…because you can never have too much lemon in a dessert.
Little motivates me more than a dessert that should have been better than it was. It wasn’t even a complicated cake, just a lemon pound cake “un cake au citron” that a friend bought for afternoon tea. She presented it to me proudly, saying it came from a very good patisserie near Dinan (about 30 miles away). The loaf looked luscious, with a glistening domed top (from a lemon syrup) and near-perfect browning. Then I sliced off a piece—or what would have been a piece if it hadn’t crumbled into a tasty but unpresentable mess.
My friends face fell. I tried to find things to say to make her feel better.
—I’m sure it tastes good!
—It must be really fresh!
—Maybe my knife isn’t sharp enough.
But we both knew the cake was a massive disappointment.
(–I can do better than THAT, I grumbled to myself as I went to get forks. There was no way we were going to eat the cake with our fingers.)
And I did. I took a tea cake recipe that I knew to be firm and fine-crumbed, added lashings of lemon zest, added more lemony flavor with some buttermilk , then soaked the baked loaf in a lemon-drop tart lemon syrup. I’m so in love with the results that I’m thinking of making mini lemon cakes for Christmas gifts. For now, though, I’m happy just to eat a slice (a real slice!) with this afternoon’s cup of tea.
2 cups (250 g.) all-purpose flour
2 ½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
fine zest of 1 lemon (about 2 tsp.)
¼ cup (2 oz./60 g.) butter, softened
1 cup (200 g.) sugar
1 cup (225 ml.) buttermilk or 1 cup milk mixed with 1 Tbs. vinegar or lemon juice
½ cup (60 g.) confectioners’ sugar
6 Tbs. (75 ml.) lemon juice
FOR THE CAKE: PREHEAT the oven to 350˚F/180˚C. Cut a piece of parchment paper to cover the bottom and up the long sides of a loaf pan, leaving at least 2 inches overhang on the sides. (This will make it easier to unmold the moist cake from the pan.) Brush the bottom and sides of the pan with melted butter, press the parchment paper on the bottom and sides of the pan, then brush the parchment with melted butter as well.
WHISK together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Zest the lemon rind directly into the flour, and whisk to combine. (This lets the flour mixture absorb all the lemon zest’s essential oils.)
CREAM the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Alternate adding the buttermilk and the flour mixture, beating after each addition, until you have a smooth batter.
POUR the batter into the prepared pan, and bake 45 to 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
FOR THE GLAZE: WHISK together the sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil.
POKE the cake all over with a skewer when it comes out of the oven. Brush the cake several times with the glaze until it has all soaked in. Cool the cake in the pan. Unmold, **slice**, and serve.