I'm trying to keep my business, my triplets, and my waistline under control. I excel at one of those, fail at another one of those, and one is a work in progress. Which is which is day dependant.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

I Never Thought It Would Be This Hard

...to find a recipe for lemon cake.

This week I've got a christening cake to make for a client. Normally, this is not an issue, except that this client asked for a "very very moist lemon cake." Simple, right? I've probably got dozens of lemon cake recipes, many of which I've tried before. However, most of the lemon cake recipes I have are either light and melt-on-your-tongue lemony, or fairly dense (but dry-ish) cakes of the loaf/bread variety. Neither of these are what my client wants - she wants something which is moist but not particularly dense (LOL, I can think of a few bad jokes here, but as this is a family blog I'll refrain.). From my perspective, it's got to be able to hold up some fondant (roll out icing), keep for a few days, and not require refrigeration. I spent a good hour or two (okay, more than that) trolling through my favourite recipe sites, Googling, reading posts on foodie blogs and begging friends for their lemon cake secrets. I really wanted to avoid using a filling like lemon curd (as I didn't know how far this cake had to travel, etc) and I needed a recipe which would make a fairly large cake without drying out.

Several (and I mean several) lemon cakes later, I *finally* found a recipe which fit the bill. Sadly, it's not the above photo of a Lemon Ricotta Cake (which cost me a fortune, burned on the outside and was raw in the middle, and tasted like wet soap). It also wasn't the "famous" Justice Lady Bird Lemon Cake. Nor was it Martha Stewart's Lemon Cake. Nor was it my precious Luscious Lemon Loaf, which dried out when I made it bigger than one loaf size. I also refused on culinary moral grounds to make the thousands of recipes which involved a box of lemon cake mix, frozen lemonade concentrate, a box of lemon jell-o, a box of lemon pudding, or lemon lime soda in various amounts. (Surely, all things which don't belong in a baker's pantry of ingredients?!)

I don't have a photo of the finished product (yet to be decorated) and the trial cake has only a small wodge left, sitting forlornly on my kitchen bench, waiting for someone (probably DH a bit later tonight) to finish it off. This is quite possibly the best lemon cake I've ever eaten, and in recent history I've eaten a LOT of them. Note, I didn't bother with the glaze, although I can see how it would add more lemony lusciousness. For those baulking at zesting 8 lemons, do yourself a favour and invest in a microplane. (Easily purchased at most decent homeware shops.)

Best Lemon Cake Emzee's Ever Had (from Ina Garten, better known as the Barefoot Contessa)

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup grated lemon zest (6 to 8 large lemons)
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the glaze:
2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
3 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 2 (8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch) loaf pans. You may also line the bottom with parchment paper, if desired.

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 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 saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. When the cakes are done, allow to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans and set them on a rack set over a tray or sheet pan; spoon the lemon syrup over them. Allow the cakes to cool completely.

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.

...oh, and this photo? It's just a brag about the cute stuff I made at work recently. Yup, I used company time to make some treats for my kids (note, AFTER making 200+ of these things for a function...)


Patricia Scarpin said...

I have been meaning to make this recipe forever, M.!!
The print out has hanged around my house for months. I'm so glad to know you liked it, one more reason for me to bake it asap!

The cookie lollipops are so adorable!

IronEaters said...

the cookies are so cute! and tts quite alot of lemon zest there =D