I can’t stop eating this cake. It’s light, yet moist, and intensely lemony—which is unusual in a lemon cake and what makes this one outstanding.
And I kind of stumbled upon it by accident.
Earlier this week, my husband had a function to attend that required baked goods. Since I had a big ol’ bag of cranberries in the fridge that needed to be used or frozen, I decided to make cranberry bread. I tripled the recipe (we looooooove cranberry bread and I’ll over-make it so we have several loaves in the freezer to pull out when we have a hankering but don’t feel like baking or need a quick baked good to share) but over-guestimated how many bread pans I’d need.
So I had one greased and floured pan with nothing to go in it, and rather than just washing it, I went in search of something else to make.
And lemon cake popped into my head. I looooooove lemon desserts. Like LOVE love. But lemon cake has never been a big winner for me because it’s never lemony ENOUGH. Even so, I did a quick search, because I thought that might be a lovely treat for my husband to take with him—a sweet bread with a pretty glaze dripping over the edges.
And when I saw this recipe, I was intrigued. The secret to its lemony goodness—its intense lemon flavor, HUZZAH!—is a lemon syrup that you make and let soak into the cake. And, oh MY, but it makes every difference in the world. Half lemon juice, half sugar, it is tart and sweet and absolute lemony perfection.
And itmakesthis cake.
Now, this cake is not healthy (but really, what cake is?). It is chock full of sugar and butter, which, if you’ve been around these parts for a while, you may have noticed we have an affection for such things. And before you even start to think about cutting down the sugar in it, I have to tell you that I saw at least one crazy-pants comment on the original recipe where they said they skipped the lemon syrup, and it turned out just fine.
Yes, they skipped the SECRET to this cake’s greatness.
Do NOT skip the lemon syrup. I REPEAT. DO NOT SKIP THE LEMON SYRUP. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it makes this cake. Without it, this cake is just your everyday, run-of-the-mill lack-luster lemon cake. I mean, it wouldn’t be a bad cake without it, but it won’t beextraordinary.
Be extraordinary when you bake this—I beg of you! You will thank me. And everyone you share it with will thank YOU.
I made barely any changes from the original recipe, but did use bottled lemon juice rather than fresh, and did make one method change that made a huge difference. After the cake (or bread loaves—you can bake it either way) has baked and cooled for about 10 minutes, poke holes in it, then spoon or brush the lemon glaze onto the cake. Those holes will help get more of the syrup into the body of the cake, ensuring that you get a bit of intense lemon flavor in almost every heavenly bite.
Have I mentioned yet that I can’t stop eating this cake? It’s delicious slightly warm (because who can wait for it to completely cool? Not this girl), it’s delicious the next day and the day after that, too (if it lasts that long). It is sooooooooo good I want to eat this everyday forevermore. I would eat this with a fox, I would eat it in a box. I would eat it with a mouse, I would eat it in a house. I would eat it here and there—I would eat it ANYWHERE.
I love this cake, y’all. And you will, too.
For the cake:
- 1cupunsalted butter, softened
- 2cupsgranulated sugar
- 1Tablespoondried grated lemon zest(1/3 cup fresh)
- 3cupsall purpose flour
- 1/2teaspoonbaking powder
- 1/2teaspoonbaking soda
- 1/4cuplemon juice
- 3/4cupbuttermilk or sour milk(sour milk = 3/4 cup milk + 1 tsp lemon juice or vinegar, let it sit for 5 minutes)
For the syrup:
- 1/2cuplemon juice
- 1/2cupgranulated sugar
For the glaze:
- 1cupconfectioners' sugar
- 1 1/2tablespoonslemon juice
Preheat oven to 350 F/177 C. Grease and flour a Bundt pan or two bread loaf pans.
Cream the butter and sugar in your mixer for about 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the lemon zest and eggs, one at a time, mixing well in between each addition.
Combine lemon juice, buttermilk (or sour milk), and vanilla. Add one cup of the flour, plus the salt, baking powder and baking soda, to the bowl of the mixer, then add half of the milk mixture. Mix in another cup of flour, and then the rest of the liquid ingredients. Then mix in the last cup of flour.
Pour batter into the prepared pan(s) and smooth the top. Bake at 350 F/177 C for 45-60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
While the cake is baking, make the lemon syrup. Combine the sugar and lemon juice in a small pan and heat over low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Set aside until the cake is done.
Allow cake to cool for about 10 minutes, then use a toothpick or small skewer to poke holes in the top of the cake (if you're using a Bundt pan, you'll be poking holes in the bottom of the cake, since that's the end that's facing up). Then spoon or brush the syrup over the holes while the cake is still in the pan. Place a plate on the top of the Bundt pan, and flip the cake pan and plate over to remove the cake from the pan. Brush any leftover syrup over the top of the cake, then let it cool completely.
For bread loaves, brush the syrup equally over the tops of the two loaves while they're still in the pans. Then turn them out of their pans and allow them to cool before glazing.
Once the cake is cool, mix the confectioners' sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl. Drizzle over the top of the cake or breads, allowing it to drip down the sides.