It’s lemon season here in northern California and they are plentiful. Here are some of my favorites: lemon chicken, lemon pie, lemon muffins, lemon bars, lemon anything.
I was thinking about lemon cake as I finished listening to the audiobook, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Amy Bender. The author was asked if she had a recipe for Lemon Cake and she did. Here’s what she had to say about her lemon cake and her book:
This is a recipe for lemon cake, similar to the one in my book, but different in some crucial ways. So, the cake in my book is also a lemon cake, but it comes packed with other stuff — the main character, Rose, requests a lemon cake for her ninth birthday, and I liked the idea of her wanting a type of cake that is sweet and sour at once. As soon as she bites in, that cake wakes up a certain new capacity in her, where she can taste the unknown feelings of the chef in the food prepared, and what is normally one of the most lovely and innocent parts of childhood comes packed with complication.
And so begins Rose’s odyssey through the world of food tastes. Her brother’s friend George, a science geek, helped Rose experiment with food and her feelings. He took her to various restaurants, had her taste the food, and tell him what the cooks were feeling when they made the food. Then he asked the cooks what was happening when they were preparing the food. Their answers always matched Rose’s. Rose’s childhood was marred by her strange affliction. The only comfort she found was in manufactured food.
I’m sure most readers of this book have done what I did – tried to guess the cook’s feelings as we tasted various foods. Nothing happened for me, thank goodness. My feelings remained with the ingredients. I decided to try Amy Bender’s Lemon Cake recipe. I sincerely doubted I would feel sad. The result was just the opposite. As you can see, I took the liberty of changing the name of the cake so it tells you how it made me feel.
Happy Lemon Cake
- 10 tablespoons butter, plus a little extra for greasing the pan
- 2½ cups all-purpose flour, plus a little extra for flouring the greased pan
- 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, plus 1 heaping tablespoon if you decide to make syrup
- Grated zest of 1 organic lemon
- 3 large eggs
- ½ cup milk, warmed in a small saucepan
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice (optional)
- Dice the butter and melt it in the microwave at low power.
- Use a pastry brush to grease the bottom and sides of a 10-inch round cake pan with butter. Sprinkle the pan with flour, turn it all around to spread the flour evenly, and tap out any excess.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Sift the sugar into a bowl. Add the lemon zest. Mix the sugar and zest well with your fingers, then whisk in the eggs. When the eggs and sugar are thoroughly combined, whisk in the melted butter and warm milk. Add the flour and baking powder, whisking constantly throughout.
- Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 8 minutes. Lower the heat to 300°F and cook about 40 minutes more. The cake is finished when the blade of a knife inserted in its center comes out dry.
- Remove the finished cake from the oven, unmold it onto a cooling rack, and let cool.
- Just after cooking you can, if you like, use a pastry brush to coat the cake with syrup. Just boil 4 tablespoons water with 1 heaping tablespoon confectioners’ sugar for a couple of minutes. Allow it to cool, then stir in 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Brush the syrup on the still-warm cake.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
It really is a happy cake. I didn’t think it needed frosting at all. I hope you’ll gice it a try with all the fresh lemons available right now.
This post is linked to Weekend Cooking, a weekly feature at Beth Fish Reads. Click the button below and it will take you there.