In keeping with the theme of celebrating World Vegan Month with a daily post instead of my typical weekly Tuesday posts and in going to the roots of Veganification, which is celebrating the journey of becoming and being vegan, I thought that I’d take you through the journey of veganifying one of my old stand-by recipes. The original recipe was my standard white layer cake with vanilla pudding and buttercream frosting. Starting today, and over the next four days, I’ll walk you through how I transformed my non-vegan set of recipes into the most incredible (hope it’s okay for me to tout my own horn on this one) Limoncello Cake that will impress anyone and everyone.
What exactly is limoncello, you ask? It’s a Southern Italian liqueur typically served as a digestif, a liqueur served after a meal to aid the digestive process, unlike an aperitif, which is served as a sort of amuse-bouche prior to the meal to wake up the palate.
Of course, you can buy a bottle of limoncello at any liquor store, but where’s the fun in that? It’s amazingly easy to make, all you need is a couple of spurts of small amounts of time spread out over a three-month period.
Pour a 750 milliliter bottle of Everclear (a colorless and quite strong being at least 150 proof) grain alcohol or unflavored vodka into a glass jug. Add the zest/rind of three-four pounds of organic lemons, making sure that you don’t take any of the white pith with the zest. The Everclear/vodka should completely cover the lemon zest. Close the jar and store in a cool, dark place. Give it a shake every few days or so for the next ninety days.
Now you are ready to make your homemade limoncello.
Make a simple syrup, which is equal parts of sugar and water that you gently warm just to the point where all the sugar is dissolved and you have a clear liquid. I usually make a large batch of this stuff, because it has so many other uses—i.e., sweetening those summer iced drinks. Be careful here—hot sugar water really scalds skin so I always use a pot that is much larger than what I would otherwise use. And let the simple syrup completely cool before using it. You have a couple of choices regarding the sugar that you use. Typically, simple syrup is made with simple white sugar; however, that is typically not vegan as it refined using bone char. I use organic whole cane sugar, such as Florida Crystals or similar. It alters the flavor and yellow translucent color somewhat because of the molasses remaining in the sugar, but I actually prefer this difference.
The liquid will have taken on a brilliant yellow hue; and when you open the jar, you will immediately notice the wafting scent of lemons. The zest/rind will have exuded all its flavor into the alcohol, rendering the zest/rind unpliable. Strain this lemon-infused alcohol into a clean just that is at least 50 ounces, tossing out the zest/rind as its service is completed. Set aside.
The basic recipe calls for equal parts of your lemon-infused alcohol and simply syrup. I start with that, and then depending on the tartness of the lemons in juxtaposition to the alcohol, I will sometimes add a little more water and/or simple syrup until the taste is spot on to my palate. It won’t be a large variation, but sometimes I do make that minor adjustment.
Tomorrow, we bake the cake.