My best friend Fern recently gifted me with a big bag of lovely Argentinian lemons. At my godson's wedding, one of the lovely touches were sliced lemons added to the water pitchers on the tables. The lemons I received weren't used at the wedding and Fern knew I'd be happy to use them up by baking. I've wanted to make this recipe from Ina's cookbook, "Barefoot Contessa at Home" for a while, so these lemons were the perfect excuse.
For once, I didn't use my favourite appliance, my big red mixer! This cake only needs two bowls to be made and a little bit of elbow grease. Since I don't buy whole milk, plain yogurt - Ina's recipe ingredient - I used 5% reduced fat sour cream instead. The cake was still moist and flavourful - I'm sure no-one would notice the difference.
Before you start baking it's best to get the lemons to room temp, since it makes both zesting and juicing them much easier. Zest with a fine rasp (my preference) or grater first, then juice the lemons.
1-1/2 cups flour
2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsps grated lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 cup icing (confectioner's) sugar
2 tbsps lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare loaf pan by either spraying with non-stick oil or with butter and flour. If using butter and flour, line bottom of pan with parchment paper for easy removal.
Sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt into one bowl. In another larger bowl, whisk together the sour cream or yogurt, 1 cup of sugar, the eggs, lemon zest and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet mixture. The mixture will look quite lumpy at this point and you'll wonder what you did wrong! With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it's fully incorporated. At first it will look like there's way too much oil, but as you continue to fold the ingredients it will all become incorported and - voila! - the lumps in the batter will disappear. Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for about 50 minutes or until a tester into the cake comes out clean.
Meanwhile combine the last two ingredients - the 1/3 cup sugar and the 1/3 cup lemon juice either by cooking on the stove or very slowly in the microwave. I did mine in a glass measuring cup and it worked perfectly. Cook only until the liquid is clear, so that the sugar is fully melted. Set aside.
When the cake is done, allow to cool in pan for 10 minutes and carefully remove to a baking rack set over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon sugar mixture over the cake and allow to soak in. The help this process, I poked holes over the top of the cake with a toothpick and poured the mixture in stages so that it would soak in slowly.
For the glaze, combine the icing sugar and fresh lemon juice over the cake once it has fully cooled off. If you try this when the cake is still warm, it will look like a puddly, thin mess. What you want is a nice drizzle pattern on the sides of the cake before it's sliced.
The cake got a big thumbs' up from the family and I know I'll making it again!