The pickle man

Friday, January 8, 2016

Lemon Cake

 This week, my younger son was "snack leader" for his kindergarten.  Snack week always has noticeable highs and lows.

The lows: 
Monday: After a two week vacation, I remembered it was our snack week when I opened his backpack exactly 3 minutes before we had to leave or miss the bus. 
 So... the class enjoyed a jumbo bag of pretzels, 2/3 full, and some candy left over from when we made gingerbread houses before Christmas.  Oops. 

Tuesday: my  husband managed to make it by Walmart before he had to be at work at 7:15 and grab some chips (So, from a "my husband is a hero!" standpoint, this actually may have been a high?).

Thursday: I forgot again (I know... it's time to bring back the family calendar)... so off he went (uncomplaining, because he's the second kid) with 2/3 a box of graham crackers and some very Christmas-sy candy canes. Yes, I know, it's January.

The highs: 

Wednesday was Epiphany, and on Epiphany, my family makes homemade king cake.  Sometimes we share with the boys' classes.   (Here's the recipe we use).

And Friday, 6:15 a.m. found our proud snack leader glazing a lemon cake.

 My older son's best friend loves this cake.   The first time he spent the night, we had it for dessert. Later, he told me he had to call his mom.  I thought he was feeling homesick; instead, he was calling her to ask that she get the recipe.

This cake does have a lot of steps, but I promise it is worth it .  
You can make it in a large (10 inch) bundt pan, 2 loaf pans, or a few mini loaf pans.  I've never tried it as muffins but expect they would be amazing.  This time I used a smaller (9 inch) bundt pan (for the kindergarten) and had enough batter left for two mini loaf pans for the family.  My son's friend even got the last piece this afternoon.

Lemon Cake, adapted from Ina Garten's recipe 

2 sticks butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup grated lemon zest (3-4 Meyer lemons; 5-6 regular lemons)*
3 cups flour**
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (zest first, then juice -- much neater that way)
3/4 cup buttermilk at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the syrup:
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar

For the glaze:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (Ina recommends sifting, but we don't mind the lumps)
2-3 Tablepsoons of fresh-squeezed lemon juice


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour your pans. (I use Baker's Joy; if you are using a decorated bundt pan like mine, do a very thorough job).

Cream the butter and 2 cups granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. I use this time to zest my lemons.  With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, and the lemon zest, scraping down the bowl after each addition. (If you forgot to leave your eggs out to let them come to room temperature, you can put them in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes).

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice, the buttermilk, and vanilla. The mixture will curdle.  Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour.

Pour the batter into the pan (or divide the batter evenly between the pans, if using more than one). Smooth the tops, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Meanwhile, make the syrup.  Combine 1/4 cup granulated sugar with 1/4 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves.  You can also do this in the microwave.  

When the cake is done, allow to cool for 10 minutes. If you are using a bundt pan, while the cake is still in the pan, make holes in the bottom of the cake with the handle of a wooden spoon or spatula.  If you are using loaf pans, you can take the cake(s) out and invert it(them) to do this. Slowly pour the lemon syrup over the cake, filling the holes.

If you are using the bundt pan, shake the pan until it feels loose, then invert it carefully over your cake plate.

For the glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar and the lemon juice in a bowl or measuring cup. Pour over the tops of the cakes and allow the glaze to drizzle down the sides.

* First, a note on zesting.  I use a microplane that my husband picked up at a hardware store and adore the tiny bits it makes.  You can get them on Amazon prime, although Michael says they are cheaper at the hardware store.  It is easily one of my most-used kitchen tools and works equally well on Parmesan cheese and nutmeg. 

Second, a note on lemons. I absolutely love making this cake with Meyer lemons, which I used to get from my neighbor.  However, the snow storm last year destroyed their tree.  BUT if you can get Meyer lemons for this, please do... just don't brag too much the next time you see me!

** (for Allyson and others who are really into the details)    Ina calls for cake flour, which I don't keep on hand, BUT  I use White Lily All Purpose flour, which is a very "soft" flour -- it has less gluten and is made from winter wheat, so it produces a noticeably softer crumb in cakes.  And for bread, my favorite is King Arthur Bread Flour ;)

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