I don’t know about you, but I think March in Minnesota is the worst month of the year. There are a few reasons for this; first among them—the weather. We are weary of cold, dark and dreary days—I received a mass e-mail entitled “You know you’re a Minnesotan if…” and one of the ways was: “The temperature in March is above freezing for three days in a row and you think it’s summer.” Add to this that March is traditionally snowy and exacerbated with lots of wind. The picture is from the Gudrais family’s first winter in America (1951).
Then there’s the landscape. Of all the months, this one is the ugliest. Except right after a new snow, what snow still remains is dirty and pocked with melting spots filled with sand from the roads.
It is also the season of Lent, a long period lacking joyful celebrations of any kind, in Christendom, at least. And after the great Christmas, New Year, Valentine, Carnival and Mardi Gras celebrations, it may add to the sun-starved sense of the doldrums.
And then I stumbled upon a poem by William Cullen Bryant that made my spirits rise:
The stormy March is come at last,
With wind, and cloud, and changing skies;
I hear the rushing of the blast,
That through the snowy valley flies.
Ah, passing few are they who speak,
Wild, stormy month! In praise of thee;
Yet though thy winds are loud and bleak,
Thou art a welcome month to me.
For thou, to northern lands, again
The glad and glorious sun dost bring,
And thou hast joined the gentle train
And wear’st the gentle name of Spring.
I suddenly remembered that this is the month of daffodils (at least in the store), of the first robin hallmarking the first day of spring. March is the month of the lighthearted St. Patrick’s Day celebration and sports tournaments for those so inclined. It is the month that reminds us that spring and warm weather and rebirth are right around the corner.
To help my spirits along, I baked a lovely Daffodil Cake. It is easy, beautiful and guaranteed to lift your spirits.
Daffodil Cake (Betty Crocker Cookbook)
1 cup cake flour
¾ cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar
12 egg whites (1 ½ cups)
1 ½ tsp. cream of tartar
¼ tsp. salt
¾ cup sugar
6 egg yolks
1 ½ tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. almond extract
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Stir together flour and ¾ cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar; set aside. In large mixer bowl, beat egg whites, cream of tartar and salt until foamy. Add remaining ¾ cup sugar, 2 Tbs. at a time, beating on high speed until meringue holds stiff peaks. In small mixer bowl, beat egg yolks about 5 minutes or until very thick and lemon colored. Gently fold flavorings into meringue. Sprinkle flour-sugar mixture, ¼ at a time, over meringue, folding in gently just until flour-sugar mixture disappears. Pour half the batter into another bowl; gently fold in egg yolks. Spoon yellow and white batters alternately into ungreased tube pan, 10×4 inches. Gently cut through batters to swirl. Bake on bottom shelf of oven about 40 minutes or until top springs back when touched lightly with finger. Invert pan on funnel; let hang until cake is completely cool. Spread cake with glaze.
1 cup powdered sugar
½ tsp. grated lemon peel
1 tsp. lemon juice
About 2 Tbsp. milk
1 drop yellow food color
Mix all ingredients until smooth.
If you’re not sure what to do with the rest of those egg yolks, try making lemon curd (or purchase already prepared lemon curd) and then make these cookies.
1 ½ sticks butter, softened
½ cup powdered sugar, plus extra for dusting
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
2 cups flour
1 scant cup lemon curd
Beat butter and sugars in large bowl with mixer until fluffy. Beat in egg, lemon zest and juice and vanilla. On low speed, beat in baking powder and flour until mixed. Cover; chill dough 1 hour. Place lemon curd into a small ziptop food-storage bag; seal bag. Heat oven to 350. Spray baking sheets with Pam. Shape scant tablespoonsful of dough into balls; place 2 in. apart on prepared sheets. With index finger, make a deep indentation in center of each. Snip a tiny corner of ziptop bag and pipe lemon curd into dough indentations to fill completely (about 1 tsp per cookie). Bake 15 minutes or until cookie edges just begin to lightly brown. Cool completely on baking sheet on wire rack. Dust cookie edges with powdered sugar before serving.
These are sure to put a smile on everyone’s face. And take a word of advice from James Barrie: “Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.”