Lemon loaf cake
Lemon loaf cake made from fresh, spring lemons.
Now that we've "sprung forward," I'm switching gears temporarily to lemon, which always struck me as a spring and summertime dessert flavor even though I seem to get much of my fresh lemons from friends' lemon trees in the winter. My mom bought me a lemon tree that I planted in my backyard a couple of months ago. Anyone who knows me knows I have the world's worst green thumb. Plants see me coming and shudder in horror at the havoc they sense I can wreak. I over water. I under water. I neglect. I hover. And I am inept at gardening. At my last house, I had my entire backyard paved over so I wouldn't have to deal with it and I spurned suggestions of having potted plants on the patio. No sense endangering flora or fauna at my hands.
At my current house though, I decided to take a stab at growing a lemon tree. I'm thinking ahead to future lemon bars, lemon cakes, lemon cookies and such. And maybe I can break the curse of being a plant killer. It was touch and go initially with my lemon tree when I first planted it. My mom supplied me with all the accoutrements: tree, potting soil, shovel, little spade and instructions. I followed them to what I thought was the letter – planted it in a corner of the yard that got the most sun and was higher than the rest of the backyard so the water would flow down and not bog it when it rained, mix in the potting soil so it could have some nutrients, dig a little moat around it so when I do water it, the water would seep down to the roots, etc. I mostly got it right. When my mom came by later to inspect my handiwork, she didn't think I had dug the hole deep enough or used enough potting soil. Sigh.
The Pastry Chef’s Baking
Carol Ramos trained to be a pastry chef at the Culinary Institute of America and has her certification in baking and pastry arts, but she has never baked professionally. Baking is just something she loves to do. Her blog chronicles her baking odyssey as she tests out different recipes. Her goals are to share her love of baking and convert people into becoming bakers, one dessert at a time.
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Nevertheless, the lemon tree seems to have adapted well enough. We did have a cold snap where I thought it would die and (at my mom's advice), I covered it with a plastic tarp to keep it from freezing. The initial buds looked like they were going to turn black and wither because it was so cold and some of the leaves did turn brown and fall off (you can see some of the light brown on the leaves that "recovered" from the cold snap). But the weather's been warming up and it looks like new growth is coming from the tree. So yeay, I haven't killed it yet. Although the deluge of rain we've had in the past few days and more of it promised for next week makes it look like my lemon tree is temporarily drowning. Which I'm going to chalk up as "not my fault." That's usually my mantra with plants.
So that's my incredibly long lead-in to this recipe for lemon loaf. The lemons from this didn't come from my tree since my tree isn't even really blossoming yet but they did come from a church friend's lemon tree. And hopefully I'll be able to use my own lemons some day for this recipe and others like it.
I only made a half recipe since I only needed one loaf, not two. I poured the batter into mini loaves since they're cuter, easier to give away, slice, and eat and because my mini loaf pans are newer and bake better than my older, regular-size loaf pans. If you read the directions closely, you'll see it calls for a lot of beating and mixing as the flour is added to the batter. Normally I'm not a believer in mixing the batter a lot once the flour is added since you don't want to develop the gluten and make the cake tough but in this case, since it uses cake flour instead of all-purpose flour, the additional mixing aids the cake in getting aerated and there's less worry about having a tough texture or crumb. Cake flour is softer than all-purpose flour with less gluten to develop. Still, I didn't follow the instructions exactly to let it beat for so long. Old habits die hard, cake flour or not.
If you like lemon, don't be afraid to get generous with the lemon zest that gets added to the batter. Although a lot of the lemon flavor will come from the glaze/lemon syrup you brush on after the cakes are baked, the zest also adds flavor from within the cake itself. When you zest, just be careful you're only getting the outer, yellow part of the lemon and not the white pith underneath. A microplane zester is fantastic for zesting.
On the glaze, glazing can be a bit tricky. This is actually more of a thick soaking syrup than what you'd picture a typical glaze to be. It's meant to flavor the cake so you don't want to pour it all at once. Do an initial brush of glaze all over each cake, let it sit for a few minutes to absorb, then brush again. How much you use depends on your flavor preference for a strong or a light lemon flavor. I don't like it too strong so I hardly ever end up using all of the glaze. But don't use too light either or you won't end up with a very lemony cake. Overall, I like this cake. I tried a taste test when it was just the slightest bit lukewarm. It wasn't too lemony for me and the cake texture was soft and fluffy, lighter than a pound cake but not airy like a sponge cake. In essence, it was the perfect cakey texture. The rest of the taste test piece was actually pretty good at room temperature as well. You can taste the lemon and savor the texture even more then.
Lemon Loaf Cake
From "The Golden Pear Cafe Cookbook" by Keith E. Davis