By Hannah White
I took him into the pantry where he looked a little reproachfully at the Finn. Together we scrutinized the twelve lemon cakes from the delicatessen shop.
“Will they do?” I asked.
“Of course, of course! They’re fine!” and he added hollowly, “…old sport.”
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chapter V
When Nick Carraway is asked to host an afternoon tea for crossed lovers Daisy and Gatsby to meet again, he purchases twelve lemon cakes from the delicatessen which Gatbsy labels as just “fine”. To continue on with our literary recipe series in which I’ve recreated the charlotte russe from Downton Abbey, Alice in Wonderland tea biscuits with jam, Proust’s madeleines, and most recently, the apple turnovers from Little Women, I decided to recreate these lemon cakes from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most iconic novel, The Great Gatsby (1925).
These lemon cakes were by far the easiest literary recipe I’ve made to date, and though they are made from simple ingredients, they ended up tasting more than just “fine”. I came across many different variations of this dessert when looking for the perfect recipe, but ended up following this recipe loosely, resulting in beautiful mini lemon cakes that are perfect for pairing with tea or enjoying on their own
This recipe called for both lemon and lime juice and zest, but since I only had lemons, I just doubled the amount of lemon, leaving out the lime. This is a very basic recipe that requires little to no baking skills and minimal ingredients. The only things you need are lemons, flour, sugar, butter, eggs, and salt (I also added just a few drops of vanilla, but it isn’t necessary) and a mini muffin tin and mixer.
I started by beating together butter, about half of the sugar, and lemon zest, then added lemon juice, eggs, and vanilla. After that I added the flour and salt and mixed until just combined.
I evenly divided the batter into the mini muffin tins and baked on 350 for about 15 minutes. While the mini cakes were baking, I made the lemon simple syrup topping by heating the remaining sugar, equal parts water, and lemon slices over medium heat until thickened. Once the mini cakes were ready (golden around the edges), I poked tiny holes in the tops of the cakes and spooned the lemon simple syrup over them before transferring the cakes to a cooling rack.
You can serve these right away or cooled. To make them extra special, I dusted mine with powdered sugar. These delicate little cakes make for the perfect treat to gift to literary lovers this holiday season or to enjoy all on your own.