Friday, January 04, 2008

A bit of sunshine in the winter: lemon cake

I’ve been looking back through the archives at posts from the very beginning of the blog. They are somewhat dreadful. Some don’t have photographs and others have photographs that are sorely lacking. I didn’t really write much about the dish or the context, mostly just posted the recipe.

When I first started blogging, I did it more to record and organize my recipes and learn about blogging than to really explore and share my culinary experiences. As time went on, I started to really enjoy writing about food and exchanging thoughts and reactions with other bloggers and blog readers. I then really stepped back to think about what it is that I love about food and cooking and realized it’s both the chemistry and art of combining ingredients and creating a dish, and the aesthetics of food that I love: the colors, textures and scale of the dish and the way it is presented at the table. I enjoy art and design as much as I enjoy food, and for me, both are critical to creating something that’s appetizing and memorable. This naturally gave rise to an intense interest in photography, and capturing the beauty in a dish, a table setting, and a scene.

Now that I am approaching blogging with a different angle, I’m going to periodically revisit some of my earlier posts and fill in some of the gaps. The first is one of my favorite go-to cakes, The Barfoot Contessa’s lemon cake. It seems appropriate to revisit this sunny little cake in the midst of winter! This cake is characteristically over-the-top: it’s soaked in a lemon syrup and has a sweet lemon icing on the top. What’s great about it is that given all of the moisture in the cake, it keeps very nicely and is also works pre-sliced and wrapped if you need something that fits that bill. I saw this prepared on one of The Barefoot Contessa’s shows about picnic food, and she prepared and served individually-sized portions of all of her picnic dishes (including the cake) in Chinese takeout cartons – it was a very cute and practical idea.

Lemon cake (From Barefoot Contessa Parties, courtesy of the Food Network)
Yield: 2 (8-inch) loaves

For the cake and lemon syrup
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup grated lemon zest (6 to 8 large lemons)
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the glaze:
2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
3 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 2 (8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch) loaf pans. You may also line the bottom with parchment paper, if desired.
Cream the butter and 2 cups granulated 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.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice, the buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk 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 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. When the cakes are done, allow 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 syrup over them. 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.


Peabody said...

I have often thought about doing that. My blogging beginings are on the dreadful side, especially the photography. Not that mine is fantastic now but it is 100% better than it was. :) I think I will go back and do it.
The lemon cake with the oozy glaze looks great.

JEP said...

This Lemon cake would definitely add some much needed sunshine to these cold winter days. Think I'll add some poppy seeds, too!

Nemmie said...

An absolute favorite recipe of mine, and yours looks gorgeous!

I must admit, I've gone back and replaced a few photos as I re-make dishes and baked goods (bad Nemmie).

Gigi said...

I must admit, I have thought about deleting or updating some of my older posts. They make me cringe. Any whoo, I love this cake! I have made it many times and it always a crowd pleaser.

Sabra said...

I guess we all have a steep learning curve in common! : )
Gigi: it is a crowd pleaser!
jep: great idea about poppy seeds - I never thought of that and bet it would be a very nice touch.
Thanks for visiting Peabody.

Anonymous said...

Oh my, I do love lemon cake! That looks heavenly!

Jenny said...

What beautiful photography of a delicious looking lemon cake. I love Barefoot's recipes. They are all delicious. I will be making this cake soon because of your lovely picture!

Anonymous said...

This looks like a wonderful choice particularly since i love lemon.
Can you add some Cranberry or competing flavor for dual taste?


Anonymous said...

I think it is nice to see the evolution of a blog. It also gives the novice cooks, photogs, and bloggers some perspective. Not everyone starts out with dishes and photos as beautiful as this one. It looks wonderful.

Anonymous said...

I just made Ina's Lemon Yogurt cake last weekend! It's almost exactly the same as this, but uses yogurt instead of buttermilk. I made the mistake of reducing the sugar in my cake - something I always do and it rarely affects the taste negatively. However, I think this cake needed the extra sweetness. Yours looks beautiful! And that icing - YUM! You poured it on thick!

Katia Mangham said...

This is my first time on your blog, and it's beautiful! I know what you mean about blogging- I am still trying to find my way, but do get an enormous amount of satisfaction from it. Thank you for shraing the cake looks delightlful and the buttermilk is a great switct I will have to try.

Anonymous said...

I hope you will make this for me on my next visit to N.Y. Lemon is my all time favorite flavor ( next to chocolate!) Beautiful photo!

test it comm said...

That looks so good. Great photo!

Anonymous said...

This looks so delicious! Great picture!

Helene said...

Now that is sunshine for sure! I love the cake and I am glad you are revisiting it! Happy New Year!

hogger said...

i'm a food blog rookie and i'm so thrilled to see all the barefoot contessa fans out there! all of her recipes are fantastic, including this one, which you have so beautifully photographed. there's nothing i don't love about the b.c. keep the gorgeous pics coming!

Sabra said...

thank guys and thanks for the new visits hogger, miss scarlett, kevin, katia, cedar, nemmie, jep (and Linda? sorry if I left anyone out or mistook you for a first time vistor). Miss Scarlett - the BFC is so often over the top I don't blame your instinct to cut down on the sugar but there's so much lemon in there, in this case, I think it needs it. But I do think it could do without the icing if you want to cut back. Hogger: she's really great, I agree. Thanks very much.

U+Me=Us said...

I was making this in a semi-hurried fashion and put all the lemon juice into the batter instead of reserving some for the glaze! Oh, was short on lemons so i made up for it with some grapefruit. The cake still came out delicious...very sweet, sour and yummy. No glaze here, but the cake with icing was good enough for us! Oh, and i only had one loaf pan so i baked the rest of the batter into mini cupcake molds witch were super cute and addicting! Great recipe, despite my mistakes :)

Anonymous said...

I made this cake this morning. The recipe I found on Food Network has several glitches in it.
It didn't say anything about the lemon juice used for the glaze. It said 3/4 C. lemon juice. 1/4 for the cake and 31/2 tablespoons for the icing. I thought it was a type O and put the rest in the cake. Wrong thing to do. Then it never said what to do with the I/2 cup of sugar. So glad I kept looking for this site. Now maybe I can make the cake that everyone seams to love.

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