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When life hands you lemons, make LEMON BREAD!!!
My mother-in-law lives in Southern California, and has a huge lemon tree growing right outside her kitchen door. If we’re lucky enough to visit during the winter time, her tree becomes laden with massive, juicy lemons. I love to make homemade lemonade while visiting there, and when I get ready to pack up and return to Seattle I stuff as many lemons in my carry on bag as I can!
Besides being a chocoholic, I LOVE the taste of lemon … or citrus of any kind, for that matter. If I cannot have chocolate to satisfy my sweet tooth, the next best thing for me is anything with tart lemon.
Hence this cake, which originates from Ina Garten – aka The Barefoot Contessa. I call it a loaf because it is baked in a bread pan and sliced like bread. Many of Ina’s recipes are great but they can be a bit over the top in terms of butter, sour cream and the like. I actually cut the amount of sugar syrup and sugary lemon glaze with this and I still love the flavors. Ina likes this with lemon curd and raspberries; I am on board with berries but more lemon curd? Not for me!
This is easy to make but be forewarned: it takes a lot of pots and pans and dishes! The recipe that follows is pretty much the same as Ina’s with a few minor changes from yours truly. I usually gift one loaf or even freeze it then take the bread out and serve this dessert when the spirit moves me. I continue to be amazed at how perfect this cake is. Jakey boy says this is one of the best things I make, which is a huge compliment coming from my baby boy.
Ina and Mine-a Lemon Bread
Makes 2 Loaves
- 2 sticks salted butter
- 2 ⅓ cups granulated sugar – divide into 2 cups and ⅓ cup
- 5 large eggs, room temperature
- ⅓ cup grated lemon zest (5 to 8 large lemons) – I grate the zest on my microplane grater
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ~¾ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice – divide 1/4 cup for batter, 1/3 cup for sugar syrup and 3 Tbsp for glaze
- ¾ cup buttermilk (room temperature)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (from the original ¾ cup you squeezed)
Preheat the oven to 350ºF and place the baking rack in the center of the oven. Grease two 8 ½ x 4 ½ inch x 2 ½ inch bread pans. Cut parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pans and press onto the bottoms, then I always grease the top of the parchment too. Truth be told, I use Pam for this task.
Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, cream the butter and two cups granulated sugar on medium high speed for about 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, one at a time, and the lemon zest.
Stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl. In a one cup glass pyrex measuring cup combine ¼ cup lemon juice, the buttermilk and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans, smooth the tops with a kitchen knife, and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until a cake tester comes out clean. (My loaves took 45 minutes.)
Combine ⅓ cup granulated sugar with ⅓ cup lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves and makes a syrup. When the cakes are done, let them cool for 10 minutes, shake them gently to loosen the sides and invert them, top side up, onto a rack set over parchment paper. If they don’t easily release from the bread pans, run a knife around the edges. Poke the top of the loaves all over with a toothpick and brush the lemon syrup over the cakes. Allow time for the syrup to absorb so you use all the sugar syrup. Allow the cakes to cool completely.
For the glaze, combine the powdered sugar and lemon juice in a bowl, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth. Slowly pour over the top of the cooled cakes and allow the glaze to drizzle down the sides. I always smooth the topping all over too. Again you have to go slowly to use all the mixture although some will drip off the cake and onto the parchment. Let the glaze harden, (I refrigerate the cakes for a few minutes to help it along) wrap the loaves in foil and freeze one loaf or gift it to someone very special!