anymore, love has left us.

But that’s not how love works. That’s infatuation, which is truly lovely and wonderful, but love is not singing birds, glistening sunshine, angelic lovers, or Broadway musicals. No, love is another thing entirely. When infatuation’s short attention span has drawn it away, if we’re lucky, and careful and respectful, it’s love that slips quietly into infatuation’s seat and gets comfortable.

Love is not loud and showy. Love is quiet and gentle. In the dark “madrugada” of a worrisome night, when one reaches for the other’s hand, it’s love that wakes the other enough to give a soft squeeze of reassurance–” you are not alone”.

Love is in the softness of the scent of a child’s cheek. Love is in the quiet surrounding two people holding space for each other. Love is the silence that responds to a too-harshly spoken word. Love is the blanket of contentment that covers two people reading together on a rainy afternoon. Love pulls a husband out of bed to make coffee for his wife who is awake to catch a plane in the early, early morning. When one hand holds another, love is the darkness in between the palms and interlaced fingers.

So it makes sense that Brenda would ask me for a cake for their Valentine’s Day and anniversary just moments before her husband Gregg could text me. And it makes sense that they would both request a cake with the sweetness of orange, the richness of chocolate, and the softness of lemon.

A cake for the AnniValentine's Day celebration of a couple who honeymooned in Paris. Citronage soaked genoise layered with dark chocolate ganache and orange vanilla pastry cream, frosted with lemon zest buttercream that is as soft as love.
A cake for the AnniValentine’s Day celebration of a couple who honeymooned in Paris. Citronage soaked genoise layered with dark chocolate ganache and orange vanilla pastry cream, frosted with lemon zest buttercream that is as soft as love.

It was a pleasure to create a cake for two foodies with a lust for life and love, a cake inspired by their honeymoon in Paris, a cake that celebrates the perfectness of their match for they are both equal parts sweet and serious, whimsical and philosophical, somber and light-hearted, smart and silly. When they found each other, it is clear that their worlds permanently shifted. Love is in the balancing of two hearts into one rich life.

Gregg and Brenda’s AnniValentine’s cake is an orange zest genoise–the lightest of cakes, merely a structure that captures air–soaked in a syrup of orange zest and Patron’s Citronage. The cake is then graced by dual layers of dark chocolate ganache and an orange vanilla bean pastry cream that tastes exactly how an adult would want a creamsicle to taste. The four layers are then frosted in a lemon zest buttercream that is not a hard smack of lemon, but instead leads with the softest side of lemon that is more floral than tart. It is a buttercream that is as soft as love. A sweet sugar nest on top is home to candied citrus birds, hearts, and citrus ribbon.

Happy AnniValentine’s day to Brenda and Gregg, and happy Valentine’s day to all who love and are loved.

 

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