Wednesday, May 12, 2010

When Life Gives You Lemons...

We all know that some of the greatest desserts use lemon, which seems in itself a contradiction to what you would look for in a dessert. Its juice has a pH that ranges from 2 to 3 and an extremely sour taste. Why, then, would we ever wish to incorporate it into baking? Precisely for these very reasons. Its sour flavor when paired with sugar creates a succulent result that many desserts have come to rely upon. This blog includes 2 such desserts I created: Lemon Pound Cake with Glaze and a Homemade Lemon Meringue Pie.

This first recipe is decadence on a plate. It is one of the richest cakes you will every try, but you will not regret it one bit. The lemon in the cake is a subtle addition to the richness the pound cake provides, while the glaze has more of the tart characteristics associated with the fruit.

I was visiting my mom and Stepdad in Georgia, and two very close family friends were invited over to dinner. I was once again given the appointment of head chef and planned out an entire menu that consisted of roasted red pepper and asparagus salad with toasted pecans, couscous with pine nuts and shallots, and caramelized leeks atop roasted salmon filets.

As if the meal wasn't rich enough, I took it one step further by making this cake. We hardly even finished a third of it. This cake provides TWO pounds cakes, and we saved the second for another occasion happening that week. Given the yield of cake, this recipe would be perfect for parties and potlucks with a good number of people.

This recipe is provided by one of my favorite Food Network chefs: Ina Garten, or the Barefoot Contessa. She rarely has let me down in terms of results, and I will always check her recipes before moving on to other chefs. This cake uses A LOT of butter, so be warned that it is bound to be irresistible! Enjoy!

Lemon Cake
Yield: 2 (8-inch) loaves


For the cake:

  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup grated lemon zest (6 to 8 large lemons)
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the glaze:

  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 2 (8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch) loaf pans. You may also line the bottom with parchment paper, if desired.
  2. Cream the butter and 2 cups granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, and the lemon zest.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice, the buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide the batter evenly between the pans, smooth the tops, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.
  4. Combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. When the cakes are done, allow to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans and set them on a rack set over a tray or sheet pan; spoon the lemon syrup over them. Allow the cakes to cool completely.
  5. For the glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar and the lemon juice in a bowl, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth. Pour over the tops of the cakes and allow the glaze to drizzle down the sides.
The second dessert in this lemony post is a Lemon Meringue pie. I made this for a barbecue party. We had (literally) 3 cookouts in one week during this summer, haha! This specific hang was one that we all provided dishes for. The turnout of dishes was really exciting.

After everything was made, we all grabbed slices of the meringue pie and plunked down in the living room to play this crazily addicting game called LittleBigPlanet.

It is imperative to make this pie one day ahead to allow the lemon curd to set as well as to allow the meringue to stiffen. This is a great recipe, perfect for a warm summer day.

Foolproof Lemon Meringue Pie
Serves 8


  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 6 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1 tablespoon butter or margarine
  • Baked 9-inch pie crust
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

  1. In a 2- to 3-quart pan, mix 1 1/4 cups sugar with 6 tablespoons cornstarch and salt. Whisk in 1/2 cup cold water, lemon peel, and lemon juice, blending thoroughly. Whisk in the egg yolks. Add the butter and whisk in 1 1/2 cups boiling water.
  2. Set pan over medium-high heat and stir with a flexible spatula until mixture boils, about 7 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and stir filling 1 minute more.
  3. Pour filling into pie crust.
  4. In a small bowl, mix the remaining 1/2 cup sugar with the remaining 2 teaspoons cornstarch.
  5. In a deep bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar with a mixer on high speed (use whisk attachment if available) until very foamy and no liquid whites remain in bottom of bowl. Continue to beat at high speed and gradually add the sugar-starch mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time. Then beat until whites hold stiff, glossy peaks.
  6. Spoon meringue onto hot pie filling. With a spatula, swirl meringue to cover filling completely, touching the rim of the pie shell.
  7. Bake in a 325° oven until meringue is browned, about 25 minutes. Set pie on rack until cool, about 3 hours. Serve, or invert a large bowl over pie (take care not to touch meringue) and chill up to 1 day.

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