Saturday, March 12, 2011

Light and Luscious Lemon Cake

Gateau au Citron or French-Style Yogurt Cake with Lemon

Need to add a little sunshine to your life? just one slice of this lemon cake can do just that. At the very least it will cause a smile,a happy sigh of pleasure. I promise. It's just that good.

I don't need much help in the smile and sunshine department lately. The delight of a recent sunny road trip along the coast and in the southwestern states still lingers in memory. Our Seattle weather can do it's changeable, unpredictable thing, but I'm still smiling remembering February sun and enjoying a slice of lemon cake.

Lemon meringue pie is too sweet for my taste, but other lemony desserts hold appeal. I remember Eric Z's homemade lemon bread, a long-ago gift from a second-grade student. The bread had been glazed while still warm, topping that dessert loaf with a sweet lemony crunch. My recipe box still holds a well-used card for Mrs. Z's Lemon Bread. Over the years I have added citrus juice and  orange or lemon zest to numerous cookie recipes, here and here, but nothing matches the success of this lemon cake. This recipe just might be my favorite dessert slice - or breakfast/brunch choice, or anytime snack.
This cake is smiling too!
Oops! I didn't sift the powdered sugar for the icing.
Gateau au Limon
Adapted from Orangettewith added inspiration from APlumByAnyOtherName, lauriebot, et al. Orangette noted this cake is an old French classic and traditionally the ingredients are measured in a yogurt jar, a small glass cylinder that holds about 125 ml.

One 9-inch round cake pan
Butter for greasing pan
Parchment paper

For the cake:
1/2 cup whole-milk yogurt(or Greek yogurt) 
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups unbleached AP flour
2 tsp. baking powder
Pinch of kosher salt
1 Tbs. grated lemon zest
1/2 cup canola oil (or olive oil)

For the syrup:
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup powdered sugar
A few drops of vanilla extract

For the optional icing (from APlumByAnyOtherName):
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
Scant 1/4 cup lemon juice
For the optional lavender cream (from lauriebot)
1 Tbs. honey
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
scant 1/4 tsp. lavender blossoms
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Generously butter the sides and bottom of a 9-inch cake pan. Line the bottom with a round of parchment paper and butter it too. You really don't want this cake to stick when you turn it out!
  2. Combine the yogurt, sugar, and eggs in a large bowl; stir until well blended.
  3. Using a sifter or sieve, add the baking powder to the flour and sift into the yogurt mixture; add the lemon zest and mix all to just combine.
  4. Add the oil and stir until it all combines into a smooth batter. Initially it will look like a dreadful mistake, as though the wet and dry ingredients will never blend. Just keep stirring, it will eventually come together.
  5. Pour and scrape the batter into the buttered cake pan: it will just fill a 9-inch round pan.
  6. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the cake feels springy to the touch and a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Do not remove from the oven until the cake tester comes out clean, but don't overbake either.
  7. Cool the cake on a rack for about 20 minutes; then turn it out of the pan to cool completely. Run a knife along the sides of your pan to assist in the unmolding. Invert the cake onto a wire rack, parchment side up. Put the rack on a baking sheet (to catch any drips from the syrup). Remove the parchment paper. Slowly spoon the syrup over the cake; it should soak into the cake top, not run over the sides onto the plate. Cool completely and enjoy a slice, with or without toppings.
  8. Option 1: Just before serving, whisk together the icing ingredients and spoon or pour over the cooled cake. 
  9. Option 2: Add honey, cream and lavender to a small pan and bring just to the boil. Remove from the heat and let steep, covered for 5 minutes (no longer, since lavender can be an overpoweringly strong flavor. Strain and place in refrigerator to cool. Just before serving, whisk until light and fluffy.
Are you a lemon fan too? What's your favorite lemony recipe?

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