From a purely secular perspective, we are entering the final few weeks of the year. From the perspective of the Church, the new Liturgical year has barely begun. So the Ember Days of Winter could be viewed as the last Ember Days of the year, or the first.
The Ember Days of Winter begin with the first Wednesday following the Feast of Saint Lucia (December 13). While Ember Days are no longer Holy Days of Obligation as they once were, we are encouraged to view them as Holy Days of Opportunity. Ember Days are three days each season set aside to give thanks. Ember Days of Winter are also known as Ember Days of Advent. The focus is to give thanks for the olives used to make the Holy Oils of Unction (anointment). It is no coincidence that the Days of Winter involve oils and that oils are such an important part of Chanukah. This is just one of the threads that tie Catholicism to its Jewish roots.
On Ember Wednesdays and Saturdays we are encouraged to observe what is viewed as a partial fast and partial abstinence. It means you can’t have bacon with breakfast and a pot roast for supper but you could have meat at one of those meals. Fridays, as in Lent, are days of abstinence. All three days in each season are partial fast days, which means less food is consumed. Those with health issues, under the age of 14 or over 65 as always are exempt from the dietary restrictions.
For me, every Feast Day, every Holy Day, are opportunities to strengthen my faith and help me focus on my journey home. It is a personal choice just as our relationship with our Creator is personal. If you feel these days would help you, awesome. Not your cup of tea? Great. You can still have a slice of cake.
Lemon Olive Oil Cake
3 Eggs, separated
1 large Lemon
3/4 cup Sugar, divided
3/4 cup Cake Flour
1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
3/4 cup Olive Oil
1/4 teaspoon Cream of Tartar
2 tablespoons additional Sugar
Heat oven to 325-degrees. Grease and flour a springform pan, set aside.
Separate 2 of egg yolks from whites, set aside. Separate remaining egg yolk from the white. Discard 3rd yolk or reserve for another purpose. Add white to the first whites, set aside. Zest lemon, set zest aside. Cut lemon, squeeze to juice.
Note: 2 tablespoons of lemon juice are needed. If a second lemon is needs, add that.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk together 1/2 cup of sugar, two of the egg yolks, the zest from the lemon and 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Add cake flour and baking powder, and whisk to combine. While running mixer on low speed, add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream.
Transfer mixture to a large bowl; set aside. Wash and dry the bowl and whisk attachment.
Add all the egg whites, salt and cream of tartar to the mixing bowl. With whisk attachment, beat on egg white mixture on medium speed. When eggs are foamy, begin to add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar in small increments. Continue to whisk egg whites just until soft peaks form.
Stir 1/4 of egg whites to the batter. Cut down the middle of the batter with a spatula. Add remaining egg whites, folding the bottom of the batter over the top. Turn the bowl and repeat. Continue to gently fold in the egg whites until the whites are fully incorporated.
Note: Do not stir. Folding will prevent cake from deflating when baked.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and tap the pan against the counter two times to remove any trapped air bubbles. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sugar over the top of the cake. Bake cake in the heated oven until top is golden brown, about 40 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack for at least an hour before removing from pan.
1 Lemon, sliced
Powdered Sugar for dusting
Place cooled cake on a cake plate or footed server. Garnish with lemon slices and dust with powdered sugar just before serving.