I've always liked things lemon, but the older I get, the more intense that like has become until it's tipped over into a full-fledged LOVE! Whereas in the past, I would not have hesitated between something chocolate and something lemon-based, there's now a visible vacillation as my head and heart wrestle over what my tastebuds truly want. And though I'm still a huge chocolate fan, nine times out of ten now, I'm drawn to the lemon-y thing, like this wonderful fluffy, tender lemon-vanilla bundt cake. As soon as I tasted it, I instantly knew it would become a cake I'd be making again and again!
I've been hanging onto this recipe for some time now without trying it out because a little voice inside my head convinced me that I already have a few beloved cakes that are essentially lemony-pound cakes like this 7 Up Cake, Melt In Your Mouth Cake, Bishop's Cake, and Glazed Lemon Cake and that I didn't really need another one in my repertoire. Well, I'm so glad I told that little voice to shut up, because this cake is in a class all on it's own. It's got a lovely, almost spongy texture, is not too sweet and is so homey and simple. To me it screams out brunch or afternoon tea, but it would also be a great light after-dinner dessert.
Plus it's fairly easy to make and doesn't require any fancy-schmantzy ingredients. It's the kind of cake you can just decide to make on a whim.
The kind of cake our grandmothers always just seemed to "have on hand" (not mine, because she never baked, but that's another story).
The kind of cake you can't help yourself from slicing off a little piece each time you pass by the kitchen!
The kind of cake that you absolutely need right now, with it's sunny lemon-y tropical warmth, warding off the frigid, dreariness of the dead of winter! Geez, it's cold out there!!
Lemon-Vanilla Bundt Cake
Makes 10-12 servings
Prep Time: 15-20 minutes; Bake Time: 45-55 minutes
For the cake
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup whole milk
- 4 large eggs
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
For the optional lemon glaze
- 1/4 cup sugar
- Juice of 1 lemon
1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a small saucepan and using a pastry brush, brush a bundt pan with the butter, making sure to get into all the crevices. Place the pan into the refrigerator for a few minutes to let the butter harden. Once the butter has hardened, remove the pan from the refrigerator and brush over any spots that you might have missed the first time. Set the pan aside.
2. Place the milk and 8 remaining tablespoons butter into a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat, just bringing it to a boil. Set aside.
3. If you have a stand mixer, attache the whisk attachment. Otherwise, just use a regular hand-held mixer. It's fine--you might just have to beat it a little longer. Add the eggs into the bowl and whip them on medium-high speed until they're very light-colored and fluffy, about 5-7 minutes, maybe 7-9 minutes with a handheld mixer. Then lower the speed and add the 2 cups of sugar, the vanilla, the 1 teaspoon of lemon juice and the lemon zest. Mix until combined. Scrape down the bowl. On low speed, slowly add the flour, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Pour in the hot milk mixture, add the baking powder and mix until the thoroughly combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan
4. Bake for 45-55 minutes. Test early--the original recipe calls for a 50-60 minutes baking time, but mine was done at 45 minutes--all ovens cook differently. Cake is done when it springs back when you poke it slightly, looks golden and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
5. While the cake is cooking, you can prepare the optional glaze. I didn't use it this go round, but it's delicious with or without the glaze. If you want to use the glaze, simply mix together the juice of 1 lemon with 1/4 cup sugar in a bowl and set aside.
6. Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Then invert and let it cool upside down on the rack. If you're using the glaze, place a baking sheet or a piece of wax paper under the rack to catch the drips and brush the warm cake all over with the lemon syrup, letting it soak in as you go. Either way, let the cake cool completely before serving.
7. Cake can be made up to 2 days ahead and wrapped well, stored at room temperature.
Note: Recipe adapted from Chocolate and Vanilla by Gale Gand. I replaced the lemon extract in the cake batter with lemon juice. I always feel that lemon extract tastes a little artificial.