Lemons have been added to the list of ingredients I like to buy in the Big City (which isn’t that big compared to a lot of other cities but is definitely big compared to the town I live in), along with coffee, chocolate, parmesan cheese, and cheap wine from Trader Joe’s. This is because organic lemons aren’t available in my town, and while I have nothing against lemon juice, my favorite part of the lemon by far is the zest. The problem is that lemons have a more limited shelf life than my other Big City buys and the fruit tends to get hard (or worse, soft) after a few weeks in the crisper drawer.
Around this time is when I start going into lemon mania mode, and a lemon cake soaked with lemon syrup and drizzled with lemon glaze is a fine way to use up some of the lemon excess. In fact, I was so focused on my primary goals of using up lemons and having fun in the kitchen that I pushed another priority aside, that of making the best possible recipe. When combining loads of butter with loads of sugar, I knew it couldn’t end up too bad.
And so, for no other reason than I think the stand mixer is more fun to use and easier to clean up, I used that instead of the food processor the original recipe calls for, but when the top of my cake came out a little flat, I started thinking that maybe I should have just followed directions. I took the cake to work without tasting it, saving myself a piece for the end of the workday. It was good I set some aside for myself, because this cake disappeared in less than half the time as some of the other treats I’ve brought in. Savoring my much-anticipated slice at the end of the day, I decided that mixer or food processor, it didn’t matter; this cake would be a success either way.
One year ago: Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies with Dried Cherries and Pecans
Two years ago: Vodka Gimlet
Three years ago: Cook’s Illustrated’s Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies
Four years ago: Cinnamon Rolls
Makes one loaf
I made this with a stand mixer instead of a food process like the original recipe instructs for no reason other than I think the mixer is more fun to use and easier to clean up.
For the cake:
¾ cup (3 ounces) cake flour
¾ cup (3.6 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
⅛ teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup sour cream, at room temperature
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup + 2 tablespoons (7.9 ounces) sugar
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (from about 2 lemons)
4 large eggs, at room temperature
For the syrup:
2½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2½ tablespoons sugar
For the glaze:
1 cup (4 ounces) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray the sides and bottom of a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line the bottom with parchment paper and spray the paper. Sift both flours, baking powder, and baking soda together in a medium bowl. In a small measuring cup, whisk together the sour cream, lemon juice, and vanilla.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large mixing bowl with a hand-held mixer), beat the sugar and zest together until fragrant. Add the butter and salt; beat on medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. With the mixer running, add the eggs one a time. Once the eggs are in, stop and scrape the sides of the bowl, then continue beating for another 2-3 minutes. Reduce the mixture speed to low, add one-third of the flour mixture, then half of the sour cream mixture. Continue alternating additions of dry and wet ingredients, ending with the dry ingredients. Scrape the bowl and mix for another 20-30 seconds, until the flour is thoroughly incorporated.
3. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, smoothing the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 20 minutes, rotate the pans, reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees, and bake for another 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Let cool in the pans for 15 minutes.
4. In a small saucepan over medium heat, heat the lemon juice and sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved. Once dissolved, continue to cook for 3 more minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
5. Inver the cake onto a cooling rack set over a rimmed pan. Use a toothpick to poke holes in the top and sides of the loaf. Brush the top and sides of the loaves with the lemon syrup. Let the syrup soak into the cake and brush again. Let the cake cool completely, at least 30 minutes. (The soaked but unglazed loaf will keep, wrapped in two layers of plastic wrap and frozen, for up to 6 weeks.)
6. In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and the lemon juice. Pour the lemon glaze over the top of the loaf and let it drip down the sides. Let the lemon glaze harden, about 15 minutes, before serving. (The glazed loaves will keep for up to 3 days, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, at room temperature.)