Eric and I bought this gorgeous Buddha’s hand citron at Berkeley Bowl in December, and for a week or so it perfumed our apartment with loveliness: a deep lemon scent with a hint of vanilla. (And before that, it perfumed our suitcases, much to the confusion of the TSA, who eyed it, and our bags full of bulk spices, with suspicion). I was determined to bake it into some kind of delicious cake, and am I happy to report that I succeeded!
I’ve seen these spectacular fruits for years and was always impressed by their gnarled little fingers. And those little fingers pack such a powerful citrus punch that I think from now on I will be buying one every year! I wanted to get as much of that flavor as I could into the cake, and so I planned to use not fine zest, but rather long peels of the skin from the fingers. Accordingly, I got out my vegetable peeler instead of my grater, but I soon found that the best tool was a paring knife: it let me cut long strips of fruit with no trouble. You can actually eat the Buddha’s hand whole–there is no segmented fruit inside, but just lots of the white flesh that makes up the pith of a typical citrus fruit. That white part isn’t terribly flavorful on its own, but together with the zest, it’s pretty zippy. That was a very long way of telling you that I wasn’t too worried about some of the white flesh making it into the cake. I am the opposite of succinct, am I not?
I wanted to keep this cake really simple, to let the flavor of the Buddha’s hand shine through. I didn’t add any lemon juice or vanilla, and I hoped it would turn out sufficiently lemony. And oh yes indeed, it did.
I loved that the chunks of fruit I had cut were thick enough to sink your teeth into. And the cake had a lovely fragrance and so much citrus flavor you would’ve thought I poured several cups of lemon juice into the batter. Buddha’s hand for the win, or, as my dissertation adviser used to say: “Economy of effort.”
Now that the cake is gone, I am wishing I’d bought several of these big guys. They would have been so fantastic in scones, or maybe even in madeleines. And, I should report as well that when I was researching Buddha’s hand and looking for ideas, several sources informed me that it is common in some parts of the world to keep this fruit in the kitchen, just to perfume the house. To this I have two words in response: Good. Idea.
Buddha’s Hand Citron Cake
1 c butter
2 c sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
3 c flour
1 c milk
1 c strips of zest and fruit from Buddha’s hand citron
-Preheat the oven to 350F and butter the inside of a large Bundt pan.
-Cream together the butter and sugar, and then add the salt. Mix in the eggs, one at a time, and then the baking powder.
-Mix in half of the flour, followed by the milk and the other half of the flour. Finally, stir in the fruit.
-Pour the batter into pan and bake for 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool for at least 30 minutes before removing from the pan. Enjoy!