Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet
But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.
– from the folk song "Lemon Tree" by Will Holt
When I was a kid (a very literal-minded kid, I guess), this lyric used to confuse me. I mean, it's true that most people wouldn't pick a lemon off a tree and eat it just like that, but hadn't the song-writer ever heard of lemonade? Lemon meringue pie? Lemonheads candy? (Ok, those probably don't have any actual lemon in them.) Was this song so old it pre-dated the discovery of sugar??
I don't claim to be wiser these days, but I have developed a bit of appreciation for a good metaphor. And although I like the flavor of lemon, my affection for it is a weak thing when compared to the feelings of other officers of the corporation. When The Resident Food Critic was young, she would regularly sprinkle lemon slices with salt and munch on them for a snack. After a few frank exchanges, she caught on that sometimes Other People were planning on cooking with that lemon, and learned to ask before snacking. And Other People learned to stock up.
The Office Manager doesn't consume raw lemons (as far as I know), but she is very partial to lemon meringue pie, lemon pound cake, lemon candy ... and lemon curd eaten from a spoon.
So it is no surprise that in these parts, if you idly raise the question What should we have for dessert? someone will generally exclaim "Lemon roulade!" This puzzled me for a long time. To the best of my knowledge, I'd never made, or even seen, a lemon roulade. I wasn't really sure what it would consist of: if you rolled up a lemon cake, what would you put on the inside? My go-to answer (chocolate) seemed obviously wrong.
Then the other day, the Office Manager brought something home from a bakery and said "try this".
"Oh," I said, with the lightening wit for which I am known, "that's a lemon roulade."
Indeed, it was. Turns out the Office Manager had sampled this once before and never forgotten it. (The bakery in question is the Well-Bred Bakery in Weaverville, NC. Stop by if you're in the neighborhood. Just be prepared to wait in line...it's justifiably popular.) A quick Google search revealed two things: a picture of a cake that looked an awful lot like the bakery sample, and a note that the accompanying recipe was in a magazine that I had in my kitchen. In fact, it has been in my kitchen since 2016. Ahem. Despite a career devoted to Paying Attention To The Details, I guess I am not the noticing type.
Well, better late than never, I suppose. Here, then, is the long-overdue Lemon Roulade. The cake layer is light and lemony. The filling is actually a pair of fillings: a layer of lemon curd, topped with a layer of sweetened whipped cream. The result is a very lemony, but very balanced, dessert. I have the feeling I'll be making it again soon.
This is a gluten-free cake. If you don't want a gluten-free cake, you can substitute cake flour for the gluten-free flour and omit the xanthan gum.
The bakery cake had poppy seeds, and the magazine recipe did not. I made this cake without poppy seeds, but when I make it again, I will add them: the additional flavor and crunchy texture were really nice.
As mentioned above, the impetus for this cake was a very similar one sampled in a bakery. The recipe is from Tea Time magazine, a publication I adore. I half-sized the recipe, added the poppy seeds and made it gluten-free, but didn't tinker with it otherwise. It was pretty much perfect already.