Lemon Coconut Tea Cake

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I know it’s been a while, but I swear I haven’t forgotten you all! I have been seriously busy the last few weeks, mainly due to a positive landslide of homework. Just so I’m not rambling on for forever, I’ll just cover a few highlights from the duration of my web absence.

One thing I’m extremely proud of is my newfound plumbing abilities. For a couple of weeks our fridge had been collecting water inside it, and, as you may now know, recurring problems inside our apartment do NOT sit well with me (think ant wars). Determined to fix it, I did a little research online and deduced it must be coming from a clogged drain pipe in the freezer. So I made time on the weekend for the attempt and prepared for battle. To my utmost satisfaction, the attempt went perfectly. Jonji helped me remove the freezer back, and then I spent the rest of the morning periodically defrosting the ice buildup with hot water and then mopping up the cooled water. The excitement I felt when I heard the drain pipe unplug is indescribable.

Another exciting development in our lives is the new cat food nook for Kitty. Now she has to jump to get her food and water, and already I notice a huge improvement in her agility. She’s become quite the cuddle bug, even sitting and laying on my lap for extended periods of time. We’re doin’ big things down here in LA!

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This past weekend Jonji and I were very social, venturing out of the sphere of our apartment and the gym TWICE. I really needed the distraction, since I’m working on a pretty difficult project and was close to ripping some hair out. The only part I enjoyed was making images by cutting paper (see photo below) and channeling my inner Nikki McClure. Other than that, it’s one of those projects that requires several hours of planning, most of which ends up being completely fruitless and leaves you relatively empty handed and short on time. Since I kind of like my hair, I decided a distraction would be a great idea.

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On Saturday morning, Jonji and I woke up early to attend (get ready for it) a seminar called, “A Gut Reaction to Obesity: The Impact of Diet, the Microbiome, and the Environment,” at UCLA. Yes, I went to this thing by choice. At 9 AM I found myself sitting at a table, surrounded by medical students, doctors, and other UCLA affiliated adults, listening to a man talk about the gut’s relationship with the brain. Although most of the medical information went right over my head, the last speaker was very interesting. Michael Moss, a journalist for the New York Times, spoke about his new book concerning the American diet and the reasons behind the industries’ poor health decisions. Being such a foodie myself, that particular talk made a lot of sense to me. Oh, I forgot to mention the other enjoyable aspect of the seminar: in the middle of the event, everyone was led through a sort of choreographed dance party by a tank-top clad young man. Health talks really aren’t so bad, after all!

On Sunday evening, we drove to West Hollywood to see an Upright Citizens Brigade show. Jonji and I seem to have an unspoken agreement that whenever we go anywhere in the realm of West Hollywood, a trip to Neveux is required. This time was no different, and so we made a much anticipated visit to that wonderful little shop. “Hey! Long time no see,” was the greeting we received upon walking up to the counter. Yep, we’re those people who become regulars at an ice cream shop—I know you’re all jealous. From Neveux, we went to the UCB theater, where we met Todd, Jessica, Omri, Katelyn, and a few other ex-Davis friends. Jonji and I had planned to go get nachos, which we had been craving for a week, while everyone kept waiting in line. With forty minutes until the doors opened, we left to find a taco place we had discovered on Yelp. Omri decided to accompany us, and so the three of us set off down the street on what was supposed to be a ten or fifteen minute walk. At the end of this trek, we found ourselves in a somewhat sketchy area, with twenty minutes until the doors opened. As we stopped at a crosswalk, an older man turned to us. “Are you tourists?” he asked, boldly.
“We live in LA, but not this area,” Jonji replied.
“Oh. Well, just be very careful around here.”
Thanks, elderly ominous man. Apparently, as Yelp had neglected to warn us, we had just walked into a pretty ghetto area. Keeping our wits about us, we continued to look around for the elusive taqueria. Keeping the old man’s advice in mind, I tried to surreptitiously check my phone for directions without looking like a tourist—a pointless precaution when you’re a white girl with blonde hair. With fifteen minutes until the doors opened, we gave up our search and set off on a power walk back to the theater. With a few hundred meters to go, we were informed that the line was moving: the doors had opened. Without further ado, the three of us ran all the way to the theater. We reached our group a few minutes before they were let in, sweaty but glad we hadn’t missed the boat. The show was fantastic and hilarious, and so worth the run. Determined to end the weekend the way we wanted to, Jonji and I stopped at Paco’s Tacos for nachos before we went home.

The final exciting development in my life is the new addition to my little garden. Last week I went to the local Garden Center to get fertilizer for our lemon tree. Of course, I couldn’t miss the beautiful succulents by the front door, and then I meandered around back to check out their herb selection. Within an hour, I found myself buying three new herbs, four succulents, two pots, more potting soil, gloves, and fertilizer. It’s astonishing how rewarding gardening feels. If I had more time (and a job) I would be making trips to that Garden Center every other week!

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Aside from homework and random adventures, a good chunk of my time has been devoted to baking. One of my new cookbooks, Flavor Flours by Alice Medrich, has a plethora of wonderful recipes based on alternative flours. The book is about exploring the flavors and textures that different flours, like buckwheat, rice, chestnut, and corn flours, can produce in baked goods. I’ve only had a chance to try a few recipes so far, but all of them have been delicious. On a related subject, today I was craving something with lemon and coconut in it—my friend Alaura just gave me a whole bag of lemons from her tree, so I had to make something. Feeling adventurous and inspired by Flavor Flours, I invented a recipe for lemon coconut tea cake. Fortunately, it worked! The tea cake is light, moist, and a little flaky on the sides. Serve with whipped cream, fresh berries, or simply by itself.

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Lemon Coconut Tea Cake
makes one 9-by-5-inch loaf

1 cup white rice flour, or regular white flour
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
8 tbsp butter, softened
1/2 cup grapeseed oil, or other cooking oil
1/4 cup coconut oil
3 eggs
zest of 2 lemons
3 tbsp lemon juice
1/3 cup coconut flakes
1/2 cup shredded coconut, plus extra for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flours, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Mix briefly, until just combined. Add the butter and oils, and mix on medium-low speed until no butter chunks remain. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each one until just incorporated. Add the lemon juice, zest, and coconut, and mix on low speed until the batter is smooth.

Pour the batter into the loaf pan and smooth the top. Bake for 35 minutes, then remove from the oven and sprinkle with shredded coconut. Bake for another 20-30 minutes. The tea cake will be done when a toothpick comes out moist, but relatively clean. Let sit on a cooling rack for at least 20 minutes before cutting.

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