The husband loves this cake. Of course he does, at the end of the day, you’ll wind up zesting and juicing around a dozen lemons. I was only experimenting with this one. I thought for sure he would reject the pucker of it all, so when he said, “This is my favorite lemon cake.” I couldn’t believe it. He’s right (don’t tell him I said so). This cake is delicious. It’s buxom–the Mae West of dessert.
Before we begin, I need to ask you: Do you have it in you to zest and juice, while muttering to yourself, “This is too much lemon!” “This better taste good–all this friggin’ zesting and juicing”?
Are you still in? Then “getcha getcha lips wet, cuz it’s time to have Pep. On your mark, get set, go, let me go, let me shoop…” (A little Salt ‘n’ Pepa rhyme for you.)
First you’ll notice 1/3 cup of zest. What? That’s too much. Can’t be right. Next up is the full cup of fresh-squeezed lemon juice. Is she out of her mind? She wants me to stir it into the batter at the end? That’s too much liquid. It won’t incorporate. It can’t!
Stay with me, Grasshopper. That’s just the cake. Then there’s the lemon soaking syrup and boiling it for an extra 5 minutes does indeed turn it a glorious shade of gold. And I’m going to ask you to poke holes in the still-warm cake and spoon this syrup over the top, soaking the cake, not once, but twice. No mas! you’ll cry out.
The cake is done once the icing (more fresh lemon juice and zest) is on the cake.
adapted from The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook
- 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 5 large eggs
- 1/3 cup grated lemon zest (from 4-5 large lemons)
- 1 cup fresh lemon juice (from 5-6 large lemons)
For the lemon soaking syrup
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (another 5 lemons or so)
For the lemon icing
- 2 cups confectioner sugar
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Before we do anything else, let’s take out our buttermilk and unsalted butter and bring to room temperature.
I made these into mini bundt cakes, but feel free to use two 9×5 inch loaf pans instead. Butter them and lightly dust them with flour. Preheat the oven to 350°.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk to combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and sea salt; set aside. In a large measuring cup or a small bowl, stir together the buttermilk and vanilla.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl, if using a hand mixer), cream the butter and granulated sugar for 7-10 minutes, until pale in color and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating just until each is incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each egg.
Add the flour mixture alternating with the buttermilk mixture in 3 additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Stir in the lemon zest and lemon juice.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and smooth the tops with a spatula. Tap the loaf pans firmly, but carefully (I still have pumpkin pie filling stains on my ceiling from Thanksgiving) on the table to remove any air bubbles from the batter.
Bake for 50 minutes to an hour. My mini bundt cakes took approximately 12-17 minutes to bake. Always stay near the kitchen and begin checking as soon as you smell something delicious baking.
Poke the cake with a toothpick. If it comes out clean (a few moist crumbs clinging to it is ideal) then the cakes are done. Cool the loaves in the pans for about 10 minutes (any longer and they will steam) then release them onto a cooling rack.
Make the lemon soaking syrup in a small pan on top of the stove. Combine the granulated sugar and the fresh lemon juice and cook over low heat while stirring often. Once the sugar dissolves, continue cooking until the syrup turns a deep golden yellow (and it will) in about 5 minutes.
When the loaves are cool enough to handle, place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Poke holes in the cake using either a fork, or if you have a wooden skewer on hand, use that. Pour the lemon soaking syrup all over the tops of the cakes. Repeat until the cakes are completely moistened. Let the loaves rest for at least 10 minutes so the syrup is absorbed.
To make the lemon icing, combine all but the juice at first into a small bowl. Stir until nicely blended together. Next slowly add enough of the lemon juice to make it smooth and creamy (I used 3-4 Tablespoons only). Use a spoon to drizzle the glaze over the tops of the loaves, allowing it to drip down over the sides.
A sprinkling of lemon zest over the top is a nice touch. Serve warm or at room temperature.
The loaves will keep wrapped in clear wrap at room temperature for up to 4 days.
Shoop, shoop ba-doop.