Lemon Thyme and Ginger

Maida’s Lemon Cake

Maida's Lemon Cake, a recipe.

Everyone needs those back-pocket recipes at their fingertips and Maida’s Lemon Cake is one of mine. Maida Heatter’s, “The Best Damn Lemon Cake” comes from her cookbook, Cakes and her New Book of Great Desserts. She explains in the recipe’s summary the cake got its name from the first thing her friends said after taking one bite. She is the guru of baked desserts and celebrated her 90th birthday last year. I have always found her desserts reliable and well tested, especially her cake recipes. They are all classics that never go out of style.

Maida's Lemon Cake, a recipe.

Lemon cakes come in so many shapes, sizes and styles and this recipe is no exception. It is a loaf cake with a light lemon glaze on top that soaks into the cake. Early in my marriage, I made this lemon cake all the time. Unfortunately, I stopped because baking for pleasure was replaced with the pleasure of taking care of my children with a couple of baking projects squeezed in between.

Recently, I was reminded of this lemon cake recipe after being treated to a slice of Lemon Lulu Cake from Mother Myrick’s Bakery (A bakery in Manchester VT.) They are different types of lemon cakes, but the bright lemon flavor is similar. Lemon Lulu cake has a lighter texture and made in a Bundt pan, whereas Maida’s Lemon Cake has ground almonds in the mix and keeps its’ moisture even after a couple of days.

Maida's Lemon Cake, a recipe

Maida's Lemon Cake, a recipe.

The only downside to this recipe is, it is not something to make at the last minute. Ideally, the cake rests for 12-24 hours before you serve it. During this resting period the cake’s lemon flavor gets more pronounced and the cake becomes very moist from the glaze. You must plan accordingly. Yet, the advanced planning has its merits too. Bake it a day or two before you need it leaves you with more time to do other activities on the day of. Also, this cake gets better with age. It freezes well, is perfect for travel, picnics and gifts.

Maida's Lemon Cake, a recipe

Best Types of Cake pans for Lemon Cake

My lemon cake did not rise as high as it should because my aluminum loaf pan is larger than the one specified in the recipe. It is hard to come by an 8½ x 4½ x 2¼ inch (21 x 11 x 6 cm) heavy-duty aluminum loaf pan that does not have a Teflon coating, made of glass, or made with a dark metal. These materials are all no-no’s in Maida’s book. I am partial to Nordic Ware baking pans, but their loaf pan has an 8 cup (2 L) capacity. Chicago Metallic makes a loaf pan with the right dimensions and material as well as Wilton and Williams and Sonoma.

My cake is also darker, because it cooked faster because the pan was not made with heavy-duty aluminum. My pan is a generic lightweight aluminum pan I bought over 30 years ago at the grocery store.  It might be a lightweight, but it is still going strong and baked it fair share of Pumpkin Bread over the years.

This baking experience reminded me, I should trust my instinct and not always follow a recipe blindly, I knew I should have checked the cake earlier than specified, but I followed the directions instead. Fortunately, I do not mind a darker crumb and the glaze keeps everything moist. See the links in the Notes of the recipe for the types of adjustments to make if you use glass or dark metal pans.

Maida's Lemon Cake, a recipe.

 Lemon Cake

The only adjustment I made to the recipe is I added almond meal (flour) instead of blanched almonds. It is not always easy to grind nuts as fine as you can get with almond meal. Often the almonds start turning into a paste before you get the right consistency you want. Do not add a half cup of almond meal, measure the almond meal by weight, not volume. The two measurements are not equal. You may use the volume and weight measurement for the blanched almonds.

If you have the almond meal use that to flour the pan instead of bread crumbs. It will do the same job and add extra almond flavor to the loaf.

Why all the fuss about baking pans?

More Lemon Desserts

Maida Heatter’s Lemon Mouse, Lemon Saffron Syrup Cake, Lemon Pavlova with Kiwi’s and Passion Fruit Glaze

Maida's Lemon Cake, a recipe.

Maida's Lemon Cake

When Maida Heatter explains her name for "The Best Damn Lemon Cake," came from the first things her friends said after taking a bite. You just know it is good. Everyone needs a reliable lemon cake to bring to friends or just add some sunshine at the end of a meal. This loaf cake has great sweet lemon flavor but is not too sweet to turn you off. It is great paired with coffee and tea. I also like it with fresh berries. 

The instructions say to let the cake sit for 12-24 hours before serving so plan accordingly. I found the cake is even more delicious the day after it is made.

See recipe Notes for specifics about the loaf pan used to make the cake with. If you do not have the exact loaf pan, no worries. Just make the necessary adjustments recommended in the articles. 

Course Dessert
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 8 -10 people
Author Ginger


Lemon Cake

  • ½ cup (60 g) blanched almonds (or 60 g almond meal)
  • cup (185 g) sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • ¼ lb (115 g) butter 1 stick
  • 1 cup (235 g) granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup (125 ml) whole milk
  • 1 oz (29 ml) real lemon extract 1- 1 fl oz bottle
  • Freshly grated zest from 2 extra large, or 3 medium lemons

Lemon Glaze

  • 1/3 cup plus 2 TB (113 g) granulated sugar (4 oz)
  • 1/3 cup (75 ml) fresh squeezed lemon juice


Lemon Cake

  1. Set the rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven at 350°F (175°C / Gas Mark 4). Butter an 8½ x 4½ x 2-inch (21 x 11 x 6 cm) loaf pan with a 6 cup (1.5 L) capacity. Lightly dust the loaf pan with very fine bread crumbs or almond meal and set aside. (See note about pan). Line the bottom of the prepared loaf pan with a piece of parchment paper. 

  2. Ground the almonds in a food processor or nut grinder till they are very fine but are not getting pasty. Or use the almond meal. 

  3. Add the sifted flour, baking powder and Kosher salt to a small bowl and stir with a wire whisk until the ingredients are well incorporated. Set aside

  4. Melt the butter in a small sauce pan set over low heat. Cool slightly before using.   

  5. In a bowl of a stand mixer, add the melted butter and sugar. (Make sure the eggs are cool enough so they will not cook the eggs.) Turn the speed to medium and beat to mix. Turn down the speed to low and add the eggs one at a time, thoroughly mixing each egg in the batter between each additions. Scrape down the sides of the bowl between additions. 

  6. While the mixer remains on low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions and alternate with the milk in two additions. Beat in the ingredients thoroughly between each addition but be careful not to over-mix the cake batter. Also, stop the mixer to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl between each addition. Add the lemon extract and beat it in. 

  7. Turn off the mixer and remove the bowl. Add the lemon zest and ground almonds (or almond meal) to the batter and stir in with a rubber spatula. 

  8. Pour the cake batter into your prepared loaf pan and bake for 65-75 minutes. The cake is done when a cake tester inserted in the middle of the cake and all the way to the bottom, comes out "just barely clean". The cake will crack down the middle because the outside cooks faster than the inside of the cake. This causes the cake to crack as the insides cook and the cake rises. 

  9. Remove the cake from the oven and let it rest in the pan for 2 minutes on a cooling rack. 

  10. After the two-minute cool, slowly baste the lemon glaze over the top of the cake. Take your time basting the cake so a nice even glaze coats the top of the cake and soaks into the body, about 5 minutes. 

  11. Let the cake rest in the pan until it is tepid, mostly cooled down. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and invert the cake to loosen it out of the pan. Remove the parchment paper from the bottom of the cake. Turn the cake right side up and cool on the rack. 

  12. Once completely cooled, wrap the cake with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and let it rest on the counter for 12 - 24 hours. Or place in the refrigerator for 4 hours. Or the freezer for 2 hours before serving. I prefer the results after the 12-24 hour period, but if you need it for the same day then the freezing options works fine. Just let it defrost before you serve it. 

Lemon Glaze

  1. A couple of minutes before the cake is done cooking, make the glaze. Add the sugar and fresh squeezed lemon juice in a small sauce pan set over medium heat. Stir the mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved. Do not let the syrup come to a boil. Turn off the heat and set aside until needed. 

Recipe Notes

Maida is very specific about what type of pan will produce the best results. You might think it is a lot of smoke about nothing but for baking, everything you use from ingredients to the oven affect the final outcome of your baked good.  She is adamant about not using a non-stick pan, dark metal pan, and glass loaf pan. Her pan of choice is a heavy-duty aluminum pan. From my experience, I agree with her about the dark metal pans and glass pans, they do not bake as nicely as a heavy-duty light-colored aluminum pan does.   

I used a large aluminum loaf pan, but it was not a heavy-duty one. It cooked up faster than the recipe suggested and got darker. It was either that or use my dark metal non-stick pan, which would have been two strikes against me. If you can't take her advice, use the loaf pan you have, but be forewarned. Why you should not bake a cake with a dark pan. Why you should not bake a cake in a glass pan. These articles give advice how to work with these types of pans when you need to bake with them.  

Maida's Lemon Cake. Recipe for a lemon cake, with sweet lemon flavor and is very moist. The unexpected ingredient is ground almonds for more texture and a nuttier flavor. Easy dessert recipe. From Maida Heatter's cookbook, Cakes, "The Best Damn Lemon Cake".

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Tis the Season: Chocolate Bark

A thank you. A greeting. An introduction. A small gesture… A homemade gift can be all those things. Homemade treats do not have to be fancy or time consuming to make, a simple gift will do. They are always appreciated. I like making gifts, but I do not get around to making them as much as I would like. I usually think of an idea for a homemade gift too late and eventually buy something along the way. When I found this recipe for chocolate bark, I had an ah ha moment. I can do this. This recipe for chocolate bark is unusual, simple to make, beautiful to look at, and satisfies all chocolate cravings.

Chocolate Bark Recipe

Dark chocolate bark ingredients

Chcoclate Bark Recipe

White chocolate bark ingredients

Chocolate Bark Recipe

Orange zest, hibiscus flowers and lavender

I have been a fan of chocolate bark for some time now and must admit to be a total dark chocolate fanatic. A day does not go by without a chocolate snack.  My dessert choice usually has chocolate as the main attraction. I can’t help myself and totally find chocolate irresistible. I discovered this recipe while reading, Seasonal Fruit Desserts, by Deborah Madison. Yes I see the perplexed expression on your face: a chocolate bark recipe in a fruit dessert cookbook? Yes, Deborah Madison is no dummy and included this recipe in her dried fruit and nuts chapter. There is something for everyone in all of her cookbooks.

Chocolate Bark Recipe

Dark chocolate with dried fruits and nuts

Chocolate Bark Recipe

White chocolate with edible dried flowers and orange zest

Her chocolate bark recipes are different, which was the main attraction for me. Laden in her chocolate bark are dried fruit, nuts, rose petals, citrus zest, and other floral attractions, reminding me that chocolate bark can be whatever I want it to be. The add-ins do not need to be limited to pretzels, peppermint and coconut. It can hold up to any variety of flavors that compliment chocolate, like citrus, chili, cinnamon, coffee, sea salt, ginger, and all nuts, just to name a few. One could go crazy with add-ins for chocolate bark and have a surprise in every bite. I do not recommend going too crazy, the flavors do need to get along and marry with each-other and the type of chocolate.

Chocolate bark is a welcome dessert by itself or with fruit, nuts, cookies, or sorbet. You can keep it in your refrigerator to have on hand to serve for an impromptu dinner party. Chocolate bark will also make a lovely hostess gift, or a small gift to the chocolate lover(s) in your life. A homemade gift that can easily fit into anyone’s busy schedule.

Chocolate Bark Recipe

Chocolate Bark Recipe

Chocolate Bark Recipe

Tis the Season: Chocolate Bark

Dark Chocolate bark flavored with crystallized ginger, dried apricots and pistachios make a delicious dessert and pairs well with fruit, cookies, nuts and ice cream. Pair Dark Chocolate Bark with White Chocolate Bark flavored with orange zest, pistachios and lavender, and you have an extra special dessert treat that is almost too pretty to eat. Both chocolate bark recipes are delicious and easy to make. They will make an excellent hostess gift or a nice gesture just for giving. The actual cooking time is very short but you will need at least an hour for the chocolate to set in the refrigerator. Plan on at least 1 1/2 - 2 hours in total. This recipe is very slightly adapted from Seasonal Fruit Desserts, From Orchard, Farm and Market by Deborah Madison, 2010
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Author Ginger


Dark Chocolate Bark -makes one 10 x 6 inch slab of chocolate bark

  • 4 oz dark chocolate between 60% to 70% cocoa butter
  • 2-3 Tb chopped candied ginger
  • 2-3 Tb chopped dried apricots
  • 3 Tb salted green pistachio nuts some chopped and some nuts left whole
  • Pinch of flaky sea salt like Maldon

White Chocolate Bark makes one 8 x 5 inch slab of white chocolate bark

  • 4 oz white chocolate good quality such as Lindt - or Lindt white chocolate with coconut
  • 2 Tb finely chopped salted green pistachios
  • Orange zest removed with a citrus zester in thin strips
  • 1/2 tea lavender or other dried edible flower pedal like hibiscus or rose petals


Dark Chocolate Bark

  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  2. Put the broken up chocolate in a bowl fitted over a pot of simmering water. If you want to add any dried spices add them now as well. Make sure the simmering water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Just a small amount of water is all that is needed, no more than an inch high. Gently stir the chocolate while it is melting, and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  3. When the chocolate is melted stir in half of the chopped fruit and nuts.
  4. Spread the melted chocolate over the parchment paper in a thin slab, then sprinkle the remaining fruit and nuts evenly across the bark. Gently press down of the fruit and nuts so they will stick to the chocolate when it sets. Sprinkle lightly with flaky sea salt.
  5. Refrigerate the chocolate until it is set, at least an hour.

White Chocolate Bark

  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper large enough to hold a 10 x 6 inch slab
  2. Add the chopped white chocolate bark to a bowl and place over a pot of simmering water. Keep the heat low and stir and scrape down the sides of the bowl while the white chocolate is melting.
  3. When the white chocolate is melted, pour it out on the parchment paper and spread the chocolate into an even slab.
  4. Sprinkle the remaining ingredients decoratively and evenly over the white chocolate and gently press them to adhere to the chocolate.
  5. Refrigerate until set, at least an hour.
  6. Break up the bark into irregular pieces and serve by itself or with other nuts, fruit, cookies or ice cream.
  7. Keep the chocolate bark in an air tight container and wrapped in parchment or wax paper. Keep in the refrigerator.


© 2016 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Gluten Free Nifty Cake: Oat Flour Sponge Cake with Strawberries, Peaches and Whipped Cream

Gluten Free Nifty Cake made with an gluten free sponge cake recipe

As I researched types of cake to make for my dad’s Nifty Cake, I tested this gluten free sponge cake made with oat flour, from Alice Medrich’s Flavor Flours cookbook. This is a remarkable cookbook featuring new ways to bake with gluten free flours. I love this cookbook because Alice Medrich’s recipes are well thought out and tested. It is also easy to follow. She is a phenomenal expert at everything she sets her mind to. I learned a lot about gluten free baking from reading and testing recipes in this book. Her cookbooks are very reliable and the desserts are delicious.

Gluten Free Nifty Cake make with a Gluten Free Sponge Cake recipe

Gluten Free Nifty Cake, made with a gluten free sponge cake recipe

Gluten Free Nifty Cake made with gluten free sponge cake recipe


Gluten Free Nifty Cake made with a gluten free sponge cake recipe

The Oat Flour Sponge cake recipe is a great gluten free sponge cake to use for any cake made with an alternative flour. The oat flour brings a slight nutty flavor that compliments the butter in the cake. It was so good and worked beautifully with the strawberries, peaches and cream, I decided to share two versions of my Nifty Cake recipe.  You can also find a similar strawberries and cream cake recipe in Flavor Flours using this sponge cake as the foundation.

Although, sponge cakes are drier than butter cakes, the added fruit, jam and cream help keep the gluten free sponge cake moist. There are several things to love about this recipe. First, there is only one pan. It is a light cake even though eggs are the only leavening ingredient used. Also, the structure of the cake holds together well for a gluten free sponge cake.

Enjoy more recipes made with oat flour:

Gluten free Dutch Baby

Airy Oat and Banana Pancakes

Gluten Free Nifty Cake made with a gluten free sponge cake recipe

Gluten Free Nifty Cake made with a gluten free sponge cake recipe

You can read my story tribute to my dad and learn about how Nifty cake came to be.  Find the story post here, Nifty Cake recipe using all-purpose flour here.

What is your favorite gluten free baking cookbook and flour?

Gluten Free Nifty Cake made with gluten free sponge cake recipe

Gluten Free Nifty Cake: Oat Flour Sponge Cake with Strawberries, Peaches and Whipped Cream

Gluten Free Nifty Cake is a sponge cake made with oat flour and adorned with strawberries, peaches and whipped cream. It is a versatile cake that can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion. It is a delicious sponge cake that everyone, with or without a gluten restrictive diet, will enjoy. The sponge cake portion of the recipe is from "Flavor Flours" by Alice Medrich, and is a great gluten free substitute whenever you want a sponge cake.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 6 -8 servings
Author Ginger


Oat Flour Sponge Cake

  • 3 TB clarified butter or ghee
  • 1 cup /100 grams oat flour
  • 2/3 cup / 130 grams sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/8 tea Kosher salt

Fruit Filling and Decoration

  • 8 oz strawberries
  • 1/2 ripe peach
  • 1/4 cup best quality strawberry or peach jam
  • Extra strawberries and peaches to decorate the cake as you wish

Whipped Cream

  • 1 - 2 cups / 250 - 500 ml) of heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 or 1 tea pure vanilla extract depending on how much cream you are using
  • 2 to 3 tea sugar


Oat Flour Sponge Cake

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit/ 175 degrees Celsius/ Gas Mark 4 and position the rack to the lower third of the oven.
  2. Prepare an 8" (20.5cm) by 3" (7.5cm) cake pan or an 8" springform pan and line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.
  3. Make the clarified butter: heat the butter in a saucepan until hot and bubbly. Continue to cook until the foam subsides. Turn off heat and pour the butter through a fine mesh strainer lined with cheese cloth into a small, 4-5 cup capacity, microwave safe bowl and set aside.
  4. Sift then measure the oat flour. Place the oat flour into a medium bowl and add 2 tablespoons of the sugar. Thoroughly whisk them together and to remove any clumps.
  5. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the remaining sugar, eggs, and salt. Using the whisk attachment of your mixer, whip the egg and sugar on high speed until the batter is light and fluffy. Depending on your mixer it could take about 4-5 minutes, longer if you are using a handheld mixer. 2 visual clues that the batter is ready: the batter will be very fluffy and a light yellow. Also, the volume will have tripled in size, and distinctive well defined streak marks from the whisk attachment will be visible.
  6. Right before the egg/sugar mixture is finished being whipped, heat the butter in the microwave until hot, careful to prevent the butter from bubbling.
  7. Remove the bowl with the eggs and sugar from the mixer and sift the oat flour into the bowl in three increments. Gently fold the batter between each addition, careful not to deflate the batter. Once the flour is barely folded into the mixture add a quarter of the batter into the bowl with the butter. Fold the mixture until the butter is thoroughly blended into the batter.
  8. Add the butter and batter mixture into the remaining batter and gently fold until just blended.
  9. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes and golden brown on top. A toothpick inserted in the center will come out dry and clean.
  10. Put the cake pan on a cooling rack and run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake from the sides.
  11. Allow the cake to cool slightly in the pan. Invert the cake out of the pan and peel off the parchment paper. Turn the cake right side up, and put the cake back on the cooling rack. Leave alone to completely cool.
  12. You can bake the cake in advance of preparing the whole cake with frosting and fruit. Once the cake is cool, keep the cake airtight, wrapped in plastic wrap.

Fruit Filling

  1. Wash and dry a half pound of strawberries. Remove the stems and cut into bite size pieces. Place the prepared strawberries in a small bowl. Cut one peach in half and remove the pit. Peel one of the peach halves then cut into bite size pieces. Place the prepared peaches into the bowl with the strawberries. Gently mix the fruit until evenly combined. Set aside.

Whipped Cream Frosting

  1. Before mixing place the bowl and beaters in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes to chill.
  2. If you plan on frosting the whole cake you will need 2 cups of heavy cream. If you only want to have frosting in the middle use a cup of heavy cream.
  3. For two cups of cream: Add the heavy cream and vanilla to the chilled bowl and beat until soft peaks have formed. Add 3 teaspoons of sugar to the cream and beat until stiff peaks have formed, being careful not to over-beat the cream. You do not want it to start looking like butter.

Putting it all together

  1. Cut the Oat Flour Sponge Cake in half horizontally to create two layers of cake. Set the bottom cake layer on a serving plate and the top layer on a flat bottomed plate, or rimless cookie sheet. (See Notes)
  2. Depending on how you are going to frost the cake, will determine the amounts of cream to use. Add one cup of the whipped cream if you are only using the whipped cream frosting in the middle cake layer. Use 2 cups of heavy cream you are planning to frost the entire cake with the whipped cream. Divide the whipped cream into thirds, 1/3 for the middle, 1/3 for the top, and 1/3 for the sides of the cake. Use one cup of whipped cream for each layer if you are not frosting the side of the cake.
  3. On the bottom cake layer, spread the jam to a smooth and even layer across the cake. Add the whipped cream on top of the jam and cake.
  4. Spread the whipped cream evenly across the cake then add all the cut up fruit. Press the fruit evenly into the whipped cream to make it smooth.
  5. Carefully slide the top cake layer on top of the fruit layer and evenly line up the sides. If you are planning on frosting the whole cake spread a thin layer of the whipped cream around the top and sides of the cake, a crumb layer, to create an even and smooth surface for the remaining whipped cream. Frost top and sides of the cake with the remaining whipped cream then decorate the cake with extra fruit as you please.
  6. If you are not frosting the whole cake, add the remaining whipped cream to the top and spread the whipped cream across the top. Decorate the top of the cake with extra fruit.
  7. This cake should not be made too far in advance as the whipped cream will not hold for a long time and the cake will get soggy. Keep the cake refrigerated until ready to serve. Take the cake out of the refrigerator 15 minutes before serving to get rid of some of the chill.
  8. The cake, without the fruit and whipped cream will last for a couple of days on the counter tightly wrapped in plastic wrap.

Recipe Notes

There are many ways to slice cake layers in half horizontally and different tools you could buy for the job. I cut cake layers using a ruler, toothpicks and a long serrated knife. I am not brave enough to eyeball it because it is so difficult to cut anything level. First, cut a small vertical mark on the side of the cake. This mark will be your guide to evenly line up your layers. Measure with a ruler the middle point around the side of the cake, inserting a toothpick every 3 inches all the way around the circumference of the cake. Put one hand gently on top of the cake with the other hand working the knife. Holding the knife parallel to the counter, rest the middle of a long serrated knife against the top of the toothpicks and make a cut, or score, around the circumference of the cake. Use the hand on the cake to turn the cake as you cut. Continue to cut in a circle around the edge of the cake, focusing your eye on the tip end of the knife. It helps keeping the knife level. Cut your way around the cake, gradually cutting toward the middle and then all the way through.

© 2016 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Push It: A cookbook review, Tacos by Alex Stupak and Jordana Rothman

I submitted this cookbook review for the Food52 2016 Piglet, which is a tournament for cookbooks. Although my review was not selected, I sill enjoyed the process and The Piglet. I love cookbooks and have to restrain myself from buying everyone I read. Thank goodness for the public library system.

Tacos, Recipes and Provocations by Alex Stupak and Jordana Rothman

Immediately, Tacos, Recipes and Provocations by Alex Stupak and Jordana Rothman caught my attention. Alex’s opening declaration of love for the “Old El Paso” taco of his youth is not a typical opening line.  It is a statement that I, and probably most readers, could relate to. However, what becomes clear about this familiarity is how quickly it ends. Alex Stupak has taken the road less traveled using tacos and Mexican cuisine as his road map.  Tacos carries the reader along Alex Stupak’s culinary journey and how he uses the taco as an instrument to create new and noteworthy food, while respecting its Mexican traditions.

Push It: A cookbook review, Tacos by Alex Stupak and Jordana Rothman

Even though Tacos is co-authored, it reads as one compelling and authoritative voice. To read Tacos for its own sake, is a good read; to cook from it is a novel experience.  Sometimes, it is OK to rant and Alex delivers a few provocations scattered throughout the book. These declarations help personalize his story and defend his attitude, passion, and motivation to change his career path and open his Empellón restaurants. It is very evident Mexican food and tacos grabbed his curiosity. Ultimately, learning about it pushed Stupak into action.

Alex Stupak states in his introduction, “In Spanish Empellón means to push”. Within the pages of his book he reveals the results of his pushing to get to the “…good stuff on the other side”.

“Talking about tacos give us a chance to talk about cultural exchange, about idea appropriations and about the way we value – or undervalue – ethnic cuisines. That’s really what’s happening in these pages: We’re using the taco as a Trojan Horse. And it is time to open the gates.”

A primary purpose of Tacos is to get people inspired and make fresh tortillas.  Alex firmly believes tortillas are an essential ingredient of a taco and should be respected as such. Ultimately, a taco is only as good as the tortilla it is made with. He hopes the detailed directions in his book will motivate the reader to cast aside any reluctance and make fresh tortillas. Because, serving any taco with grocery store tortillas would be like eating savory taco filling wrapped in a paper napkin – a tasteless and pasty, disintegrating mess.

Push It: Cookbook review of Tacos by Alex Stupak and Jordana Rothman


Push It: A cook book review, Tacos By Alex Stupak and Jordana Rothman

The tortilla instructions are precise with photographs illustrating each step . The recipe does not shy away from false hopes and mentions that mastering homemade tortillas will take practice. I have made the corn tortillas on three occasions and flour tortillas once. The corn tortilla flavor is slightly sweet with a warm and distinctive corn taste that wakes you up. The challenging part of making tortillas is to get the thickness just right so it cooks through and is not too heavy. Once you have mastered the traditional corn tortilla there are recipes for tortillas with additives like, saffron, beets, and chorizo. If the chorizo tortilla is anything like the green chorizo gravy, they will be addictive. Alex Stupak has succeeded in converting me to serve my tacos with a fresh homemade tortilla.


© 2016 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

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