GONDHORAJ LEBU CAKE – गौंधोराजा लेबु केक (Gondhoraj Lemon Mini Loaf Cake)

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Summers arrived much sooner this year than we had anticipated and also with much gusto than we had expected. Summer is my favorite season despite it being so hot and discomforting. The reason being that it evokes childhood memories, reminding me of those leisurely, pleasant, carefree and fun filled days that were spent along with cousins, having gathered and vacationing at my Nani’s (maternal grandmother) house. She and my Nana (maternal grandfather) used to live in a bunglow that had grape vine along with a beautiful vegetable garden. We used to recklessly indulge in grabbing the grapes straight from the vine, ducking to protect ourselves from bees ferociously buzzing  around, appearing to shoo us off. Another activity that was filled with fun for us was picking the bright and beautiful fruits from the karonda tree that was turned into pickle along with raw green mangoes. Since it used to be pickling season, all the ladies and kids in the house used to help my Nani make huge batches of different types of mango pickles and chutneys which were later packed in small jars and given away to the daughters as parting home made gifts.

An average day in that small sleepy town would consist of activites around the house and family with evenings spent at a public park. Dinners were invariably winded up with home made kulfi or choco bar bought from an ice cream kiosk followed by a walk around the colony. Since the population in that small time was sparse (nearly three decades back) everybody seemed to know everyone and neighbours used to share the produce from their respective kitchen gardens with each other. Reasons such as these and many more beautiful ones, always make me love summers, so much so that they give me reasons enough to brave the summers (and even the kitchen heat) coz they make me nostalgic with lovely childhood memories. As years are passing by, elderly loved ones are passing away and I seem to clutch even more dearly to these memories coz that is all that one is left with. Therefore, I am CELEBRATING SUMMERS!

Coming back to the post, there was never a lemon tree in my Nana’s house and when we planted one in our own house, I used to love the citrusy fragrance it spread in the air. It was diligently turned into pickle, chutney and lemon concentrate. Cakes or cookies were however, never baked in my Nani’s house. My mother used to bake a simple vanilla, chocolate or caramel cake. I love bakes that have citrus and when I got my hands on Gondhoraj Lebu a few weeks back, I couldn’t help using it for baking.

 

 

Gondhoraj Lebu is a variety of lemon that is indigenous to India, east India to be precise and it is a cross between mandarin orange and lime. It has a characteristic long shape and the skin is hard, with flesh that is fairly dry and has practically a few drops of juice (probably a teaspoon or so) but loads of flavour. The skin is super fragrant and the zest is truly prized. And when you slice, it is packed with beautiful pips (see picture…each and every thin slice has pips!). Gondho means fragrance (in Bengali language) and Raj means the king. And it has been rightly named so. It is indeed king of fragrance. And Lebu is Bengali for Hindi word nimboo or nimbu which translates to lemon. (I added thin slices of it to the non alcoholic Hibiscus Sangria I made a few weeks back and it was so much better than the regular lemon slices that one uses.)

I threw in mixed handful of dried cranberries and blueberries. The mini loaves wear a coat of strawberry glaze followed by a dollop of strawberry yogurt (I wanted to avoid rich frosting and swapped it with yogurt cream). However, in an over zealous moment, trying to give a more pronounced flavour of strawberries, I managed to thin down the yogurt cream more than I had wanted to and it is quite visible in the pictures. So go easy when you make the strawberry yogurt and add strawberry puree spoon by spoon until you achieve the desired thickness.

The fragarant Gondhoraj adds lovely notes to this cake and strawberry wraps up the whole deal beautifully. Don’t worry if you can’t find Gondhoraj, go ahead and make these with regular limes and lemons and it will still be good.

Ingredients

1¾ C All Purpose Flour (Maida) plus extra for dusting

½ tsp Baking Powder

½ tsp Baking Soda

3 Gondhoraj Lebu

1 C Caster Sugar (I prefer 1 scant cup)

½ C Yogurt (thick home made, but not as thick as Greek Yogurt)

½ C Oil (any neutral oil will do) – Feel free to swap oil with butter

2 Eggs, lightly beaten

½ C dry Cranberries & Blueberries, mixed

Directions

Prepare the oven by setting the temperature at 180 degrees C.

Prepare the mini loaf pan by spraying it with oil or greasing it with butter and dusting with flour. Remove excess by tapping it upside down. Keep aside.

Sieve together the all purpose flour, baking soda and baking powder. Keep aside.

Zest the lemons and keep aside.

In a mixing bowl, add sugar and lemon zest and using your hands gently rub the two together for half a minute.

Add yogurt and whisk together the caster sugar and lemon zest.

Pour in the oil and whisk for half a minute.

Add lightly beaten eggs and whisk for 15 – 20 seconds.

Add the berries to the flour mix and mix them gently.

Add the flour mix to the wet mix and fold it in until it all just comes together.

Add the flour mix to the wet mix and fold it in until it all just comes together.

Pour equally into the loaf pan and bake for 20 – 25 minutes (depending on the thermostat setting of your oven) or till a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Remove pan from oven and allow the cake to cool in the pan for 5 minutes.

Carefully remove the cake and place a wire rack to cool completely.

Drizzle the cake with strawberry glaze (recipe follows).

For Strawberry Glaze

1½ – 2 tbsp (depending on how thick the puree is)

8 tbsp Confectioners Sugar (Icing Sugar)

Whisk the two together and pour equally over the mini loaves.

Serve with Strawberry Yogurt (recipe follows)

For Strawberry Yogurt

3 tbsp Thick Yogurt (Hung Yogurt/ Yogurt Cream/ Greek Yogurt)

2 – 3 tbsp Strawberry puree

Add the puree spoon by spoon, whisking so that you achieve a smooth yogurt consistency. Adjust the thickness as desired and spoon over the cake.

Serve along with strawberry slices.

Yield – 6 mini loaves

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