I found a can of evaporated milk in the back of my pantry this weekend, which, naturally, got me to thinking of zombies. The reason it made me think of the undead is because I saw the expiration date said February 2012, a full YEAR ago. I almost threw it out, but then I decided that would be wasteful, and then I thought about how I couldn’t afford to be so picky when/if the zombie apocalypse happens because food will be so scarce that I’ll have no choice but to ignore expiration dates.

So I used the can of milk that expired a year ago and made this loaf of lemon cake. Because it’s never too early to prepare your palate for the apocalypse. And it actually tasted fine, so I wonder if expiration dates are really just another clever marketing scheme.

Another thing I learned while making this loaf is that, when the apocalypse happens, the first thing I’m doing is getting rid of my zesters. I love them dearly and they’re great tools, but no matter how careful I try to be, my flesh always, always finds its way underneath their razor-sharp blades. (Why is it always the tiniest cuts that bleed the most? And how do zesters stay so sharp even after years of use?! There are so many things I don’t understand about zesters.) And the last thing I want in a zombie apocalypse is to have a situation like in season 2 of the Walking Dead when T-Dog (RIP, you heroic angel) sliced his arm while the group was hiding on the highway and attracted the entire horde of walkers. Can you tell I’m excited for this show to come back from hiatus?

So, long story short, in case of the apocalypse:

  1. Expiration dates don’t matter.
  2. Get rid of your zesters.
  3. If you can scrounge up all the ingredients, make this loaf and bond with your fellow survivors.
Lemon loaf cake

It’s got that beautiful split top, the way a zombie’s head looks after you bury a machete in its brain

Lemon Loaf Cake
Adapted from Carnation

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 12-oz can of evaporated milk
  • 2/3 cup oil
  • Zest and juice from 1 lemon
  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Whisk together flour, sugar, and baking powder and set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together eggs, evaporated milk, oil, and lemon juice and zest.
  4. Pour wet ingredients into dry and whisk together until there are no lumps.
  5. Pour into a greased 10×4 loaf pan. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes until the top rises and splits in the middle.

I don’t know if it’s because of the evaporated milk or because of my specific can of one-year-expired evaporated milk, but I ended up with a loaf that’s somewhere between a pound cake and a French canele. It’s got that perfectly split top that is characteristic of a pound cake, but a spongy, almost custardy texture that resembles the French pastry. So the best of both worlds, I guess.

This is a really no-frills recipe, just a basic loaf that tastes like lemon. You could add up to 1/2 cup more sugar and play around with some additional flavors – lavender would go beautifully with this.

I wouldn’t purposefully age my evaporated milk in order to make this recipe, but it’s nice to know that spoiled milk doesn’t ruin this recipe. Once the dead rise (and I’m pretty sure they already have, judging by the particularly nasty flu season we are going through that has turned everyone into mindless germ-spreaders), you can bet this will be one of the first things I make. I have no idea how I’m going to bake once there’s no electricity or gas, but I’ll worry about that when I get there.

The future might be bleak, but there’s no reason it should taste that way.

Lemon loaf cake

If I do try to bake this during the apocalypse, I will most certainly be the first to die