Hi. I’m back from my hiatus and here to declare that I actually DID finish my dessert-per-week challenge during the month of January. However, I have decided (as has my growing jelly roll) that we will not continue this challenge for the rest of the year… at least on a weekly basis. I do eat dessert of some kind almost daily, but the pressure to make the weekly dessert also creates pressure to eat the fresh, weekly dessert before it goes stale and I just can’t live with that kind of pressure. So, I’ll pop in now and then with my dessert discoveries in a more relaxed manner. Dessert should be relaxing, afterall, right? Indeed.
So the final dessert of January’s challenge was Ina Garten’s Lemon Cake. I will begin by saying that is was a complete success and quite possibly the most yummiest lemoney sweet treat I’ve ever encountered. I made it for a dinner party I had for my beloved NYC friends in which we also celebrated the news of their impending leap into parenthood. So take note here: pregnant ladies like this recipe.
I chose to make Lemon Cake because I was making traditional Chicken Caccitorre with Polenta for dinner, and wanted something with a lighter, refreshing feel for dessert. Now, the last thing this cake is, is light at least in butter and sugar content. But amazingly, it tastes light and finishes a heartier, rich meal quite well. I also served the cake with a spoonful of Haagen Dazs Ginger Ice Cream which added a most delicious creaminess to the cake and a tummy-pleasing finale to a wonderful meal.
Some great things about this recipe: 1) I got to use my new lemon zester. If you do not own a zester, I suggest you get one. Zest is the best. 2) The recipe calls to use loaf pans instead of cake pans which I thought was a little weird, but it actually is much better this way. It is served like a sliced pound cake and makes two loaves. You can serve one and freeze the other, or eat it every day for breakfast until it’s gone like we did.
I highly, highly suggest this recipe. It would be particularly lovely for Easter Brunch.
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Parties!, 2001
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
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.
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. (I did not have the ‘paddle’ attachment and used the flat beater attachment. It worked fine but the paddle would be better.)
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.
Makes 2, 8″ loaves