Lemon Cake

April 8, 2012

Margaux says…

I’ve been on a serious cake baking hiatus lately because I haven’t personally had the appetite for one. I’m 19 weeks pregnant, and sweets are the last thing I’ve been wanting to eat. Plus, I’ve been super tired, so just getting dinner on the table every night has been the extent of my abilities. I’ve really been missing baking, though, so when someone asked me to make a cake for their Easter dinner, I jumped on it.

I wanted to make a bundt cake because they’re a whole lot easier than fancy layer cakes (in my opinion), and right now I still need things to be easy. I’m not one of those pregnant women that gets a huge surge of energy in their second trimester and feels better than they ever have in their life. No way…I’m the opposite. I’m one of those pregnant women that wants to just lay down and sleep for 9 months, and I’m really good at complaining about it as much as possible. Luckily I have a very patient husband. 🙂

This cake, another winner from one of my cooking heroes, Ina Garten, is one of the most lemony and buttery cakes you will ever have. It has a moist pound cake texture, with bright, sweet lemony flavor. It’s pretty easy to make, and is great for company, like all bundt cakes are. I served it with raspberry sorbet, and the flavors were perfect together! It’s also, of course, great with vanilla ice cream.

Lemon Cake
Adapted from ‘Barefoot Contessa Parties!’

Yield: 2 loaf cakes (or one bundt)

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups sugar
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup grated lemon zest (6 to 8 large lemons)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup plus 3 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted.

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 8 1/2-by-4 1/4-by-2 1/2-inch loaf pans, and line the bottoms with parchment paper. If using bundt pan, spray with baking spray with flour JUST before pouring the batter in. This prevents the oil from pooling on the bottom.

2. Cream butter and 2 cups sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Mixing at medium speed, add eggs, one at a time, and lemon zest.

3. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine 1/4 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 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean (I would check at 40 minutes…my cake was done at that point).

4. Combine 1/2 cup sugar with 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan, and cook over low heat until sugar dissolves.

5. When cakes are done, let them cool 10 minutes. Poke holes in the top of the cakes (still in the pan) with a toothpick and spoon about 1/3 of the syrup over the cakes. Let sit for a few minutes. Invert them onto a rack set over a tray, poke with holes, and spoon rest of lemon syrup over cakes. Let cakes cool completely.

6. For glaze, combine confectioners’ sugar and remaining 3 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice in a bowl, mixing with a whisk until smooth. Pour over top of cakes, and allow glaze to drizzle down the sides. If needed, after about 10 minutes, brush more of the glaze that has pooled underneath over the cakes with a pastry brush.

Happy Easter!

Sweet-Spicy Nuts

December 18, 2011

Aunt Suzy says . . .

I learned about this delicious holiday nut recipe from my upstairs neighbor, Krisztina, a few years ago.  I have made them a few times for gifts during the winter holiday season, and they are always a hit.  The bonus is that these nuts are easy and fast, so you can make a bunch of batches quickly.  You have lots of options – for example, I always use a variety of nuts; Krisztina tends to use only pecans.  The original recipe didn’t include any dried fruit, but Krisztina’s addition of dried cranberries really ups the tastiness.  The candied ginger is my addition, and this year I tried it with candied Meyer lemon peel, which I had received as a gift.  Yum!!

Yields 3 Cups

Preheat oven to 350°.  Generously oil a baking sheet.  (I place foil on the baking sheet before oiling)

¼ cup water

¼ cup sugar

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

½ teaspoon ground cardamom

½-1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon cayenne (optional – although not in my book!)

3 cups shelled nuts ( I use a combination of raw pecan halves, raw almonds, raw walnut halves and roasted/unsalted cashews)

½ cup dried cranberries (optional)

¼ cup diced crystallized ginger, candied lemon or candied orange peel (optional)

In a saucepan on medium-high heat, stir together the sugar, water, salt, pepper, cardamom, cinnamon and cayenne and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and stir constantly for a minute, until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture has thickened.  Add the nuts and stir to coat.  Turn the coated nuts onto the prepared baking sheet and spread them out in a single layer.

Bake until browned, 10-15 minutes, stirring once after 5 or 6 minutes.   NOTE:  watch carefully!  I baked them for 12 minutes and they burned.  10 minutes was perfect for me, but your oven might be different.

Allow the nuts to cool, break apart any clumps and then mix in the cranberries and ginger.