When I ran across this recipe at King Arthur Flour, called Lemon Bliss, and saw that it had a five-star rating from 98 respondents, well, I knew I had to give it a try. However, I was having serious saturated fat guilt after seeing that the recipe called for one cup of butter. I mean, this is late spring/early summer and I'm sure I'm not the only one still trying to figure out where those few extra winter pounds came from and what the heck am I going to do with them. So, in typical Luv'n Spoonfuls fashion, I performed some cosmetic surgery and loved this recipe up just a bit. The result...beyond blissful. If I told you I've made three cakes in one week, would you believe me or need more of a testimonial? Yes, it's that good. Now, go break out your lemons.
In many cases (such as with saturated fat), I believe less is more, but not when it comes to citrus. I amped up the lemon zest and lemon flavor here to make things a little more bodacious. I wanted the single note in this recipe to not only sing but down right scream 'lemons!!!' This is the kind of cake Mozart would have composed (if he had been into that kind of thing)...a sassy, brilliant, beautiful and dazzling experience for all the senses.
I suppose a good pseudonym for this cake would be Patience Cake as the house is filled with the hypnotic fragrance of lemony goodness as it bakes and cools-- a strong will is necessary to refrain from diving right in before it has sufficiently cooled. Holes are poked all over the cake after baking and a light lemon glaze is brushed on while it is still warm. The glaze is slowly absorbed by the cake as it cools, adding another note to the chorus of citrus.
The original recipe called for either lemon zest or lemon extract in the batter--I opted for both, making inaugural use of a unique product I discovered called Fiori di Sicilia (also a King Arthur product, but I swear this isn't a paid endorsement, just coinkidink, honest). The Fiori di Sicilia is made up of several citrus flavors and vanilla, but plain lemon extract would work just fine. The level of tang can be adjusted to taste. Sample the batter and let your personal citrus meter be your guide.
According to the King Arthur website, the inspiration behind their recipe originally came from Maida Heatter. I found it on page 126 of my Maida Heatter's Book of Great Desserts, the East 62nd Street Lemon Cake. The K.A. recipe appears to come directly from the book with some slight variations in method. A couple of other changes I made: I boiled the glaze to dissolve the sugar and had to let my cake rest longer in the pan than called for in the original recipes. I found that I had better luck with a longer cooling period of 15 to 20 minutes.
I substituted in some Greek yogurt for half of the butter and also experimented with using one cup almond meal for part of the flour, both of which added some delicate moisture to the cake. The resulting crumb is dense but not heavy. You can use all flour instead of using the almond meal, but I wanted to mix things up a bit and felt that the delicate flavor of the almond meal would compliment the lemon flavors nicely. I have also made the cake with all flour, which is just as delicious. I think the almond version wins by just a nose...the texture is slightly more delicate and seems to absorb the lemon glaze a little more readily. Not much other final bling is necessary, just some powdered sugar or some lemon or mint flavored whipped cream.
According to some history provided by Maida, her cake recipe has been reprinted in Saveur and the New York Times, and is loved by many. If I was on chummy terms with Maida, I would say 'thank you, Captain Obvious,' but I'm not, so to Maida I respectfully say a simple 'merci...beaucoup', you lemon goddess you. I think you and Mozart must have a lot in common, and although I'm a big fan of Amadeaus, right now I'm lovin' you a whole lot more.
Lemon Pound Cake:
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp salt
4 large eggs, preferable organic
2 tsp baking powder
3 cups unbleached all purpose flour, or 2 cups flour and 1 cup almond meal
1 cup milk
finely grated zest of 3 medium or 2 large lemons
1/2 to 3/4 tsp lemon extract or fiori di Sicilia
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice from the zested lemons
3/4 cup sugar, preferably natural
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Beat together the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until mixed thoroughly. Add the yogurt and salt and beat on medium for two minutes until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl and paddle, mixing well after each addition. Add the baking powder, then add the flour alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix until smooth, and don't forget to scrape down the paddle and bowl throughout the process. Stir in the lemon zest and extract. Pour into a well greased 10-cup capacity Bundt pan or equivalent pan or pans of choice. Bake for approximately 55 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.
While the cake is baking, combine the glaze ingredients in a small saucepan and slowly bring to the boil. Boil just until the sugar is dissolved, then set aside to cool.
When the cake is done, cool for 15 to 20 minutes in the pan. Gently pull the edges of the cake away from the sides of the pan with your fingers; don't forget to try to loosen the cake surrounding the center tube. Place a the cooling rack over the top of the cake and invert, gently shaking the pan if necessary. If it seems like the cake won't budge, let it rest another 5 minutes and repeat the process. Poke the hot cake all over with a wooden skewer or toothpick. Place some wax paper underneath the cake and rack. Then brush the cooled glaze all over the cake until all the glaze is used. Let the cake cool completely and transfer to a serving plate. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, whipped cream or garnish of choice.