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~Quicker than Typical Triple-Lemon Lemon Loaf Cake~

IMG_6836Ina Garten, host of The Food Network show Barefoot Contessa, has long been one of my favorite TV cooks and cookbook authors.  Her low-key, soft-spoken on-camera persona makes her easy to listen to.  In keeping with that, her published recipes are, in turn, well-written, easy-to-follow, and, approachable, meaning:  for the most part, there's no need to scurry to the store or conduct any on-line searches for hard-to-find ingredients.  Shortly after watching her make lemon loaf cakes on a picnic-themed episode, I decided to make her cakes, and, I served them for dessert at my own outdoor get-together -- as the base cake for our homegrown-strawberry shortcakes.

Ina's delightful cakes transitioned into my delightful cakes.

IMG_6805Ina's lemon cakes were delightful -- the perfect compliment to our just-picked strawberries.  Later that same Summer, Joe came home from running errands with a big box of beautiful California strawberries -- they were plump, juicy, full-of-flavor and perfectly ripe.  Had he called me from the store, I'd have told him to pick up eight lemons (that's how many lemons you need to make the cakes), but, twenty years ago, our cell phones had not been surgically attached to our bodies yet.

I decided to risk baking the cakes using a few lemony substitutions I had on hand:  Organic not-from-concentrate lemon juice (in place of fresh-squeezed juice), McCormick dehydrated lemon peel (in place of the fresh zest), and, for good measure, a teaspoon of organic lemon extract. Long story short:  My substitutions saved me a bunch of time (no juicing or zesting), and, my lemon cakes were delightful -- the perfect compliment to our store-bought strawberries.    

My quicker-than-using-fresh-lemons lemon cake:

IMG_6702For the wet ingredients:

8  ounces salted butter, at room temperature, very soft, + 1 additional tablespoon soft salted butter for greasing loaf pans

4  extra-large eggs, at room temperature

3  tablespoons dehydrated lemon peel

2 1/2  cups granulated sugar, divided (2 cups for the cake batter, 1/2 cup for the syrup)

3/4  cup high-quality not-from-concentrate, organic lemon juice, divided (1/4 cup for stirring into the buttermilk, 1/2 cup for preparing the syrup)

3/4  buttermilk, at room temperature

1  teaspoon pure lemon extract

2  teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the dry ingredients:

3  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, + 3-4 additional tablespoons for flouring loaf pans

3/4  teaspoon baking powder

3/4  teaspoon baking soda

1  teaspoon sea salt

IMG_6788For the drizzly lemon glaze:

1 1/2  cups Confectioners' sugar

1  teaspoon each: pure lemon and pure vanilla extract

2  tablespoons high-quality not-from-concentrate, lemon juice

IMG_6796~ Step 1. Stir all ingredients together in a 2-cup bowl, then transfer to a plastic condiment-type squeeze bottle.  Set aside.

IMG_6689 IMG_6689 IMG_6689~ Step 2.  Butter 2, 8 1/2" x 4 1/4" x 2 1/2" glass loaf pans.  Dust the inside of each loaf pan with flour and shake it clear of any excess.  Set aside.  Preheat oven to 325°.  Note:  If using metal loaf pans, preheat oven to 350°.  

IMG_6696 IMG_6696 IMG_6696 IMG_6696 IMG_6696~Step 3.  In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.  Place 3/4 cup buttermilk in a 1-cup measuring container.  Stir 1/4 cup of the lemon juice, plus the lemon and vanilla extracts, into the buttermilk.  Set aside.  The remaining 1/2 cup lemon juice will be used to make a syrupy drizzle for the tops of finished cakes.  

IMG_6714 IMG_6714 IMG_6714 IMG_6714 IMG_6714 IMG_6714~Step 4.  Place the very soft butter, four eggs, lemon peel and 2-cups of the sugar in a large bowl.  On high-speed of hand-held electric mixer, cream the three together until light and fluffy, about 3 full minutes.  Lower mixer speed and gradually (in 2-3 increments) beat in the dry ingredients alternately with the 1-cup of buttermilk/lemon juice mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a large rubber spatula the entire time.

IMG_6738 IMG_6738 IMG_6738 IMG_6738 IMG_6738~Step 5.  Divide the cake batter evenly between the two prepared loaf pans -- a kitchen scale is the best tool to make sure this division is precise.  Give each loaf pan a few vigorous back-and-forth shakes across the work surface (the countertop), to flatten-out the tops.  Bake both cakes on center rack of preheated 325º oven, 50-55 minutes, or until a cake tested inserted in several spots comes out clean.  Remove cakes from oven and place on a wire rack to cool, in the loaf pans, for 10-12 minutes.  Invert cakes from pans onto a wire rack that has been placed in a 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pan that has been lined with parchment.  Cool the cakes, on the wire rack for 10-12 additional minutes, but, NOT to room temperature just yet.  Read on:

IMG_6747 IMG_6747 IMG_6747 IMG_6747~Step 6.  When the cakes go into oven to bake,  prepare the syrup.  In a 1-quart saucepan, stir together the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup lemon juice.  Bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring constantly.  Simmer every-so-gently for about 1 minute, to dissolve the sugar.  Remove from heat and set aside to cool until the cakes emerge from the oven.  Once the cakes are out of the oven, if you have a squeeze-type condiment-container, transfer the still-warm syrup to it.

IMG_6775 IMG_6775 IMG_6775~ Step 7.  Using a toothpick, poke about 40, 1/2"-deep holes in the top surface of each still-warm cake.  Slowly, in four-five increments, waiting about five minutes in between every addition, drizzle the sill-warm sugary lemon-syrup evenly over the surface of both cakes, to allow time for the syrup to soak into the cake after each addition.  Allow cakes to cool completely, 1-2 hours.  Drizzle with glaze.

Completely cooled cakes placed on a rack on a pan...

IMG_6799... drizzled w/a very lemony glaze.  Pucker up:

IMG_6801Quicker than Typical Triple-Lemon Lemon Loaf Cake:  Recipe yields, 2, 8" x 4" x 3" loaf shaped cakes/8-10 slices each.

Special Equipment List: 8 1/2" x 4 1/4" x 2 1/2" loaf pans, preferably glass; 2, 1-cup measuring containers; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; kitchen scale; cake tester or a toothpick; 1-quart saucepan; wire cooling rack; 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pan; parchment paper; condiment-type squeeze bottle; toothpick; 2-cup measuring container; spoon; plastic wrap; plastic squeeze bottle (optional); serrated bread knife  

6a0120a8551282970b019aff2020b1970cCook's Note: Nothing is quite as ethereal as a freshly-baked loaf of bread, quick bread or pound cake. The recipe says to bake it in a loaf pan and you don't have one.  You drive to the nearest cooking store to find out you must choose between several manufacturers and price ranges, different materials ranging from clear glass and ceramic to shiny, gray or black metal -- each kind in a variety of sizes too. Decisions like this cause people to lose sleep. Today, I'm going to attempt to take the angst out of purchasing a loaf pan for you. ~ The Low-Down on Loaf Pans: What Size and Kind? ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)


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