I’m attracted to recipes for a lot of different reasons. Sometimes it’s a certain ingredient that I’ve been itching to use. Sometimes it’s a slew of ingredients (a.k.a. whatever foods in my refrigerator need to be eaten ASAP) that convinces me to try something new. And sometimes it’s a new method of preparation that lures me in. Yesterday, however, it was the story of a lemon that wooed my kitchen time. Nine lemons actually.
While flipping through my NYT cookbook last week, I came across this recipe for lemon cake. The word lemon was enough to catch my eye (Jared and I are fans of pretty much lemon anything), but after reading through the ingredients, I was swooning with citrus goodness. Among the recipe’s three components — the cake, the syrup and the glaze — at least eight lemons were needed. Eight lemons!?! In one cake!?! One lemon equals happy. Eight lemons equals bliss.
As it turned out, after zesting and juicing eight large lemons, I was still a little short on juice to finish the lemon glaze. So that’s where lemon No. 9 came in. When we were trying out the cake last night, Jared asked me how many pieces the cake made. “I don’t know,” I said. “Maybe 16 or 18?”
“That’s at least a half a lemon per piece,” he replied. Wowza.
From The Essential New York Times Cookbook (Amanda Hesser, p. 781-782)
For the cake:
• 3 cups all-purpose flour
• ½ teaspoon baking powder
• ½ teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt
• 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
• 2 cups sugar
• 4 extra-large eggs
• 1/3 cup grated lemon zest (from 6 to 8 large lemons)
• ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
• ¾ cup buttermilk, at room temperature
• 1 teaspoon vanilla
For the lemon syrup:
• ½ cup sugar
• ½ cup fresh lemon juice
For the lemon glaze:
• 2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
• 3 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two standard loaf pans (or two 8-inch cake rounds), and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Beat the butter and sugar in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Mixing at medium speed, add one egg at a time, then the lemon zest.
Combine the lemon juice, buttermilk and vanilla in a bowl. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the butter and sugar, starting and ending with the flour.
Divide the batter evenly between the pans, and smooth the tops. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until a cake tester comes out clean. (Note: If you’re using the 8-inch cake rounds, baking should take about 35 minutes).
In the meantime, to make the lemon syrup, combine the sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan, and cook over low heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat.
When the cakes are done, let them cool for 10 minutes, then remove the parchment and invert them onto a rack set over a tray. Spoon the lemon syrup over the cakes, then let them cool completely. (Note: Again, if you’re using the round pans instead of the loaf pans and you plan on stacking them, pour the syrup on the tops of each layer, keeping in mind how you’ll stack them).
To make the glaze, combine the confectioner’s sugar and lemon juice in a bowl, mixing with a whisk until smooth. Pour over the top of the cakes, and allow the glaze to dribble down the size (because I was stacking my cakes, I poured half the glaze on the bottom layer and let it dribble down the side, then stacked the second layer on top and poured the rest of the glaze over that).
This is seriously the moistest, lemoniest cake on the planet. Think of it as sunshine in cake form. Yep, it’s sunshine cake.
What recipes have you been cooking up lately? Any recipes that call for an insane amount of a particular ingredient? And what attracts you to a recipe in the first place?