There was just one thing between me and my dream job as a food editor at Bon Appétit: the edit test. In the media world, the edit test is even more important than the interview. While the interview gives you an opportunity to tell, the edit test requires you to show. In other words: to prove that you have the skills to do the job.

After receiving an email from food director Chris Morocco, I got to work. Among other sections, my edit test asked me to dream up a few cooking stories with accompanying recipes for our website. Of the pitches I proposed, one was titled “A Love Letter to Preserved Lemons,” with an idea for a preserved lemon cake.

Most people think of preserved lemons as an ingredient reserved for savory applications. After all, they’re incredibly salty. But this story would highlight just how versatile they are. Mind you, most ideas in edit tests never see the light of day. The document simply serves as an example of what you could do. This cake wasn’t something I’d made before, but it was just the sort of project I love to tackle as a recipe developer: sweet meets savory, classic meets unexpected. Like flaky salt on a chocolate chip cookie, preserved lemon in a sweet cake takes dessert from matte to shiny.

Spoiler alert: I got the job.

Fast-forward about a year and our team began working on a feature story for the March 2022 issue. The vibe was bright bakes—recipes that breathe life into the dullness of March. As we mulled over potential recipes for the story, we thought about colorful ingredients that promise tons of flavor: earthy matcha in Christina Chaey’s mochi cake, floral mango in Rachel Gurjar’s citrusy barfi, raspberry jam in Kendra Vaculin’s thumbprint cookies, and, you guessed it, preserved lemons in a tea cake from me.

Like every recipe that goes through the Bon Appétit test kitchen, lots of experiments and debates ensued: Would olive oil overpower or upgrade? (Upgrade, for sure.) What’s the right amount of turmeric for a golden glow? (A humble ½ tsp.) How can the cake go from lemony to lemonier? (Freshly squeezed juice and grated zest, in addition to the preserved fruit.) When all was said and done, we landed on a plush, almost-neon loaf with a milky, opaque glaze. The lemon cake of my dreams—almost classic, with a salty twist.

Preserved-Lemon Tea Cake

Preserved lemons rein in the sweetness in this plush olive-oil-based loaf.

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