I’m a sucker for a sale. Which is probably why I got home one day to find the drawer in my fridge stuffed full of lemons. There were some on top. But as I started clearing things out, I just kept finding more and more. And then I remembered how cheap lemons have been lately. I must not think much, because when I see them on sale, I just pick up a few more instead of remembering that I have 2 dozen at home!! So needless to say, when I discovered my huge stock of lemons, I headed to the bookshelf to find a lemon recipe to use some up!
It didn’t take long, and I came across this lemon cake. It sounded easy, the ingredients were all easy ones I had on hand, so I set to work making the cake. I did half the recipe, (which halves very easily, which is always a good thing!), and everything came together easily. The cake went into the oven, and the timer was set. I already know that my oven bakes a little hot, so I always set the timer for less than what the recipe states. But about 10 minutes before the timer went off, I smelled the cake, and thought – I really should check it. Sure enough, it was done. Almost a little too done. Then I realized, yes, I halved the recipe – and I should know by now to cut the baking time as well!! Sometimes I think I’m just a novice in the kitchen…
Regardless, this cake was still really good. I’m sure it would have been even better if it wasn’t overcooked (and a little dried out because of that). But we still managed to eat it all, and Abbi loved it. In fact, one morning she immediately went to the kitchen and pointed up on the counter where the cake was being kept. She liked it enough that she remembered it from the day before, and she’s only 1!
Lemon Loaf Cakes
adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours
Makes 2 loaf cakes, about 16 servings
For the Cakes
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
2 1/3 cups sugar
zest of 2 lemons
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped out and reserved, or 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
6 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 stick plus 7 tablespoons (15 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
For the Syrup
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 thick strips of lemon zest
Center a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F. Butter 2 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2 inch loaf pans and dust them with flour, tapping out any excess. Place the pans on an insulated baking sheet and set them aside.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together.
Put the sugar, the lemon zest and the pulp from the vanilla bean, if using one, in a large bowl and rub it together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist. Add the eggs and whisk them into the sugar, beating until they are thoroughly incorporated. Whisk in the vanilla extract, if you are using extract instead of the vanilla bean. Then whisk in the cream, followed by the lemon juice. Gently stir in the dry ingredients in 3 or 4 additions. The batter will be quite thick. Fold in the melted butter in 2 or 3 additions. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the tops with a spatula.
Bake in the preheated oven for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean or with only a few crumbs attached. (Check the cakes after 30 minutes for color- if they are coloring quickly, cover them lightly with foil.)
Meanwhile, make the syrup, Stir the water, sugar and lemon zest strips in a small saucepan over medium heat until the sugar melts, then bring the mixture to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and then stir in the lemon juice. Pour the syrup into a heatproof bowl and let it cool.
When the cakes are done, transfer them to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Unmold them and turn them right side up on the wire rack. Use a thin skewer, cake tester or thin-bladed sharp knife and poke holes all over the cakes. Brush the syrup all over the cakes, working slowly to makes sure the cakes soak it all up. Leave the cakes on the rack to cool to room temperature.