Recently, Millie and I made pound cake. Millie has a group she bakes with once a week. Each week one kid picks a recipe, and teaches everyone how to make it. This last Sunday the recipe was pound cake. I don’t think I’ve ever made pound cake. And I don’t think I was ever really crazy about pound cake. It seemed like an afterthought… “We don’t have dessert, but we do have this pound cake…” But I have to admit, there is something homey and comforting about the idea of pound cake. And if ever we all need some comfort, it is now.
So I became a bit obsessed with pound cake, and I started imagining a certain kind of pound cake…what I might do differently… this happens to me a lot. What I wanted was a dreamy, velvety pound cake with a pronounced lemon flavor. So I began to do some research, and found a recipe from Bon Appétit by Lauren Schaefer that looked like just the thing.
Although the cake was darn near perfection, both Millie and I agreed, the cake flavor, although yummy, needed a bit more lemon oomph, and I felt that the cake was almost, dare I say it, too fluffy? It is a pound cake after all. So I tweaked the recipe a teeny bit, doubling the amount of lemon zest for more lemon zinginess, reducing the amount of baking powder to reduce the fluffiness (forgive me), and adding a bit more salt, to enhance the overall flavor. The result was just what I was looking for. The cake has a velvety texture, great lemon flavor, and I got the quintessential volcano running along the top of the loaf, which didn’t happen with the original recipe.
Lemon Pound Cake
(Adapted from Lauren Schaefer’s recipe)
- 4 lemons
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
- 3 eggs at room temperature
- 1 3/4 cups (8 ounces) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 scant teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
- 6 Tablespoons (3 fluid ounces) whole milk at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (for the glaze)
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- Butter an 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pan. Line pan lengthwise with parchment paper, leaving a 2″ overhang on both sides.
- Using a Microplane (this is the fine grater that I normally use to grate Parmesan cheese), grate the zest of 4 lemons into your mixing bowl. Juice the lemons and set aside.
- Add 1 cup sugar and 1 cup room temperature unsalted butter to your mixing bowl, and cream together with the zest on high speed for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture is light and fluffy. If you are using a stand mixer, you might need less than 5 minutes.
- Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well and scraping down the side of the bowl as necessary. Continue to beat for another minute or two until the mixture is fluffy.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. If you want to go crazy, sift these ingredients together.
- Add half of the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and combine on low speed just until the flour is incorporated.
- Add the milk and mix on low speed just until incorporated.
- Add the rest of the flour mixture and mix on low speed, yep, you got it, just until the flour is incorporated. Using a rubber spatula, swipe around the edge of the bowl quickly once or twice, making sure that everything is uniform and well mixed. Do not over-mix!
- Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and smooth the top with the rubber spatula.
- Place in preheated 350° oven on middle rack and bake for 45 to 55 minutes. I like to rotate the pan at about 25 minutes into the baking. Start to test for doneness (is that a word?) at 40 minutes by sticking a toothpick in the center. Mine takes about 50 minutes, but all ovens are different. Toothpick should come out clean when cake is ready… might have a crumb or two on it, but no wet batter.
- While cake is baking, make the glaze by mixing 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar with lemon juice until it reaches the consistency you like. Start with two tablespoons of lemon juice, and add little by little after that. Set glaze aside. Keep the remaining lemon juice handy.
- When cake is done, place the cake (still in its pan) on a cooling rack and let cool for ten minutes. After ten minutes, poke holes in the cake using a wooden skewer, and brush the cake top with the freshly squeezed lemon juice (NOT THE GLAZE). If you want more lemon zinginess, pull the cake out of the pan and brush the sides and bottom of the cake with more lemon juice, but do not turn the cake upside down. Place it back in its pan and let it cool completely.
- When cake is completely cool, drizzle or spoon glaze over the top. Let glaze set for at least ten minutes before serving. This cake is even better the next day, if you can wait that long.
Note: A nice variation of this cake is an orange fennel poppy seed cake. Use orange zest instead of lemon zest, and orange juice instead of lemon juice (I use one large navel orange). Add about 3 tablespoons poppy seeds and 1/2 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds to the dry ingredients.
Below I will include pictures of the process.