Lemon Bundt Cake

We had some friends over for dinner at the end of February and decided to try to will spring into existence by making turkey club sandwiches and this lemon bundt cake. We’re just now getting to the point where we have the occasional 40 degree day, so the whole “willing spring” thing didn’t work. But the cake was excellent.

Lemon Bundt Cake via sweetalchemy.wordpress.com

Looking for a lemon bundt cake recipe turned out to be a little bit of an ordeal. I came across a lot of recipes that either called for weird ingredients like lemon jello mix or were basically a doctored lemon cake mix. Everyone has their own baking perogatives, and using lemon jello in a cake batter just isn’t one of mine. I also found a lot of recipes that rely on lemon extract for an infusion of lemon flavor, which is better than the above options, but still not great. I’ve made cakes with lemon extract before and haven’t been completely happy with the result.

This recipe originally comes from Cooks Illustrated, which you know means that it has some kind of trick up it’s sleeve to get good lemon flavor from, you know, actual lemons. The recipe has you mince your lemon zest to release a little extra flavor and then soak the zest in fresh lemon juice to amp the flavor up even more. It’s kind of brilliant. With this lemon zest/juice mixture added in, you end up with a cake with a definite lemon taste that’s light and fresh. Then when the cake comes out of the oven, you load it up with a double coat of glaze to give the cake some real tang. I would recommend making this a day in advance if you have the time/the willpower to resist. The flavor and texture of the cake both improve with time.

Lemon Bundt Cake via sweetalchemy.wordpress.com 

I didn’t have buttermilk on hand, so I soured some whole milk with (obviously) some lemon juice. The cake turned out well, but the glaze tasted a bit flat so once the glaze was at the right consistency, I whisked in 2 tbsp of melted butter. The butter isn’t necessary, but I thought it improved the flavor of the glaze. I don’t know if it would be necessary if you were using buttermilk—I look forward to trying this recipe again with buttermilk to find out.

Also: I ate this cake every morning for breakfast until it was gone. I regret nothing.

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Lemon Bundt Cake (originally from Cooks Illustrated, found via Carnal Dish)

Note: You’ll need 5-6 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice for this recipe. You should be able to get all the juice you need from the 3 lemons you will zest for the cake, but it wouldn’t hurt to buy a 4th lemon just to be safe.

For the cake:

  • Zest of 3 lemons
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 c buttermilk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 18 tbsp (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 c sugar

For the glaze:

  • 2-3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp buttermilk
  • 2 c powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp melted butter (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease a bundt pan.
  2. Mince the lemon zest until it resembles a fine paste. Combine the zest with the lemon juice in a small bowl and allow it to sit for 10-15 minutes.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl or measuring cup, combine the lemon juice mixture, the vanilla, and the buttermilk. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and egg yolk.
  4. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg mixture. Reduce mixer speed to low and add 1/3 of the flour mixture, beating until just combined. Add in half of the buttermilk mixture and beat to combine. Repeat, alternating the flour mixture and the buttermilk mixture until all the ingredients have been combined. Be careful not to over-mix—use a rubber spatula to incorporate any lingering flour.
  5. Scrape the batter evenly into the prepared bundt pan. Bake until the top of the cake is golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean, about 45-50.
  6. While the cake is baking, whisk together the ingredients for the glaze, starting with 2 tbsp of lemon juice and adding more gradually until the glaze is thick but pourable.
  7. When the cake is done baking, allow it to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Then, invert the cake directly onto the wire rack. Place a plate or pan beneath the rack and drizzle half of the glaze over the cake. Allow the cake to cool on the rack for an hour. Drizzle the remaining glaze over the top of the cake and continue to cool until the cake is room temperature.

Lemon Angel Food Cake

Last year for his birthday, Aidan requested an angel food cake. This wasn’t actually the first time he made the request, but I managed to talk him out of it in past years, partly because angel food cake seemed boring and bland to me and partly because I was kind of intimidated by the prospect of making the cake. As a rule, anything that involves beating egg whites to various states of stiffness makes me extremely nervous. When I’m dealing with egg whites, I feel like I’m constantly standing on the edge of failure, and I am not a thrill-seeker. Still, Aidan was pretty insistent about angel food being the only kind of cake he wanted, so I got to work.

My first big decision involved buying a pan, which proved to be more complicated than I would have liked. See, angel food is one of those things that bakers seem to have very strong opinions about. And by strong, I mean that there are many angel food enthusiasts who have very specific ideas about the equipment and process one should use to make angel food and who are equally certain that deviating from these methods will result in a really crappy cake. The strongest of this contingent’s opinions revolve around the choice of a pan and the consensus seems to be that the ideal pan should be non-stick, slightly abused/well-loved from years of use, and have a releasable bottom. Basically, if you spend enough time reading about angel food cake best-practices, you will probably walk away from your research feeling like if you haven’t been fortunate enough to inherit a pan from your great-grandmother, you’re screwed.

Nordic Ware Angel Food Cake Pan, via Target.com

The only pan I could find – Nordic Ware Angel Food Cake Pan, via Target.com

The argument behind this ideal pan is that an abrasive surface on the sides of the pan will allow the cake to “climb” higher while baking, resulting in a lofty cake and tender crumb. This makes good sense to me, but the material reality of the situation was that the only pan I could find locally was a non-stick, single-piece tube pan. I thought pretty seriously about ordering a more ideal pan for upwards of $40 and then remembered that I am a broke grad student. So I decided that my cake would have to be motivated enough to climb non-stick pan walls. Having a releasable bottom still would have been preferable, but in lieu of that feature, I put a piece of buttered parchment paper at the bottom of the pan. (I can’t locate an exact source, but I’m pretty sure Martha Stewart told me this was an acceptable thing to do.) Once I ran a knife around the edges of the cooled cake, the parchment paper allowed the cake to slide right out of the pan without and problems and the finished cake seemed plenty lofty and light.

My second big decision was to use Ina Garten’s Lemon Angel Food Cake recipe because I generally trust Ina in high-stakes baking situations. The recipe was a very, very good decision and I would highly recommend it. The cake gets it’s lemony flavor from the addition of lemon zest, but I think you could just leave the zest out for a very good traditional angel food cake. Because I was nervous about the cake turning out, I was especially meticulous about following the recipe instructions. If it said to sift something together over and over, I did it. If it said to add something in half-cup increments, you better believe I measured that shit. If it said to beat something for a minute, I timed it. I don’t actually have a sifter, so I sifted everything by passing it through a fine-mesh strainer, which worked out really well. I’m not kidding when I say dealing with egg whites makes me nervous. But my care was rewarded. The resulting cake was awesome. The crumb was just right and the cake had great flavor—I couldn’t believe that I remembered angel food cake as boring and bland. Most importantly, Aidan was pleased. We ended up sharing this cake with four other friends and it received rave reviews from each one.

Half an angel food cake

I also made up a lemon honey yogurt sauce from this Giada de Laurentis recipe to go with the cake—I left it on the side and let people add it if they wanted it. Honestly, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the sauce. The sauce itself was perfectly good but it reminded me of something you might put on top of pancakes or waffles, and I really didn’t think the cake needed anything else. However, everyone else (including Aidan) really liked the sauce and eagerly drizzled it over their cake slices. So when I make this again, I’d probably consider making the sauce as well to have on hand as an option for people.

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Lemon Angel Food Cake (from Ina Garten, original recipe available on Food Network)

  • 2 c sifted superfine sugar, divided
  • 1 1/3 c sifted cake flour
  • 1 1/2 c egg whites (10 to 12 eggs), at room temperature
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp lemon zest (from 2 lemons)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees.
  2. Sift 1/2 c of the sugar together with the flour. Sift the mixture 3 more times.
  3. Beat the egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar in an electric mixer using a whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until medium-firm peaks form. Reduce mixer speed to medium and add remaining 1 1/2 c of sugar by sprinkling it over the egg whites. Continue whisking until the mixture is thick and shiny. Add in vanilla and lemon zest and continue whisking for another minute or so until the mixture is very thick.
  4. Sift a quarter of the flour mixture over the egg white mixture and use a rubber spatula to fold it into the mixture. Continue this process, adding a fourth of the mixture each time, until the flour mixture has been completely incorporated.
  5. Pour the batter evenly into a 10” tube pan (ungreased) and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. It will spring back to the touch when finished baking. Take it out of the oven and invert the cake pan on a cooling rack until completely cool. When cool, gently run a knife around the edge of the cake to help release it from the pan.

Lemon Honey Yogurt Sauce (from Giada deLaurentis, original recipe available on Food Network)

  • 1 c plain yogurt
  • 1/4 c honey
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Directions: Whisk ingredients together until smooth. Drizzle over slices of cake before serving.

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.