Lemon Cake for the Dead of Winter

Sometimes I think that citrus is like nature's little gift to us.  As our bodies seem to be turning in on themselves from huddling up, citrus arrives and shocks our mouths into remembering that we're going to come out of this eventually.  For emotional stability and aesthetic reasons, we should all keep lemons in our fruit bowls during the end of January and through February to remind us of the light at the end of the tunnel.

There's not a lot growing right now so it feels decadent to be able to bake a cake out of seasonal fruit and then decorate that cake with fresh fruit.  It feels like we're finally far enough away from New Years to just enjoy some friggin' cake.  Actually, I always feel that way and you should as well because life is too short and you only live once and today is a gift that is why we call it the present and because live in the moment.  Are you convinced?  Good.

I've been pressuring you guys into a lot of special occasion cooking recently.  I get that you can't actually survive off alcohol infused brownies and cakes stuffed with chips.  This is a Sunday afternoon cake.  The recipe could be split in half and baked just in one loaf pan for a less exciting and more approachable experience.  You can bake this into cupcakes and give them to each of your favorite people in easy little packages of love.

In high school, one of my best friends and I would jog to Starbucks and get ice water and their lemon pound cake.  We would then break off the top (the good part with the frosting) and share it and throw the rest away.  I've always been committed to healthy lifestyles.  If you you, too are addicted to Starbucks' lemon pound cake, you should know that this is BETTER.  Another of my friends from high school visited me last year on a road trip and I made this for her in cupcake forms.  Highly snackable.  She has asked me for the recipe approximately 47 times and now I can finally give it to her.  

This recipe is a crowd-pleasing classic of the finest variety. It is adapted from a cookbook which is shocking because we're in the 21st century but also problematic because people regularly asking me to send it to them.

The perfect song for lemon cake kitchen dancing: Strangers - Langhorne Slim

the perfect lemon cake

For the cake:

  • 1 stick softened butter
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tightly packed tablespoons lemon zest
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 325 and grease a bundt pan or 2 loaf pans.

Whip together butter and olive oil.  It will be a little lumpy but it's totally fine.  Stay calm.  Using your hands, rub sugar and lemon zest together until the zest is evenly distributed throughout the sugar, then add sugar to butter and olive oil and cream until fluffy. One at a time, add the eggs to the butter mixture, beating after each addition.

In a separate bowl, whisk together dry ingredients, then add to butter mixture, stirring until just combined.  Add buttermilk and lemon juice and stir to combine.

Transfer to your baking implement and bake for 1 hour (for bundt pan) or until cake pulls away from the side of the pan and a fork comes out clean. (A fork is the compass of baking, didn't you know?

While the cake is baking make the icing.

  • 1/2 pound confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 stick butter, softened
  • 2 tightly packed tbsp lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Cream butter and sugar, then add lemon zest and sugar.  Wait ten minutes once your cake comes out, then remove it from the pan and spread over warm cake.  (This allows it to soak in and get all luscious and heavenly and make you want to cry.)

If you don't eat all of it before it cools, pop it in the microwave for 7 seconds to warm it up before you eat it.  (life changing)