When The Gallery Gives You Lemons…

October 2009

When I decided to stay in Pittsburgh, my good friend Erin decided to take advantage of my quirky food presentation hobbies.  She was working as the Exhibitions Coordinator at the Carnegie Mellon Miller Gallery.  The gallery’s next show dealt with radical proposals for new ways of thinking about the world, the massive number of inhabitants and how the two combine in a sustainable way.

The official press release for the show:  In 1938, the visionary designer R.Buckminster Fuller wrote Nine Chains to the Moon, his radical proposal for improving the quality of life for all humankind via progressive design and maximization of the world’s finite resources. The title was a metaphor for cooperation–if all of humankind stood on each others’ shoulders we could complete nine chains to the moon. Today, the population of the planet has increased more than three times (we could now complete 29 chains to the moon), and the successful distribution of energy, food, and shelter to over 9 billion humans by 2050 requires some fantastic schemes. Like Fuller’s revelation from five decades earlier, 29 Chains to the Moon features artists who put forth radical proposals, from seasteads and micronations to floating cities, to make the world work for everyone.

A show stemming from Buckminster Fuller required a futuristic reception.  The opening night veered drastically from the typically, politically correct, vegan fanfare, and that’s where I came into play.  The gallery had purchased “miracle fruit” in the form of a pill.  The fruit comes from Africa, and when you let the pill dissolve on your tongue, it affects how you perceive flavors.  Bitter flavors take on an intense sweetness, or at least, that was the claim.  I was there to make a really awkward grouping of foods look appealing.

I made shots of tobasco sauce, a “punch” of red-wine vinegar with lemons, put swords in pickled vegetables and threw brightly colored gummy worms on everything as a garnish.

Most people’s reaction was still a bit of disgust.  The berry did alter the flavors but not in an overwhelmingly significant way.  There was still some bitterness.  There was also the normal course of bodily actions that follows eating lots of acids and fermented foods, even if they did taste better.

In the end, there were bags and bags of lemons, gummies, pickled vegetables and moon pies.  The only thing to interest me was the lemon supply.  What to do when the gallery hands you lots and lots of lemons?

Buy some chocolate. Melt the chocolate. And bake a cake!

“The sweetest way I think of you is when the day is done.” – Emily Dickinson

Life Gives You Lemon Cake

Wet Ingredients

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups pure cane sugar
1 1/2 cups local wildflower honey
1 cup olive oil
4 local, free-range eggs
2 Tbs Apple Cider vinegar
1 Tbs vanilla

Dry Ingredients

6 cups whole wheat pastry flour
3 tsps baking soda
2 Tbs potatoe starch
2 tsps salt
1 1/2 cup soured raw milk
1 Qt whole lemon wedges (with peel), chopped in food processor


Ghirardelli’s White Chocolate
8 oz unsalted butter
6 oz cream cheese
2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract

Icing/Filling Directions

Whip together in a food processor until creamy.


1 jar organic raspberry preserves
Local wildflower honey


Preheat the oven to 325ºF

Cream the butter and sugar.

Beat in the eggs one at a time.

Add the oil, vinegar and vanilla.

Mix the dry ingredients.

Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix.

Add the chopped lemon mixture and mix well.

Bake in two round pans at 325F for 40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Cool the cakes.


Cut each cake into two layers

Alternate adding icing+ wildflower honey, raspberry jam + wildflower honey in between layers.

Once cake is layered, ice the entire outside.

Read a poem and enjoy!

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