Although I do not really consider myself much of a cake cook, I do bake cakes – because if you’re going to eat cake, it might as well be homemade. Everyone needs a ‘slam dunk’, great lemon cake in their repertoire and this is mine because it manages to strike the perfect balance between lemony tartness and sweetness.
It’s a great family cake that crosses the generational divide and is beloved by both adults and kids. It also keeps excellently in a tin for up to a week (which is handy) but it also freezes brilliantly which is even handier, so you’ve got even more time to eat it.
This recipe makes two loaf cakes – so you can eat one yourself and give one away or put one in the freezer for one of those long rainy weekends when you can take it out, bake some scones and have and instant tea party. This is a take-anywhere-eat-anytime kind of cake – perfect for the park, the beach or a long, long bush walk; you can eat it for morning tea through to desert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream to jazz it up. How many reasons do you need to bake a cake really, but this cake can travel anywhere – a cake for every season and every occasion.
This is an Ina Garten recipe which I came across via the Smitten Kitchen blog, so it has superstar credentials as far as recipes go. I’ve converted the recipe to metric measurements and because Australian cup measurements are slightly larger than American cups – I use just slightly more butter and add an extra egg. If you want to use the American measurements, you can get the original recipe from here.
Although it can be made as a bundt cake, which is what I did the first time I made it, it’s much more practical to make two loaf cakes. In its loaf form it’s much easier to pour the syrup onto it which makes it a moister cake. The first time I made in its bundt tin and, while it looked gorgeous, it really was a lot of cake and it was a real pain to try and get the syrup into the cake without it just dribbling down the sides into the tray below. In it’s loaf form, it looks humble and nothing special but it really is one of the best cakes I make. The original recipes also calls for a third of a cup of grated lemon zest and I usually don’t have enough lemons, so I usually use less and it’s still perfectly lemony enough.
Ina Garten’s Lemon Cake
Adapted from ‘Smitten Kitchen’ and ‘Barefoot Contessa Parties!’
Makes two loaf tins or one bundt tin.
- 250g unsalted butter, chopped and
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/3 cup grated lemon zest (6–8 large lemons). I usually use a bit less.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ¾ cup buttermilk, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup lemon juice
- 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 3½ tablespoons of lemon juice
- Heat oven to 180°C (350°F). Grease and flour two 20 x 11 x 6cm (8½ x 4¼ x 2½ inch) loaf pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
- Cream butter and 2 cups sugar in the large bowl of an electric mixer for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Mixing at medium speed, add eggs, one at a time, then add lemon zest.
- Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix ¼ cup lemon juice, buttermilk and vanilla.
- Add flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to butter and sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Divide batter evenly between pans, smooth tops, and bake for 45 minutes to one hour or until a cake tester comes out clean.
- For the syrup mix ½ cup sugar with ½ cup lemon juice in a small saucepan, and cook over low heat until sugar dissolves.
- When cakes are done, let them cool 10 minutes. Invert them onto a rack set over a tray, and spoon lemon syrup over cakes. I make some holes with a skewer to allow the maximum amount of syrup to get into the cake, there always seems to be a bit of cracking on top which is also all the better for letting the syrup soak into the cake. Let cakes cool completely, mix together 2 cups of icing sugar and 3 1/2 tablespoons of icing sugar spread over the top of cakes and let drizzle over the sides.