When freshly baked, these cakes have a very soft crumb, a vibrant lemon flavor, and a cakey texture. I froze several loaves (they freeze beautifully) and upon defrosting, the texture was a bit more like a poundcake or loaf bread. They’re absolutely delicious as an indulgent breakfast, or with ice cream for dessert.
This recipe makes two large loaves, but I opted to make one large loaf and three small ones. The minis are a perfect size for snacking, and they’d make an adorable hostess or holiday gift.
I actually defrosed a loaf this week for a quickie dessert. I was making pizzas on the grill (fabulous, by the way, it’s one of my favorite summer rituals) and I threw some fresh nectarines on the grill along with the pizzas. I served the warm nectarines with a slice of lemon cake and a generous helping of leftover chocolate sauce from August’s eclairs experiment. It sounds busy, but it was really phenomenal: the rich chocolate, the fragrant, tart cake, the juicy nectarines–three complex elements merged into one simple dessert. Perfection.
Lemon Tea Cake
For the Cake
- 8 Ounces Unsalted Butter (room temperature)
- 2 Cups Granulated Sugar
- 1/3 Cup Lemon Zest (use a microplane for fine zest)
- 4 Large Eggs (room temperature)
- 3 Cups Unbleached All Purpose Flour
- 1/2 Teaspoon Baking Powder
- 1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
- 1 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
- 1/4 Cup Lemon Juice (fresh squeezed and strained)
- 3/4 Cup Buttermilk (room temperature)
- 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
For the Syrup
- 1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
- 1/2 Cup Lemon Juice (fresh squeezed and strained)
For the Frosting
- 2 Cups Powdered Sugar (sifted)
- 3 Tablespoons Lemon Juice (fresh squeezed and strained)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line with parchment paper two 8 1/2" X 4 1/2" loaf pans. [I used one 9x5 pan and three mini loaf pans.]
Put the 2 cups sugar and the lemon zest in a bowl and rub it between your fingers to release all the lemon oil into the sugar.
Cream the butter and the 2 cups lemon-sugar in the bowl of a 5 quart stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for about 5 minutes, scraping a couple of times. Add the eggs one at a time and beat to incorporate.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine the 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 between the pans. There was about 1 pound 9 ounces batter per pan.
Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when checking. Do not overbake.
While the tea cake is baking combine the 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer until the syrup thickens slightly. Set aside to cool.
When the tea cakes are done remove them from the oven and let them cool for about 15 minutes before inverting them. Poke holes in the bottom of the tea cakes with a thin skewer, then ladle the syrup over the holes to soak in a little. Turn the tea cakes over and ladle the remaining syrup over the tops of the tea cakes. Let cool completely before frosting them.
While the tea cakes are cooling make the frosting. Whisk together the powdered sugar and lemon juice to make a smooth but slightly loose frosting. Pour over the cooled cakes and let sit at room temperature for the frosting to crust over. Cakes can be frozen or refrigerated, simply wrap them tightly in several layers of cling wrap.