There’s something so bright and refreshing about lemons. I might even say bracing. They make me happy. The bright color and perky flavor is exactly what I need during this gloomy, grey and wet time. If you live somewhere sunny then you probably don’t know what I’m talking about but think about this. Last week I was wearing shorts and a light sweater. Four days later it was cold and drenching wet. Three days after that it snowed. I’ll take any bit of brightness I can get and if that’s in the form of some grocery store citrus than so be it.
Lemon anything is always on my top 10 list. I think I get that from my Dad. Every year for his birthday, he’d ask for two things: a lemon meringue pie and “some god damn peace and quiet.” I never understood that later but I certainly appreciated the former. My mom would make a pie with, I think, some Jell-o product topped with a big pile of fluffy white meringue. As a kid, I didn’t understand meringue and was always perplexed when it didn’t taste like marshmallows. It certainly looked like marshmallows. What gives?
I’ve had a lot of lemons pass through this joint lately – 4 rounds of Shaker Lemon Pie and endless batches of candied lemon slices will do that. After all those pies and tarts and cookies, I had an urge for a buttery rich pound cake so I made the Lemon Loaf Cake from Baking with Julia, a favorite of mine. It was good. But I wanted so much more. More pucker, more punch, more sunshine.
I wanted an intense pop of puckery lemon and this just wasn’t delivering. So I made it a few more times, adjusting this or adding that. It’s challenging to pump up that lemon flavor without adding a bunch extracts that taste like furniture polish so I decided to go another route. I focused on adding flavor from the outside in. A warm lemon syrup poured over the hot cake then once cooled, slicked with a thick tart glaze. Bingo. A tender lemon cake with a big puckery punch of lemon around the edges. It’s right at home in a sophisticated lunchbox or with a cup of tea. I may even have a few slices stashed in the freezer for those gloomy day emergencies I am sure will come.
STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: INSTANT PICK ME UP. Slice off a piece (or two) and hunker down under a blanket with a good book and a hot cup of something. This is a downright slice of sunshine. Be prepared, the topping packs a bright punch but sometimes you need that.
On this blog four years ago: Brown Butter Banana Bread
On this blog three years ago: Peanut Butter Bars
On this blog two years ago: Peterson Garden Project – round 2
On this blog one year ago: Strawberries in Hibiscus Syrup
Other lemon desserts on this blog: Shaker Lemon Pie, Classic Lemon Tart, Candied Lemon Cookies
REALLY LEMONY LOAF CAKE – based on Norman Love’s recipe in Baking with Julia
I’ve added pure lemon oil to punch up the flavor in the cake – I much prefer the oil to the extract. But use a light hand; too much and the cake will taste like Lemon Pledge.
for the cake:
1 ¾ cups cake flour
½ teaspoons baking powder
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/3 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
Zest of 3 medium lemons
¼ teaspoon pure lemon oil
½ cup heavy cream, room temperature
5 ½ Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
for the lemon syrup:
juice of 2 lemons – about ½ cup
about ½ cup sugar – measure equal to the lemon juice
for the powdered sugar glaze:
2-2 ½ Tablespoons fresh lemon juice (a bit less than the juice of one medium lemon)
1 ¼ cups powdered sugar
pinch of kosher salt
- For the cake: Preheat the oven with a rack in the center to 350°F; line a 9”x5” loaf pan with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the flour and baking powder and set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, and salt until foamy and just blended.
- Whisk in the lemon zest and lemon oil.
- Whisk in the flour in thirds, mixing lightly until just barely incorporated.
- Whisk in the heavy cream.
- Switch to a rubber spatula and quickly fold in the cooled melted butter.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
- Bake for 50-60 minutes until golden brown, the top is firm to the touch and and a toothpick inserted just off center comes out clean.
- For the hot lemon syrup: 5 minutes before the cake is done baking, juice two of the zested lemons, measure and combine with an equal measure of sugar in a small saucepan (typically ½ cup for a medium sized lemon)
- Bring to a boil to dissolve the sugar.
- Remove the cake from the oven, place on a wire rack and pierce all over with a toothpick or skewer.
- Pour the hot lemon syrup over the hot cake and let cool completely. If the syrup puddles around the edges, let it cool and thicken a little then use a pastry brush to redistribute the syrup.
- Let cool completely on a wire rack.
- Gently tug at the parchment paper to release the cake from the pan; you may have to run knife along the short sides of the pan to help loosen.
- Remove the parchment paper and set the cake on a wire rack set over a sheet pan or another piece of parchment or foil to catch drips.
- For the lemon glaze: in a medium bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, powdered sugar and salt to form a thick pourable glaze. If needed, add more powdered sugar to achieve that thick pouring consistency.
- Pour the glaze over the cooled cake and let sit, uncovered at room temperature, until the glaze sets and hardens – at least 1 hour.
- The cake will keep at room temperature, tightly covered, for several days.