Lemon in the limelight: taking a break from chocolate

I’m continually surprised at the number of folks here at King Arthur Flour who DON’T immediately reach for the “chocolate-whatever” when we’re serving treats.

I mean, chocolate is so ever-present, so in-your-face. Every restaurant menu has an assortment of chocolate desserts, one of which will inevitably be prefaced by “decadent.” Strolling the cookie aisle at the supermarket brings you from Oreos to Chips Ahoy to Mallomars, Chocolate Pinwheels, and Milano cookies, to name just a few.

And then there’s the whole sub-set of brownies. And hot fudge sundaes. To say nothing of fudge-lovers, and those who insist on chocolate birthday cake every year—and I mean EVERY year. You know who you are.

Still, there are those who actually prefer a good peanut butter cookie or Snickerdoodle to a chocolate chipper. And then there’s the citrus crowd. The lime lovers. The orange-ites. People who appreciate the bright, sassy flavors of these fruits, none the less delicious for their ubiquity.

I recently made a birthday cake for my 88-year-old mother-in-law. She loves chocolate, but claims it upsets her stomach. Last thing I wanted to do was present her a health challenge on her birthday, so I thought about it briefly, and remembered she’d enjoyed the lime cookies I’d brought her last summer. Lemon cake? That should work.

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Surprise! All of her six children, plus 10 grandchildren, made it to her party. The youngest grandchild helped her blow out the candles.

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And the cake verdict? “Delicious. The best lemon cake I’ve ever tasted.” High praise indeed from a woman who’s been cooking, baking, and enjoying food for 88 years!

With Christmas just around the corner, I’ll be making this cake again in a couple of days. My mom always made a birthday cake at Christmas, to remind us that Christmas was in fact a birthday celebration, not just an occasion for opening presents. Thanks, Mom—I’ve never forgotten that lesson. Wish you were here to enjoy a slice of lemon cake with me…

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Thanks to Maida Heatter, doyenne of cakes (and desserts in general), for this recipe. Her East 62nd Street Lemon Cake recipe has clearly been a favorite of mine for years!

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This recipe is simple as simple can be. First, butter, sugar, and salt go into a bowl.

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Beat till smooth…

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…then beat till fluffy.

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Add 4 large eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

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Mix in the baking powder, then slowly and gently add the flour alternately with the milk, stirring to combine. Add the grated lemon rind at the end.

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Spoon the batter into a lightly greased tube pan or bundt-style pan, and put it into a preheated 350°F oven.

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While the cake is baking, stir together lemon juice (FRESH lemon juice) and granulated sugar to make the glaze.

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Here it is, rising nicely.

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When the cake is done, remove it from the oven, and after 5 minutes turn it our of the pan onto a rack.

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Put another rack on top…

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…and flip it right-side-up.

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Here it is, ready to glaze.

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Poke the cake all over with a toothpick or cake tester, so the glaze can seep in more easily.

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Brush the glaze over the cake till it pools on top.

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Like this.

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Let it rest till the glaze mostly soaks in, then brush it again, continuing in this manner till you’ve used up all the glaze.

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Now there’s one lovely, moist lemon cake!

Read, rate, and review (please!) our recipe for Lemon Bliss Cake.

Buy vs. Bake

Buy: Miss Grace Lemon Cake, “hand-dipped in our secret formula lemon glaze,” serves 10-12, $29.95.

Bake at home: Lemon Bliss Cake with lemon glaze, serves 12-16, $5.49

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Sue Joyce

    Saw cake on King Arthur Flour blog. It’s April 3rd and snowing. Could use a nice spring lemon cake. My surprise, it’s my old go to lemon cake recipe from 1978. My Maida Heater’s dessert book is well worn and splashed on. Much like your recipe. One of my best cakes! Made often. Has very much stood the test of time.

    Reply
  2. Suzanne

    This cake was amazing! So moist and lemony! So flavorful! A very tender crumb. Yum! I used the lemon oil that was recommended. I am not use to using granulated sugar (usually use confectioners) for glaze, but it had the right balance of tart lemony deliciousness. The only bad thing, and it was my bad, was that I was feeling lazy and just sprayed Pam in the cake pan instead of greasing the pan. So when it came time for the big reveal – the cake stuck. 🙁 I managed to get it out…in pieces. Poured the glaze on it, and served it anyway! Luckily it was just immediate family. Going to try again next week (because it was that good), and this time prepare the pan properly. 😀

    Reply

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