05 June 2006

Best Lemon Cake Ever!

One of the best things about Ina Garten’s Lemon Cake recipe is that it makes two loaves, so you can bring one loaf to a friend’s house and keep one loaf for yourself...
joy of joys!

As your friends bite into the moist, mouth-puckering sweetness, they will never know that you have one more untouched lemon cake sitting at home on your counter. They will only find out about your little lemon cake secret if you just can’t take the guilt and you burst out smiling, your mouth filled with lemon cake, and exclaim, I made two loaves and only brought one, ha ha ha!"

Your friends will also never know why this cake is so delectably lemony, unless of course you tell them the jaw-dropping secret: after the cakes have been baked and removed from the loaf pans, you turn them over and pour a sweet lemon syrup into them. The cake soaks up the syrup and stays moist and lemony for all times.
Isn't that fascinating? I daresay that the cake-baking aspect of my life will never again be the same, now that I have been exposed to this mind-blowing cake-moistening process. When I saw the Barefoot Contessa do this on TV, I was speechless for at least three minutes until I rose and exclaimed, "I must have some lemon cake!"

Lemon Cake, adapted from Ina Garten
½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup grated lemon zest (6 to 8 large lemons)
3 cups flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
¾ cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

½ cup sugar
½ cup lemon juice

2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
3 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 2 loaf pans. (I sometimes use smaller loaf pans for cute little lemon cakes loaves. Make sure to shorten the baking time if you use the baby loaf pans.)
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. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, and then the lemon zest.

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. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide the batter evenly between the pans, smooth the tops, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small bowl. Microwave for one minute and stire until the sugar dissolves. When the cakes are done, allow them to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans and set them down UPSIDE-DOWN on a rack set over a tray or sheet pan; spoon the lemon syrup over them. Allow the cakes to cool completely. Make sure when you turn them right-side up that you don’t let the top of the cake stick to the rack, or the tops of your cakes will not be as pretty as you want them to be.

Slices say, "Lest you become overwhelmed with the steps, persevere! Don't skip the syrup or the glaze! The extra steps are worth it!"

For the glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar and the lemon juice in a bowl, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth. Pour over the tops of the cakes and allow the glaze to drizzle down the sides.

Watching the glaze dribble down the sides is one of the best parts. Let us please be reminded to not take it for granted that life allows you wonderful moments such as watching glaze drip down the sides of cakes.


mellie said...

My dear...i have just drooled all over my keyboard! Will definitely be giving that one a try on the weekend.

Erielle said...

You won't regret it!

Harry said...

I've made this before when lemons were plentiful from the backyard, and I just have to make it again, even if I have to pay out-of-season prices for lemons! It's worth it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I had a neighbor bring me one of these and kept dogging me for the recipe. It has been torture not have it or eat it since.
So I'm going to the store right NOW!!! Yeah

Lisa said...

I guess I'm stalking you today. I've been thinking about what to make to give new neighbors who are going to move in next door to me in a few months. This is it! They're Brits, so of course they like cake, right?! And this lemon thing looks...sweet.

Erielle said...

Harry, sorry I didn't respond to you in a timely manner. It's December now, but any time of the year is good for lemon cake!

Anonymous, you're welcome! You're welcome! You're welcome! I hope that it turned out as you excpected.

Lisa, your neighbors will love it. And they will love you. Make sure and only give them one loaf so you can keep the other for yourself!

Anonymous said...

I would love this cake and cannot wait to make it for myself I like my lemon cakes to make me pucker! I do, however, have to make a lemon cake for someone else (a 9" layer cake)...only not as tart, tangy, lemony...you think this one would work if I don't use the lemon syrup nor the glaze (as I will use a lemon buttercream)? Suggestions? Karen

Erielle said...

Hi Karen, I think that would still work. The cake itself is fairly lemony.
You know what, though, since the batter makes so much, you might have enough left over to make yourself one with the glaze and the syrup!

Lindsey said...

I just made this cake for work and I it is definitely the best lemon cake I have ever tasted. The texture was so moist and the syrup+glaze combination makes the cake that much better. Thankfully I had plenty of lemons in my backyard for all the juice and zest!

dinah said...

We were having a a guest over for afternoon green tea and some business discussion. Selfishly, I started googling for the the most decadent Lemon loaf I could stumble on. I landed at your doorstep, Erielle - kudos!!

Not only did I find THE recipe I was yearning for but your entertaining preamble for the Ina's recipe was a delight! Girl, you have a way with words!

I did stick with the 'program': glaze, syrup and all . . . & watched the baking time with an eagle eye. I join your choir singing the praises of this 'lemon gem'. . . speaking oflemoniscious!!!

Not only did I pack off our visitor with the rest of the loaf after he had had 3 slices . . . . I almost - not quite . . . but nearly polished off half of the second loaf late last night . . ahhhh such a secret guilty pleasure!

One tiny question: How do I keep the outer edges from over cooking please? Otherwise, I had no problems.

Thanks a million!

Erielle said...

Hi Dinah,
It really is an amazing cake, isn't it? I just made it the other day for a friend who was watching our daughter as a favor, and she was overjoyed.
I have the same problem with the edges getting dark brown. I haven't tried this, but I sometimes I hear about people loosely tenting the loafs with tin foil towards the end of baking. Let me know if you ever do try that. I'll probably try it next time I make it.
Glad you found the blog and thanks for your kind words!

dinah said...

Erielle, thanks for your speedy reply. I am sooooo glad to hear that we both shared the same little glitch about the overcooked edges . . . that it wasn't just moi!

I'll definitely give your suggestion a whirl the next time. If you beat me to it, I'll watch for your results.

Your daughter is adorable! Have a good week.

Anonymous said...

Hi Erielle,

I have 2 questions, first one...Will this cake be just as good if I use Cake Flour? Can you use a bundt pan instead of the two loaf pans? The cake sounds delicious!

Erielle said...

I am always confused by the different types of flours! Here's a thread that might help you out.

Second, I imagine the bundt pan would be fine. You might have to put the entire batch of batter into the pan instead of splitting it into two loaves, like the recipe says. And you would probably have to bake it longer.
That's a great idea, I might try the bundt pan next time. Pretty!

danich said...

You don't mention how to add the dried ingredients, do you fold them in or beat them in with the electric mixer?

Erielle said...

Hi Danich, I pour them into the bowl of the standing mixer where the creamed butter is. Alternate the dry and wet ingredients. You don't have to fold with a spatula; you can use the mixer.