did i mention that i love to bake? i do. specifically desserts, but if it goes in the oven, i’m game. last year, for my aunt’s birthday, she asked me to bake her a cake.
“just a lemon cake. a plain lemon cake. you can just buy the box kind and make it. it doesn’t need to be ‘gourmet’ or fancy. you know how you are. no peel or anything like that in it(she meant zest). just a plain lemon cake.”
if you know me, you know that i have no problem buying and using boxed cake mixes and frostings. they are predictable and almost (yes, almost) foolproof. simply follow the directions adding this and that, bake and Viola! cake! i prefer to use them when i am working with large numbers of servings. dealing with homemade recipes can become difficult when multiplying. the most i will duplicate any recipe is tripled. after that, the percentages and consistency become compromised and the end result is not what you anticipated, expected or wanted. fail. but in this case, for my aunt’s birthday, it was one cake for one person. a box? again, i say: puh-shaaaaww! as if!
i took the next week to locate, research and compare lemon cake recipes. i look for recipes that require ingredients. not mixes of this or that. i enjoy the process so much that i refuse to short myself. as well, cake that is made with a list of ingredients is simply superior in every way. at the close of the week, i had chosen my recipe: lemon cake by Ina Garten. say whaaaaaaaat? that’s the barefoot contessa! yes, imma go with HER recipe. from the notes, a photo of the cake had been published in her cookbook prompting many readers to request the recipe. yes, that’s the recipe for me. peel, ummmm.. i mean, zest and all.
the recipe called for lemon cake, drenched in lemon syrup and then drizzled with lemon glaze. i know, right? sounds delicious. i read the recipe over and over. i don’t like to try new procedures on my first run through a recipe. i’ve made cake, i’ve made syrup and i have made glaze. SCORE!
i made that cake and it was a hit. my aunt had only the first bite in her mouth and i heard:
“mmm. mmmmmm. mmmph! that’s good. that’s goooood.”
SCORE!! i made the cake again and it was so so good that i couldn’t not share it (and a few of my baking tips) with you. before we get into the specifics of this particular recipe, here are a few of baking tips:
bsb’s baking tips (1 – 7):
tip 1: clean up, before you mess up. simple. start with a clean kitchen (and some fresh, warm dishwater).
tip 2: read the recipe! read the whole thing from start to finish. don’t skip anything, don’t omit anything and for pete’s sake, DON’T ADD ANYTHING (until you have mastered the recipe and you OWN it and can make it flawlessly). read it and understand it.
tip 3: never, NEVER try a new procedure, new recipe or new flavor at crunch time. you don’t want to botch the procedure due to inexperience. you don’t want to get lost in the recipe if it’s your first time and you don’t want to make something that you don’t like or doesn’t taste right when it’s your time to shine! bake with pride! if you want to do new things, try new things and mix and match flavors, by all means, do it, but do not do it the night before. or, as i have many times, you will be sitting on the kitchen floor, covered in ingredients and tears trying to figure out how you’re going to pull it all together before you’re due to deliver. trust me on this.
tip 4: there’s nothing more agitating that being knee-deep in a baking project and having to stop and look for a gadget, tool or ingredient. be sure to pull everything that you know you will need.
tip 5: measure out your ingredients. dry ingredients first, so you don’t have to wash and dry your measuring utensils before continuing.
tip 6: if at all possible, test your oven. make sure that 375-degrees is actually 375 and not 325 or you will be excruciatingly surprised.
tip 7: i don’t believe in margarine. i believe in BUTTER. real butter. Grade AA butter. if i don’t have butter, i don’t bake. you do what you feel is best for you, just know that i always always always use butter.
if you follow those tips for this recipe, or any recipe, you will be prepared and delighted when your masterpiece is complete. except, for the butter thing. that is more of a preference. just know that when you vary ingredients you are changing the final outcome.
and noooooow (drumroll, please)… here is the recipe for Lemon Cake by Ina Garten (<—– did i mention that’s the Barefoot Contessa!?)…
- 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. (i got the lemons from my neighbor and wanted to share the ‘labor of their fruit’ with them, so i went with mini bundt 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.
and now (another drumroll, please) TA-daaaaaaaaaaaa!
(i know that last picture is a little on the fuzzy side… i was working with my cell phone, but wanted to show some detail… ).
note: there is no rhyme or reason to why this is “baking blog: 1” other than:
- it’s the most recent baked good that i’ve made.
- i really enjoy making and sharing it.
- i was really happy and proud with the final product.
- i wanted to blog about baking.
i hope you get the chance to try it! you won’t regret it. let me know how it turns out for you and if my tips were any help at all. until next time… Stay Sweet!