Posts Tagged ‘Blake Spalding’

Jen Castle’s Lemon Chiffon Cake

Yesterday I promised to tell you about the Lemon Chiffon Cake I had at Hell’s Backbone Grill in Boulder, Utah. Here’s everything you need to know:

1. The recipe was created by Jen Castle, co-owner of Hell’s, and is featured in With a Measure of Grace, the cookbook she wrote with her business partner and friend, Blake Spalding.

2. This cake won Jen a blue ribbon at the Coconino County fair in Flagstaff, Arizona.

3. It is the lightest cake you can imagine: akin to an angel food cake but made with egg yolks and oil (which are not in angel food cake).

4. It is so le-le-le-lemony.

5. It is easy to make.

6. Everyone who tastes it will love it!

And that, Dear Readers, is everything you need to know about the Lemon Chiffon Cake at Hell’s Backbone Grill. A big “thank you” to Jen and Blake for generously sharing their recipe with us.

My Attempt at Hell’s Cake: Not as Pretty but Delicious!

Lemon Chiffon Cake

Serves 10-12

Cake Ingredients

2 cups/8oz/240gm flour

1 ½ cups/10oz/300g sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup/8oz cold water

7 egg yolks

8 egg whites

½ cup/4oz canola oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Zest of two lemons

½ teaspoon cream of tartar (optional if you can’t find it)

Icing Ingredients

1/3 cup/2oz softened (not melted) butter

2 cups/8oz icing sugar (confectioners’ sugar)

3 teaspoons lemon juice


1. Preheat oven to 335° F/168°C. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

2. In a small bowl, thoroughly combine water, yolks, oil, vanilla, and zest. Stir yolk mixture into dry ingredients until smooth.

3. In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites with cream of tartar at medium-low speed until foamy and frothy. Increase speed and beat whites until stiff, but not dry, peaks. If you do not have cream of tartar, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.

4. Pour yolk mixture over whites in ribbons, folding mixtures together very gently until just combined. Pour into ungreased 10” tube pan.

5. Bake 55 minutes until the top of the cake springs back when touched. Immediately invert pan and hang upside down on the neck of a bottle for 2 hours to cool.

6. Run a long, thin knife around the edge of the pan to loosen cake and remove from pan. The wider end of the cake will be the top when turned out onto a serving dish.

7. Make icing by combining all ingredients in small mixing bowl and whipping until smooth. Spread icing over cake top, allowing some to drip over the sides. Top with lemon zest.

Notes: I wasn’t sure what kind of flour to use for this recipe, so I used cake flour. I have since seen, on at least one other blog, that self-raising (all purpose) may also be used. And, if you’re not a fan of butter icing on cakes, consider a glaze made of lemon juice and icing sugar (confectioners’ sugar). Once made, pour the glaze over the cake and let set before serving. Add a dollop of freshly whipped cream on the side with a spring of mint.

Read Full Post »

Hoodoos in Bryce

Last month, for Easter-break, our family packed up our small-house-of-a-car and drove to southern Utah. Why southern Utah? Two reasons really: 1) we’d heard the landscape was like none other and 2) I wanted to visit a restaurant called Hell’s Backbone Grill (you knew food was going to be involved!).

The route we chose to explore was Highway 12. Nicknamed Scenic Byway 12, it was designated “All American Road” in 2002 and is considered one of America’s most beautiful drives. From its northern point to its western, it passes through Capitol Reef National Park, Anasazi State Park, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Bryce Canyon National Park. It includes a white-knuckle drive through Hogsback, a section of road much like those found in the west of Ireland, a gently meandering journey through Fruita, a tiny village with its still-operating Mormon fruit orchards dating back to 1880, and breathtaking red sandstone vistas.

126-Foot Waterfall at Calf Creek Falls

For every day we drove, we hiked. Our favourite places included Hickman Bridge in Capitol Reef, Calf Creek Falls in Escalante, and Navajo Loop Trail in Bryce Canyon. All three were just the right length for the children to walk comfortably and ranged from 1 1/2 hours to 4 hours in length. Most importantly, the surroundings were superbly unique. We were never bored. The highlights included fantastic sky-high hoodoos, a cascading waterfall and natural pool, and remnants of what was once an active Fremont Indian community. All three were ideal family hikes and I promise to write about each one, in-depth and with photos, in the coming weeks. For now however, I’d like to switch gears and talk about the other driving desire for our road trip…Hell’s Backbone Grill.

I stumbled across Hell’s Backbone Grill not long after coming to America. I was sitting in the hairdressers, flipping through the latest fashion rags, when With a Measure of Grace: The Story and Recipes of a Small Town Restaurant  surfaced from the heap.

I was captivated by the cover’s photos: a barefoot girl walking on a split rail fence, Tibetan prayer flags blowing in the wind, a basket of farm-fresh eggs and a lemon chiffon cake. These sweet, serene, images are in strong contrast to the name of the restaurant and I was curious to see how they fit together. As it turns out, they do so quite well but only because of the philosophy of the co-owners, Blake Spalding and Jen Castle, and the courage of the townspeople of Boulder, a quiet Mormon community of less than 200 people.

With a Measure of Grace

Their story, the photos and the recipes literally beckoned me. I had to see the place for myself. I was so captivated that I didn’t want to buy the book on Amazon. I wanted to touch Hell’s. I wanted to meet Blake and Jen. I wanted to experience it for myself. I, so desperately, wanted to have this experience that I called the restaurant as soon as I got home from the hairdressers. Be warned, Hell’s closes for the winter! I left a message to please call back when they reopened in the spring and I waited. Before they could call, my husband suggested a trip to Utah over Easter-break and I quickly bargained for a hiking/food holiday. Done!

Boulder, Utah is at the base of the Aquarius Plateau. When you see the “Welcome to Boulder” sign you can’t help but wonder “is this it?” There are no street lights, no buildings…just open land with clusters of sagebrush and some tall trees on rolling hills, dotted by what appears to be small farmsteads. It is a quiet place, just the way the locals like it. As we arrived, I felt panicked that we were in the wrong place but my lovely husband took a turn here and another turn there and then, suddenly, it was right in front of us…like an oasis in the desert.

Hell’s Backbone Grill

Hell’s Backbone Grill is a four-hour drive from Salt Lake City so the fact Jen and Blake can run a restaurant in such an incredibly isolated location is a wonder. They do so by relying on locally produced food, grown mostly on a nearby six-acre farm. The girls also avail of local ranchers, for their naturally raised meats and poultry, and orchards, for their heirloom fruits. They tend their own bees.

You’d think with all the work these two ladies do, there’d be precious little time for them to socialize. Luckily for me, that is not the case. I met Blake Spalding (and her fiancé) the night we arrived for dinner and again the next morning at breakfast. She was down-to-earth, quick with a smile, and very gracious. She allowed me to take pictures – lots of them.

The lovely Blake Spalding

She signed the book I bought, posed for a photo, and listened actively as I talked about gardening, cooking, moving from Ireland and blogging. She was even good enough to suggest I post a few recipes from With a Measure of Grace on In an Irish Home (please see tomorrow’s post on Lemon Chiffon Cake).

With the welcoming hug I got from Blake after breakfast the next morning, our trip to southern Utah was complete. Satiated, and with a packed lunch from Hell’s in the cooler, we drove back to our home on the edge of the Rockies. Our little family was well exercised, well fed, and, well, happy! I look forward to visiting Utah’s southern lands again and dining at Hell’s Backbone Grill. I hope you will too.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: