While my folks are up in Boulder for the week (boy am I jealous) I have to get back to reality for just a bit. That means work and, dare I say it, other responsibilities. I serve on the executive board for my sorority’s Denver area alumnae association, and tonight is our annual meeting. This is the day we get numerous members together, along with prospective new members, discuss the current status of the group and decide on any changes we want to make for the year ahead. We also bring items to provide for this year’s Panhellenic (the overarching body of traditional sorority chapters) philanthropy, Newborns in Need. It’s a bit like a “baby shower,” except we don’t know who the mothers are. Ladies bring diapers, clothing, toys and other necessities. It helps that it’s in April, so the theme totally works.
Now that is all well and good, but the best part about the meeting is the potluck. You have amazing women from all generations, walks of life, and coming from all parts of the country coming together with some of their favorite dishes. It’s always bound to be delectable. I, being the novice baker that I am (or claim to be), signed up to bring dessert. I was tired of heavy, wintery desserts, so I looked in my fridge and noticed I had a large quantity of lemons. Something citrusy was in order, so as per usual, I sought out advice from my all-time fav, Ina Garten, aka the Barefoot Contessa. My selection is by no means health conscious, but boy is it delicious. Besides, it’s fun to splurge every now and then (it’s all about moderation folks). So I decided to make Ina Garten’s incredibly heavenly Lemon Cake.
½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 ½ cups granulated sugar, divided (I prefer Baker’s Sugar as it combines more evenly, and it dissolves more easily for the lemon simple syrup)
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup grated lemon zest (6 to 8 large lemons)
3 cups flour (again, for high altitude baking I use Hungarian High Altitude Flour)
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
¾ cup buttermilk, at room temperature (I substituted heavy cream, as it was what I had in my fridge – both work)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the glaze:
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
3 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 350º F. Grease and flour, or use Bak-Klene ZT Nonstick Baking Spray (works like a dream!), 2 (8 ½ by 4 ¼ by 2 ½ -inch) loaf pans. You may also line the bottom with parchment paper, if desired.
Cream the butter and 2 cups of sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, and the lemon zest.
Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine ¼ cup of the lemon juice, the buttermilk/heavy cream, and vanilla. Add the flour and milk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide the batter evenly between the pans, smooth the tops, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.
Combine ½ cup sugar with ½ cup lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. When the cakes are done, allow them to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans and set them on a rack set over a tray or sheet pan; spoon the lemon simple syrup over them (because I needed to transport mine, I kept them in the pans and drizzled the syrup and glaze over them while in the pan). Allow the cakes to cool completely.
For the glaze, combine the confectioners’ sugar and the lemon juice in a bowl, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth. Pour over the tops of the cakes and allow the glaze to drizzle down the sides. Enjoy!
What are your favorite lemony recipes? Who inspires you when it’s time to work wonders in the kitchen? What is your go-to when it comes to baking?