Lemon: Cake and Bars

snowy street

So this winter thing is still happening. I find that around this time of the year, winter just starts to feel ridiculous and a little cruel–there’s been plenty of cold and snow fun to last us for a long time, and yet (at least if you live in any kind of Northern climate) you are forced to deal with the fact that there’s still a lot of winter to go. So much so that things like “spring break” just take on a tone of mocking because you know damn well that it’s still going to be freezing and snowy and there will likely be no “spring” to speak of at all.

But there are bright spots. For instance, the Wegman’s I shop at has had a tantalizing citrus display positioned at the front of the produce department for the past month or so, which is where I picked up the Meyer lemons I used for these recipes. Meyer lemons seem to be a big deal around food blogs, what with their sweeter taste and deeper yellow color. Plus, the fact that you can maintain a Meyer lemon tree in your house is infinitely charming. But now I’m just not sure that Meyer lemons and I were meant to be great friends. It turns out that some people want lemon flavor without all the cheek-sucking tartness, and these people seem to really appreciate the Meyer lemon. I, on the other hand, found myself unsatisfied by the lack of cheek-sucking tartness and briefly considered making some lemon curd just so that I could duck into the refrigerator and eat a spoonful at random. So I am not one of those lemony-sweet people. Although, to be fair, I don’t think I can completely write Meyer lemons off until I’ve tried making a Shaker lemon pie.

meyer lemon cake

All of my feelings about lemons aside, both of these were really good recipes. The Meyer Lemon Cake is easy to throw together and would especially be a big hit for those aren’t on a quest for maximum tartness. The cake batter itself is flavored primarily with lemon extract and a bit of lemon zest, which results in a subtle and more delicate lemon flavor, although you still get more intense lemon-ocity (a term coined by one of my professors) at the top of the cake where the glaze seeps into the crumb. If you make this, you should definitely heed to recipe’s warning to use a light-metal loaf pan as the cake does, indeed, get very brown very quickly.

lemon bars

While the cake was honestly, truly good, it did not quite provide me with serious lemon-ness I desired and so I turned to Ina Garten’s lemon bars recipe as my answer. I actually ended up using two Meyer lemons for this recipe and one standard lemon that happened to be laying around in the fruit bowl. I’m not sure how the mixing of the two impacted the flavor since this is the first time I made this recipe, but I do know that I definitely ended up with something closer to tart lemon flavor I wanted. This is a great recipe that is incredibly easy to make. It takes a little longer to make than you might expect since the shortbread crust requires chilling, pre-baking, and then some cooling before you add the lemon filling and do the final bake. But none of the steps are intensive and your hands-on time is minimal, so these are easy to make while you’re in the midst of doing other things. The original recipe yielded a 9×13 pan of bars, but I cut the recipe in half. My only recommendation would be that you make these a day ahead of time–after 24 hours, the taste and texture of the filling improve and the shortbread crust seems to settle a bit so that it isn’t *quite* so crumbly. I believe we’ve got some department potlucks coming up, and I think I might have to make a pan of these again to bring along. Definitely make this recipe.

In other random news, Aidan and I are likely going to buy a new camera today. We’re not getting anything fancy, but hopefully replacing our (repeatedly dropped) five-year-old camera will yield some nicer pictures. Here’s hoping!

Meyer Lemon Cake (Originally from Saveur magazine, found via Food Gal)

Be sure to use a light metal loaf pan for this recipe, or the cake will over-brown.

  • 8 tablespoons melted butter, plus extra for greasing pan
  • 2 tbsp dry plain bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup blanched almonds
  • 1 1/2 c flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/3 c sugar, plus 2 tbsp for glaze
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 2 tbsp lemon extract
  • zest and juice from 2 Meyer lemons
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8×4″ loaf pan with butter and then dust with the bread crumbs. Tap the sides and top of the pan to get rid of any excess bread crumbs.
  2. In a food processor, process the almonds until you have a fine meal and then set aside.
  3. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  4. With an electric mixer, cream together the melted butter and 1 1/3 c sugar until light. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until just incorporated. Add half of the flour mixture, then the milk, and then the remaining flour mixture, beating until incorporated after each addition. Add the lemon extract.
  5. Using a spatula, fold in the almonds and lemon zest. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 65 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
  6. Let the cake cool on a wire rack. Meanwhile, mix together the 2 tbsp sugar and lemon juice to create the cake glaze. Use a tooth pick to poke some small holes in the top of the cake to help the glaze seep in. Using a pastry brush, brush the glaze onto the top of the cake until you’ve used all of the glaze. Allow the cake to cool in the pan until the glaze has set, then remove the cake from the pan, and allow it to cool completely on the wire rack. When it’s cool, wrap the cake in plastic wrap and let it sit for 24 hours before slicing.

Lemon Bars (adapted from Ina Garten)

The original recipe yields a 9×13 pan of bars. The recipe here reflects the changes I made when I cut the recipe in half in order to make an 8×8 pan. I also cut down a bit on the amount of sugar in the filling.

For the crust:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 1 c flour
  • Pinch of salt

For the filling:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/4 c sugar
  • 1 tbsp grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 c fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 c flour
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. For the crust, use an electric mixer to cream together the butter and sugar until light. Add the flour and salt and mix until just combined. Gather the dough into a ball, and then gently press the dough into the bottom and 1/2″ up the sides of an 8×8″ pan. You may need to flour your fingers to keep the dough from sticking. Allow the crust to chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  2. Bake the crust for 15-20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let the crust cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.
  3. While the crust is cooling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour the filling over the crust and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the filling is set. Allow the bars to cool completely on a wire rack. Dust with powdered sugar and cut into squares. For best results, make these bars one day ahead of time.

2 thoughts on “Lemon: Cake and Bars

  1. Glad you liked the Saveur lemon cake. I, too, like how it’s got a citrus taste but not an overwhelming pucker to it. I’m definitely going to have to try Ina’s version of lemon bars. Yum!

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