Cucumber-Lemon Cake

with Cucumber Vodka Icing

June 14: National Cucumber Day

With the summer season a few days away, we have been feeling the heat already in the Gulf Coast of Texas. To stay “Cool as a Cucumber,” this month’s theme of Islander’s local culinary book club, members were asked to share recipes using the vegetable as an ingredient. Some brought in cucumber tea sandwiches, many salads and even cucumber-infused drinks. Islander brought in a dessert—a cucumber-lemon cake with cucumber vodka icing (the original recipe used gin but she wanted to maximize the cucumber theme). The cake concept was a refreshing idea—a subtle taste of summer’s quintessential vegetable with a hint of sunny citrus iced with a sweet buttercream made with cucumber vodka to balance all the flavors. Cucumber-lemon cake with cucumber vodka icing is a delicate dessert that is perfect for National Cucumber Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from Veggie Desserts)

For the cucumber-lemon cake

  • Half a cucumber (about ¾ cups), pureed (see Notes)
  • Half a lemon, juiced and zested
  • 2/3 cup butter, softened
  • ¾ cup sugar, granulated white
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ¾ cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

Directions

Wash and dry the cucumber, leaving the clean skin on. Slice into thin cubes and puree in a blender.

Zest half a lemon and set aside the zest for the batter. Squeeze half the lemon juice into the pureed cucumber. In a mixing bowl, combine the zest with the butter and sugar.

Add the vanilla and the eggs. Beat until smooth. In a separate bowl, mix the flour with baking powder. Gradually add half of the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, alternating with half of the pureed cucumbers, and blend all ingredients until the batter is smooth.

Place in a lightly greased 8-inch round pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 325 degrees F for 35-40 minutes or until done. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan for about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Prepare the cucumber vodka icing.

For the cucumber vodka icing and decorations

  • 2/3 cup butter, softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cucumber vodka
  • 1 lemon
  • cucumber slices

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Gradually add the powdered sugar. Thin to a spreadable consistency with cucumber vodka. Smear a little frosting on a cake board or plate to “glue” the cake on it.

Use a spatula to frost the top and sides of the cake. Use a star tip to add a shell border around the cake. Use a large round tip to pipe a dollop of icing in the middle of the cake.

Use a sharp paring knife to peel the rind of a lemon—start from one end of the fruit and, in a continuous but careful motion, pare in one direction until reaching the end of the fruit. Immediately roll up tightly the peel, fanning out the edges a little to form a rosette. Place the lemon rose on the center of the dollop of icing.

With the reserved cucumber from the cake recipe above, cut a portion of the vegetable in half lengthwise. Slice the first cut thinly but do not go all the way through the cucumber. The second slice should detach from the vegetable. Fan it out like a fishtail. Slice 8 of these cucumber decorations, dry with a paper towel and arrange on the cake, attaching the non-cut tip to the dollop of icing. Refrigerate the cake but bring it to room temperature before serving.

Notes

  • We used a seedless English cucumber for this recipe. If using regular cucumbers, cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds.
  • For non-alcoholic icing, use cucumber water or lemon juice to thin out the buttercream frosting to a spreadable consistency.
  • Search our blog for other cucumber recipes.

Sunomomo

(Japanese Cucumber Salad)

June 14: National Cucumber Day

As the hot summer season starts soon, stay cool as a cucumber with a light Japanese-style salad called sunomomo. Many Asian countries have their own version of a vinegary cucumber side dish, like the Filipino suka pipino we made for National Vinegar Day on November 1. The ingredients have changed slightly by using the products from that particular country. This recipe has a little alcohol (mirin—a sweet rice wine—or sake—Japanese rice wine) added to it for a subtle sweetness in this side dish. Sunomomo tastes great with grilled meats (Japanese teriyaki steak, chicken and/or seafood are sensational for a summer BBQ) and on National Cucumber Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from Food.com)

 Ingredients

  • 1 large cucumber
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon mirin or sake
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • ½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • pinch of dried mint or dried parsley (optional)

Directions

Wash and peel the cucumber. Cut into thin slices. Set aside. In a large bowl, mix the rice wine vinegar with the mirin or sake.

Stir in the sugar, water, salt and red pepper flakes. Toss in the cucumber. Sprinkle dried mint or parsley. Cover, refrigerate and allow the flavors to set for at least half an hour.

Notes

  • Try our teriyaki sauce and baste some steak, chicken, shrimp and salmon when grilling or barbecuing meats.
  • Bake teriyaki chicken as an alternative to grilling/barbecuing. Serve with sunomomo.

Okroshka (окрошка)

(Russian Cold Cucumber Soup)

Okroshka

February 4: National Homemade Soup Day

A Russian friend of a friend came to our house blessing in Illinois and was kind enough to share a cultural dish for our special occasion. Kristina Y., whom we met through our Ukrainian friend Olga W., made a refreshing cold cucumber soup called okroshka. They explained that it is eaten during the short summer months in Russia and Ukraine.

Although it is still winter in the northern hemisphere, and hot homemade soups are on most menus, okroshka may still be enjoyed where the weather is warm (such as in the southern hemisphere).

For a refreshing Russian soup, try okroshka for National Homemade Soup Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from Bella Online)

Ingredients

  • 1 large cucumber, peeled and chopped
  • ½ cup green onions, sliced (green parts only)
  • 2 sprigs fresh dill, minced
  • 2-3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
  • 4 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 ½ cups cooked ham, chopped
  • salt to taste

Directions

Chop the cucumber, slice the green onions, mince the dill and chop the eggs. Place everything in a large bowl.

Okroshka

Pour in the water. Mix in the sour cream. Chop the ham and add it to the soup. Season with salt. Chill in the refrigerator to allow the flavors to blend. Ladle into soup bowls. Garnish with additional dill (optional). Serve cold.

Okroshka

Notes

  • This soup is traditionally made with kvass (a fermented beverage made from rye bread). However, it is difficult to find kvass here so it is fine to use water as the liquid in the soup. Kvass adds a unique flavor to the soup.
  • Instead of ham, sausages or other flavorful cooked meats, such as lamb, beef or chicken, may be used in this recipe.
  • Sometimes ice cubes are added to the recipe to ensure a very chilled soup.
  • Thanks to Olga W. for the ceramic figurine from Ukraine which we used in the final food photo above.
  • January is also National Soup Month.

Suka Pipino

(Filipino-Style Vinegar Cucumbers)

Suka Pipino

November 1: National Vinegar Day

Filipino foods are often a blend of sour (asim), salty (alat) and sweet (tamis) flavors for a unique mouthwatering mix. Suka pipino (vinegar cucumbers) is an example of a Filipino-style side salad that has the cultural cuisine characteristic of “sour-salty-sweet” ingredients all in one.

Islander’s Mommy sometimes served suka pipino for her family. The simple yet very vinegary cucumbers balanced the soy sauce-marinated meat dishes that she also made for our mealtimes.

Savor some suka and pucker up with pipino and make vinegar cucumbers as a Filipino-style side salad on National Vinegar Day.

Recipe

(From Mommy)

  • 1 large cucumber
  • ¼ cup vinegar (we used sugar cane vinegar)
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • salt and pepper to tast

 Directions

Wash, pare and slice the cucumber. In a small bowl, combine the vinegar with the sugar. Mix in the sliced cucumbers. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve as a side salad.

Suka Pipino

Notes

  • Apple cider vinegar may be used in this recipe instead of sugar cane vinegar. Clear vinegar also is fine.

Mizeria

mizeria

April 11:  Feast Day of St. Stanislaus of Szczepanów

When we visited Bandera, Texas, during one of our weekend road trips, we stopped by the second oldest Polish parish in the United States, St. Stanislaus Catholic Church. Immigrants from Poland founded this town, which is now known as the “Cowboy Capital of the World,” in 1855. The church was built in 1876 and is recorded as a Texas Historical Landmark. The featured blog recipe for the Feast Day of St. Stanislaus, the martyred patron and first saint of Poland, is mizeria z ogórków, a simply refreshing Polish cucumber salad with a sour cream dressing.

St. Stanislaus Church

Recipe

(Adapted from Polish Forums)

Ingredients

  • 1 large cucumber
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Peel and thinly slice the cucumber. Place the slices in a colander and sprinkle with a little salt. Let stand for 30 minutes to drain the liquid. Pat the slices dry with a paper towel. In a large mixing bowl, make the dressing by combining the sour cream, dill, lemon juice, sugar, salt and pepper. Add the cucumber slices to the bowl and mix well. Chill the salad in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Garnish with extra dill before serving.

mizeria

Notes

  • Panna Maria, Texas, is the oldest Polish settlement in the United States since 1852. Panna Maria means Virgin Mary in Polish, and the immigrants built the first Polish parish in America in 1856.