Anyone a fan of the PBS Masterpiece series Downton Abbey? As a lover of British literature, I’ve been told I’d appreciate this period drama. Apparently I wouldn’t be alone. Some 5.4 million Americans tuned in to its season two finale in 2012. As a reader and creative writer, stories that unfold in the liminal spaces in place and/or time featuring characters living on the fringe have always struck my fancy, and Downton Abbey, set in post-Edwardian England and propelled into and through WWI, sounds right up my literary and cultural theory alley. (For folks who love the show and geek out over criticism and theory the way I do, you might appreciate Paul Fussell’s The Great War and Modern Memory.)
This Christmas my dear friend Merrie inadvertently ignited my interest in watching the show. When I opened her gift on Christmas morning, not only did I find an original small concert photograph of Bruce Springsteen and Clarence Clemons taken at her alma mater in 1976 as well as a handy book of Ryan Gosling Feminist memes (she knows me so well!), but I pulled out a bag of Adagio Tea featuring Robert, Lord Grantham’s signature Earl Grey blend and a very unique tea infuser featured in the food photo below.
What better way for a person whose literary proclivities tend toward historical and sci-fi novels to enjoy a slice of citrus pound cake than with fancy tea steeped in a robot-shaped tea infuser? Now, if only a few robots could appear on Downton Abbey (maybe a cameo from the kid in Small Wonder), then I know I’d be able to convince Cameron to watch the show with me.
Citrus Pound Cake (Gourmet Holiday Special Edition recipe)
2 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising; sift before measuring)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup granulated sugar (I used extra fine sugar.)
1 Tbs grated orange zest (I used four strips of candied orange peel, minced.)
1 tsp grated lemon zest
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, softened
4 large eggs, at room temperature 30 minutes
2 teaspoons fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 325°F with rack in middle. Butter an 8 1/2- by 4 1/2-inch loaf pan. (Instead of buttering the pan, I used parchment paper to line the pan. It worked great!)
2. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt.
3. Mix together sugar and zests with an electric mixer at low speed (I used my Kitchen Aid stand mixer.) until sugar is evenly colored. Then add butter and beat at high speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
4. Beat in eggs 1 at a time at medium speed, scraping down side of bowl frequently, then beat in juices and vanilla. At low speed, mix in flour mixture until just incorporated.
5. Spread batter in loaf pan and rap pan several times on counter to eliminate air bubbles. Bake until golden and a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 1 hour. (Check the cake at 1 hour. If it needs more time, then bake in five minute increments until the wooden pick inserted into cake comes out clean.)
6. Cool in pan on a rack 30 minutes, then run a knife around edge of pan and invert cake onto rack. (If you used parchment paper, you won’t need to use the knife to loosen the cake.) Cool completely, top side up.