A cake of citrus and teff

It feels so nice to sit down at the computer for a moment. To breathe. To sigh. To let things sink in just a little. It’s been a difficult week. I’ve spent most of every day sitting in the hospital with my Dad and my family. Watching him sleep. Watching him trying to eat and not being able to. Cleaning him up when his meals come back up.  Encouraging him to walk, to get out of bed, catching him when he collapses. Wondering what is going through his mind. So many emotions. I wouldn’t k now how to begin to describe them.

I made this cake several weeks ago, before things had gotten bad. It feels like a different time, even a different life when I made it.  It was such a pleasant day, one of those days where everything has a sense of harmony to it, things click along with ease. I woke up to the rain pounding down on the roof and I decided to make a cake. I made coffee, turned on a CD of Garrison Keillor stories and started baking. The falling rain, the smells of burnt sugar and citrus wafting through the house, the warmth of the oven – made everything feel like a happy dream. What I remember most from that day is hearing Garrison say, in one of his many Lake Wobegon stories, that friendship is a thing that comes about when you discover a mutual need in another. It stuck with me.

And now, several weeks later, those words have taken on a deeper meaning for me. In all of those moments when I discover all the ways that I need and am needed – when I hold my Dad’s hand and I know it says more than words; when I walk with my Mom while he’s sleeping and we laugh and vent and comfort each other; when my sister and I stay up until midnight talking – I feel that need that ties us all together.  Because I think that need that Garrison was speaking of – that dependency people feel, the sense that another fills some requirement of your spirit that you just can’t survive without – I think that’s what creates the feeling of family too. Knowing that you are needed, and knowing that you need.

So here is the recipe, a perfect cake for sharing with the people you need (and love) most.

A cake of citrus and teff

I used a few Seville oranges I had left over from marmalade making, but lemon would be perfect too since not everyone has Seville oranges knocking around. This is what I like to call an afternoon cake - not too sweet, a little more on the wholesome side - something you could snack on with a cup of tea.


  • 1 lemon, sliced thinly into rounds
  • 2 tbs demerara sugar
  • 4 tbs water
  • Cake:
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1/2 cup teff flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 5 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup demerara sugar
  • zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • juice of 2 lemons (about 1/4 cup)


  1. Preheat the oven to 4oo degrees F and line a 9 inch springform pan with parchment. (Or use a 9 inch loaf pan).
  2. Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan with the lemon slices. Simmer until most of the liquid has been evaporated (about 5 minutes) and the lemons are sticky and delicious. Set aside.
  3. Sift all the dry ingredients into a bowl and mix till combined.
  4. Cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the citrus zest and vanilla extract and stir to combine.
  5. Add the eggs to the butter and sugar mixture, one at a time, and mix until well combined
  6. Add the flour mixture, the milk and the lemon juice and stir until everything is incorporated.
  7. Pour the batter into your prepared pan and arrange the sticky lemon slices over the top. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before taking out of the pan and serving.


Update 5/26/12: My mind must truly be more out of it than I thought because someone quietly and sweetly pointed out to me this morning that there was no sugar listed in the ingredients but there was in the directions. Whoops! I’ve fixed that in the recipe now, but I truly apologize for any confusion or unsweet cakes that have resulted from that mistaken omission.


  1. Baking is real therapy itself, but being baked for is simply delightful… your family will surely appreciate this. It sounds so delicious with the sticky citrus fruits on top!

  2. a beautiful post

  3. Sorry to hear things have gotten a lot more difficult! It must be really difficult. It’s good that you managed to sit down and blog, it’s very therapeutic – particularly when you find yourself able to share things. This cake looks EXTREMELY good.

  4. A great post and best wishes to you and your family.

  5. I’m sure this is a difficult time for you. I understand. It was just a few years ago I spent 8 weeks with my father helping him recover post-surgery. It was life changing. Sending strength your way. Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Best, Denise

    • Danielle Charles says:

      Denise – Life changing is such a good word for it. It is very humbling I think to help people you love when they are helpless, and while not easy, I think most of all reminds me of all the simple things to appreciate in life. Thank you for that strength you are sending 🙂 And for the reminder to take care of myself too, that is important and easy to forget.


  6. Jerelyn Sehl says:

    Thinking of you and your family with warm thoughts.
    Please tell me what the sugar is though…I never heard of it. But then, I’m not much of a cook.

    • Danielle Charles says:

      Hi Jerelyn,

      I actually just recently discovered demerera myself. Check out this link as I think it does a pretty good job of explaining it. Basically it’s a more natural form of brown sugar that tends to be a little drier in consistency and more flavorful. You could also use muscavado in this recipe if you wanted a darker, more molassesy flavor. Hope that helps.


      • Jerelyn Sehl says:

        Thank you, Danielle. I’ll start looking for it, as I’m very fond of those flavors in your cake.
        You’re very lucky to spend this time with your parents. I did not do that when mine were having health crises. Somehow, I thought they’d just be around forever.

        • Danielle Charles says:

          You’re right, I am lucky. How easy it is to forget in the hardship of this that the difficulty is itself a blessing. Being able to be with the people you love with the knowledge of how precious their life is is something not everyone has the chance to do, and I am grateful for that. Thank you so much for reminding me of that 🙂


  7. You write so beautifully, your words always seem to weave a gorgeous tapestry of experience and emotion. I hope that your words continue to give you comfort in your road ahead.

    • Danielle Charles says:

      Thank you for such a thoughtful and kind comment. It is a funny thing that sitting down to write helps me to understand what is happening and process it in someway that I couldn’t do otherwise. Words are beautiful things.


  8. A lovely, thoughtful post, and I wish I was a cook.

    • Danielle Charles says:

      We all are cooks in our own ways 🙂 The only requirements in my mind are being able to put some of your energy into something that you enjoy – even if its making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich! Thanks for your comment, Carol.


  9. Kate Sargeant says:

    Girl, I have been thinking of you often since your last post. While you are taking care of your father and family, I hope you are also taking care of yourself. I don’t doubt you are, though–you are attuned, balanced, and very, very strong. Let me know if there’s anything you want or need from the Seattle area for your dad (or yourself).

    • Danielle Charles says:

      So good to see your name pop up 🙂 Thank you for your kind words and for your thoughtfulness. I do need to be reminded to take care of myself too – its easy to forget these days! Thank you also for your offer of help, just seeing your name and reading your comment was help enough today. Hope all is well for you out West, dear friend.


  10. It is so beautiful, the way you put your innermost feelings into kitchen creations and into words…Here’s wishing you well today and always. Thank you for inspiring many of us. =>

    • Danielle Charles says:

      Your comments are always so kind and thoughtful, they always make me smile 🙂 Thank you for your well wishes and your kind words!


  11. marthasnail says:

    this cake looks special…i’ve been wanting to experiment with teff. also, i love how you describe the feeling of family. your dad continues to be in my thoughts, danielle.

    • Danielle Charles says:

      Thanks Shari. I’ve been falling in love with teff lately – so good and so nutritious. It sneaks into baked goods very easily I find. And thank you for your thoughts – for all of the encouraging and kind ways you have been supportive through this. It means a lot.


  12. Sweetheart, my thoughts are with you as always. I’m sorry to hear things are so tough but I am glad you and your Dad have such love around you. Caring for someone is the most beautiful gift you can ever offer them.
    Big hugs xxx

  13. Hi Danielle,
    Although I do not know you, I have been thinking of you and your family this week.
    Having just lost my mother in law, and taken the journey with her, I understand.
    My eyes are full, for I feel your pain.

    Keeping you and yours in my thoughts and prayers.

  14. Glad to see that you are treasuring your moments with your Mom and Dad at this moment in time…with so much happening take care of yourself as well. Rest and recharge regularly (and I know that cooking is such a wonderful way to do that for you; for you put so much love and joy into doing that). Sending healing hugs to you all

  15. I love the cake and feel for you. You, your family and especially your father are in my thoughts. Though bittersweet, you won’t regret the days you are spending with your family.

  16. Very inspiring. I’ve never done anything with teff (other than enjoy it at Ethiopian restaurants!) I may have to try this.


  17. it’s a very difficult time. i hope it gets a little easier

  18. Another beautiful post.
    I wish the best for you and your family. Take care.

  19. I’m so sorry for your loss. Hope you are doing as well as can be expected. Great post.

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