My home is in serious need of some spring cleaning. Golden Lab + Rottweiler + desert dust + two busy adults = a household so untidy that it would most definitely embarrass my mother. I don't even have toddlers to blame, but since we have a seemingly unlimited supply of black and yellow hairs that end up adorning every square inch of furniture, carpet, and clothing, I'll just blame the dogs.
When it comes to keeping the house clean year-round, Eric has his weaknesses, and I certainly have mine. Eric's recurring theme is leaving items in places where they should not be left. On any given morning, he will have no fewer than 5 glasses sitting on his nightstand--they just never seem to make their way down to the dishwasher. His entire collection of baseball hats always ends up on the coffee table (maybe this would stop if one of the dogs just "happened" to grab his favorite Red Sox cap and chew it to pieces...hmmm.) I've also gotten used to finding random lone socks lounging around. You get the idea.
Most of my untidy-ness relates to (be prepared to be shocked) cooking. Ironically, I am not referring to the actual cooking and baking process--I am pretty meticulous about cleaning up the kitchen after I prepare something. I am talking about the piles and piles (and piles) of papers, magazine clippings, notebooks, etc., which contain my future recipe ideas, random ingredient lists, even drawings. Because so many recipes have been done and done and done again, I am constantly looking for a fresh approach to an old favorite. Like many cooks, these are derived from creations that I read about in magazines and cookbooks, or ones that I see on T.V. I've even been known to watch Food Network shows with a notepad nearby, ready to jot down notes as inspiration strikes (nerdy, but true.)
The two things that make this recipe a little bit different--the addition of fresh herbs and the size of the cakes--were inspired by two of my fellow competitors from Ultimate Recipe Showdown. Well, they didn't actually compete against me in the cake challenge, but they competed against each other in the dessert round. Camilla Saulsbury, who is a friend through competing and blogging, created two incredible desserts using fresh herbs, and Lisa Roman, who won the competition, made adorable "babycakes"--individual mini-cakes that have baby food as an ingredient. Although it might seem a bit odd, the combination of lemon and thyme works beautifully, especially with the addition of cornmeal to the batter. The tart lemony glaze serves as a nice contrast to the not-too-sweet cake, and the individual portions are perfectly sized for any brunch, dessert, or to satisfy a late night craving. Here are a few extra tips for these cute citrus cakes:
- If you don't want to make miniature-sized cakes, you can also turn the batter into one large cake. Use a 9-inch round cake pan and bake for 30-35 minutes at 350F degrees.
- If the cakes appear to be sticking when you start to remove them from the tins, use an offset spatula or a butter knife to facilitate the process. Personally, I am a huge fan of Pam for Baking. It has a little bit of flour in the formula, so it essentially greases and flours the pans at the same time. My baked goods always come out of the pans easier when I use it.
- You can substitute 1 teaspoon dried thyme for the tablespoon of fresh thyme. This 1:3 ratio applies for most dried and fresh herbs.
- Although the cakes are definitely best eaten the day that they are prepared, they will keep, covered at room temperature, for 2-3 days.
Mini Lemon-Thyme Cornmeal Cakes
1 ½ cups flour
1 cup sugar
½ cup yellow cornmeal
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
Zest from 1 large lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ounces unsalted butter, melted (1 stick)
3 cups sifted confectioner's sugar
4-5 tablespoons lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Spray regular-sized muffin tins with nonstick baking spray. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cornmeal, baking powder, thyme, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and fold together until just blended. Fold in the melted butter.
Divide the batter among the muffin cups, filling them just halfway. Bake the cakes until they are lightly golden and a toothpick inserted into the center emerges clean, 18-22 minutes. Let the cakes cool in the tins for 10 minutes, and then carefully remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
Prepare the glaze: In a medium bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar and 4 tablespoons lemon juice until smooth. Add more lemon juice if necessary, so that the glaze is thick but pourable. Spread the glaze over the top of the cakes, allowing it to drip down the sides. Allow the glaze to set for at least 15 minutes and serve.