Lemoniest Little Lemon Cake….or Not

 

Lemon lulu cake, by Mother Myrick’s in Manchester, Vermont, has been the unanimous choice for lemon cake among my family and friends for as long as I can remember. Lemon lulu is the bakery’s signature cake that can be mail-ordered anywhere in the world. I bought this cake more than I’ve bought any other cakes, for birthdays and dinner parties, for a singular reason: it has the most intense lemon flavor that I’m willing to pay good money for. Besides, it is light, moist and divine. We never have enough of it.

Over the years, I’ve tried baking an acceptable version of this cake. The closest I’ve come across is a lemon bundt cake recipe by Matt Lewis published by Food and Wine (F&W) magazine in 2012. It is a classic sort of “quatre-quarts” pound cake, but with less egg, like most bundt cakes. What stands out about F&W recipe is the amount of lemon zest. A third of a cup lightly packed zest from ten lemons, wait there is more, and lemon extract. The over-the-top lemon goodness set this cake apart as the lemoniest cake I’ve ever made in my kitchen. A friend of mine requested this cake for her birthday. No doubt, this is a winning recipe, safely tucked away on my hard drive. Still this is not the lemon lulu cake. Getting closer…

I can’t be more excited about baking what Christina Marsigliese from Scientifically Sweet (SS) proclaimed to be a perfect and the lemoniest loaf she has ever made, in the March challenge for ABC bakers. I followed the recipe with a few changes as well as with great expectation:

• Replaced 50% of all-purpose flour with white whole-wheat pastry flour
• Used 1/3 cup of finely grated zest from 10 Meyer lemons instead of 1 tbsp
• Baked the batter in two small bundt pans for 25 minutes, instead of a 9×5 rectangular pan
• Drizzled lemon syrup (made from equal weight of lemon juice and granulated sugar) on the cakes after 15-minute cooling, for extra lemon flavor

The SS recipe was easy to follow. The foaming technique: aerating the egg and sugar mixture by beating it more than five minutes until almost white, was similar to that used for a sponge cake. It probably helped build the light and flat top of the lemon cake. Other than that, I really can’t tell the difference between this cake and those made using the creaming method (adding sugar and oil together).

What’s most labor intensive? Grating ten lemons intended to intensify the lemon flavor. I was aware of the extra time it’d take since I have gone down that path a few times. How many recipes call for zest from ten lemons? I also knew the results would be worthy of my efforts. Unfortunately, it did not turn out to be the case this time. The lemon flavor came through loudly. Why shouldn’t it, with more than double the amount of lemon zest and an extra dose of lemon syrup? The graininess of the cornmeal was off-putting. I craved creaminess, which was lacking in this cake, to balance the citrus flavor.

Don’t forget to check the lemoniest cakes other creative bakers from ABC have baked for the month of March.

Back to the drawing board, or visit Mother Myrick’s, or bake the F&W lemon bundt cake, for some lemon bliss!

 

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18 Comments

  • Reply
    Judy's Bakery & Test Kitchen
    March 3, 2015 at 12:37 am

    Great of you to experiment. Love the photos. I liked this recipe.

  • Reply
    Karin Anderson
    March 3, 2015 at 3:45 am

    Those bundt cakes look prettier than a simple loaf (I made cupcakes). I couldn't find the cakes too grainy, but I do like cornmeal.

  • Reply
    flour.ish.en
    March 3, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    I went back and double check the recipe for cornmeal. I measured 55 gram and felt it was way too much, about 24% of total flour.

  • Reply
    Karin Anderson
    March 3, 2015 at 8:13 pm

    That's why I hate volume measures! I measured 42 grams, and if you look at conversion tables in the internet or different cookbooks, you find a lot of differences. With some ingredients it doesn't matter, but with others it does.

  • Reply
    flour.ish.en
    March 3, 2015 at 8:36 pm

    I feel the same way. I usually skip recipes that don't bother to give you both measurements. You can't bake well without precise measurements.

  • Reply
    Chef Mireille
    March 4, 2015 at 3:44 am

    love how they look being baked in the bundt pans

  • Reply
    sunita rohira
    March 4, 2015 at 11:16 am

    The mini bundts look lovely. I agree about the cornmeal….did not have a cake-like texture. I also prefer to bake recipes with metric quantities not volume.

  • Reply
    Hanaâ
    March 5, 2015 at 4:08 am

    Amen sisters! 🙂

  • Reply
    Hanaâ
    March 5, 2015 at 4:11 am

    The Bundt cakes are absolutely lovely!! I love your experiment with the extra zest and lemon syrup. I too found the cornmeal to be too much. After adding it to the light and fluffy egg mixture, it just deflated (almost felt like a waste of time to beat them for that long just to have it deflate on you). I really think that you could leave the cornmeal out without making any other changes to the dry or liquid ingredients. Will have to try that and prove it!

  • Reply
    flour.ish.en
    March 5, 2015 at 4:41 am

    I'm satisfied with the conclusion that cornmeal should be left out with no adverse effect — without further baking.

  • Reply
    tanita✿davis
    March 6, 2015 at 4:07 pm

    What a NICE shape you put this little loaf into – and more than double the amount of lemon was THE RIGHT MOVE. Oh, that looks tasty!

  • Reply
    flour.ish.en
    March 6, 2015 at 9:20 pm

    The bundt idea was inspired by the lemon lulu cake. I guessed they took on a different look with bundt pans.

  • Reply
    flour.ish.en
    March 6, 2015 at 9:21 pm

    Can't take credit for that. Inspired by the lemon lulu cake.

  • Reply
    flour.ish.en
    March 6, 2015 at 9:24 pm

    Thanks. The cakes have the right shape and very lemony. Overall taste: not as good as they look!

  • Reply
    Dos Gatos Baking
    March 7, 2015 at 7:47 pm

    While I did not find this cake very lemony, I thought it had TOO MUCH zest. It tasted like lemon oil, rather than lemon juice, and I found it a little harsh. I can't imagine what 1/3 cup did!

  • Reply
    flour.ish.en
    March 7, 2015 at 11:53 pm

    The lemon flavor was definitely present. Meyer lemons, what I used in this cake, have a less tangy flavor than regular lemons. I can get away with 1/3 cup of zest.

  • Reply
    Karen Kerr
    March 10, 2015 at 1:05 am

    That is a LOT of zest!!! You must have a Meyer lemon tree like I do! I didn't care for the gritty corn meal either. Lovely idea using the bundt pans!

  • Reply
    flour.ish.en
    March 10, 2015 at 10:55 am

    Karen, I wish that's true about the lemon tree. What we have instead is a ton of snow in New Jersey!

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