I worked all one afternoon to produce a glorious lemon cake, which I dusted with powdered sugar, then glittery gold sprinkles and surrounded with candied lemon slices.
It looked beautiful, and one competitor even told me she thought it was the best dessert there. But it didn't win any of the six prizes. Well, that's what Olympic competitors, race horses and beauty contest hopefuls face. You can't always be number one or even number six.
And my ego wasn't insulted because it wasn't my recipe. It's from the book "In a French Kitchen" by Susan Hermann Loomis, which is one of the best in my collection. Loomis is well known for her cooking school, On Rue Tatin, in France.
Originally from a French refugee from Algeria, the cake is so delicious and easy that I make it often. The candied lemon slices that decorated it were from the Internet.
So here is the losing recipe. Try it, and you'll know it's a winner.
MADAME KORN'S QUICK LEMON CAKE
From "In a French Kitchen" by Susan Hermann Loomis
Butter, for the pan
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups vanilla sugar
1/3 cup milk
Zest of 1 lemon, preferably organic, minced
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Confectioners sugar, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 9-inch cake pan, then line it with parchment paper.
Sift together the flour, salt and the baking powder onto a piece of parchment or waxed paper.
In a mixer or a large bowl, beat the eggs and vanilla sugar [I didn't have vanilla sugar, so I used granulated sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla] until they are thick and pale yellow. Add the dry ingredients to the eggs and sugar alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Fold in the zest, then fold in the melted butter.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, and bake in the center of the oven until the cake is golden and slightly puffed, about 30 minutes. Check it after 25 minutes--if a cake tester stuck in the center of the cake comes out clean, it is baked. [My oven bakes hot, so I heated it to 375 degrees and reduced the heat to 350 when I put the cake in. It was done in 25 minutes.]
Let cool to room temperature on a wire rack. To remove the cake from the pan, run a knife around the edge of the cake, place the wire rack on the pan and flip it. Shake firmly, and the cake will drop from the pan. Remove the parchment paper and let the cake cool, right side up.
To serve, transfer the cake to a serving platter, mounded-side up, and dust with confectioner's sugar.