The appearance of juicy Meyer lemons, limes and oranges in the dead of winter is a Northern California miracle that never fails to amaze me. How these little orbs of concentrated sunlight appear in December and January, weighing down branches and perfuming the air in the darkest of months is nothing short of wondrous.
Buddha’s hand:Buy it for the smell, if nothing else. This freakishly shaped citrus looks more like a warty octopus than a hand, but the finger-like segments are perfect for slicing and candying. And not much else. Increasingly popular with chefs, the Far East-native is being grown locally and shows up occasionally at farm markets and specialty grocers (I got one at Whole Foods). You can buy a whole bag of candied peel for about $6 from DeSanti Farm at the Santa Rosa Farmer’s Market or make your own.
Rangpur Limes: Not always easy to find, the Rangpur is a hybrid of mandarin oranges and lemons. Softer in flavor, though still plenty tart, is perfect for mixing in cocktails and a foil to the sweet buttercream.
Because in my childhood world of down parkas to your knees, months of slate-grey skies and salt-trucks de-icing the roads every morning, citrus mostly came in juice form. From exotic places like Florida.
After nearly a decade of citrus plenty (four trees grow on my property, showering us literally with lemons and oranges), my eyes have started wandering toward more exotic cousins: Buddha’s Hand and Rangpur limes.
Combining the two: A white cake studded with dried Buddha’s Hand, then slathered with a tart Rangpur lime buttercream frosting. Yes, it’s that good.
The basics are
– Take an excellent white cake base. I used Martha Stewart’s.
– Add a few handfuls of candied Buddha’s hand, chopped fine to the batter.
– Cook, let cool.
– Add 2-3 Tablespoons of Rangpur Lime (or key lime or just plain lime) juice and zest to a great buttercream frosting recipe. (Hint, just cream together two sticks of softened unsalted butter with as much powdered sugar as it will hold. Add the lime juice. Just keep playing with it until it tastes right.)
– Frost, add shredded coconut to the sides, add a little zest for garnish