When life gives you lemons...make lemon loaf cake. You can extract maximum flavor by using both the juice and the zest, and the sunshiny color and sweet-tart flavor are sure to brighten up your day.
Lemon Loaf Cake
The other day, I found an abandoned, slightly squashed orange in the kitchen. Once you compile a lot of imperfect fruit, you can make jam, but with just one, your options are limited. Instead of making something with orange as the primary ingredient, I salvaged the orange juice and zest to make orange cake.
I didn't run into any more sad citrus after that, but inspired, I made lemon loaf cake. The type of citrus juice and zest don't affect the cake's structure or deliciousness, so you can use whatever you have on hand.
I stress bake, so taking half an hour to prep a lemon loaf cake is a welcome break from the avalanche of problem sets I have to do. I'm always more motivated to work when I know there'll be cake!
- 2 cups of all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- 3 teaspoons of baking powder
- 1 and ½ cups of sugar
- 1 tablespoon of zest
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla
- ½ cup of lemon juice
- ½ cup of milk
- ½ cup of oil
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients.
- In a separate medium bowl, beat the eggs. Add the rest of the wet ingredients, and stir to combine.
- Pour the medium bowl with the wet ingredients into the large bowl with the dry ingredients. Stir gently to combine. Do not over-mix - lumps in the batter are okay.
- To make lemon loaf cake, grease a loaf pan. Pour the batter into the loaf pan.
- Bake for 50-55 minutes. After baking, to test doneness, stick a toothpick into the center of the cake. If the cake is done, the toothpick will come out mostly clean.
- All-purpose flour: Contributes structure. Do not overmeasure or else your cake will be dense. Substituting healthier flours, such as oat or wheat, will result in a denser cake.
- Salt: Enhances the flavors of the other ingredients. Do not overmeasure or else your cake will be salty.
- Baking powder: Makes the lemon loaf cake fluffy. Substituting 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda should also work.
- Sugar: Makes the lemon loaf cake not a sour, salty rock. Lemon juice is fairly sour. You can probably get away with using 1 cup of sugar, but I wouldn't use any less. There are a lot of wet ingredients, so I do not suggest liquid sweeteners.
- Zest: Adds bits of citrusy goodness. The zest of any one citrus fruit works. I used an orange. You could also buy a lemon for its zest and its juice. Can omit.
- Eggs: Add structure, moistness, and richness. Reducing to 2 eggs probably also works.
- Vanilla: Adds flavor. Use up to 2 teaspoons.
- Lemon juice: Adds lemon flavor. Substituting 1/2 cup of any citrusy liquid would work. I used bottled lemon juice, but you can also use orange juice, half lemon/half orange, half lemon/half water, etc. One lemon produces about 2 tablespoons when juiced by hand and twice as much when juiced in a juicer. I've gotten 1/4 cup of juice from a large orange by hand.
- Milk: Adds richness and moisture. Any sort of milk (cow, almond, soy) would work. Water would also work in a pinch.
- Oil: Makes the lemon loaf cake not a chewy rock. You could try replacing half of the oil with applesauce or yogurt, but I don't see much point in trying to make cake healthier.
Step by Step Photos
Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees.
Let's start by zesting an orange. Zest, the outside colorful part of citrus fruits, adds a lot of flavor. Provided you're gentle, zested fruit looks naked and silly, but you can still keep it for later consumption. Honestly, it would make more sense to zest and juice a lemon, but I had to keep the lemon intact for photos.
Wash the fruit. Using a microplane zester would be the easiest. Unfortunately, I don't have one, so I cut off and diced the zest with a sharp knife.
In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. It doesn't matter whether sugar and zest are mixed with the wet or dry ingredients. If your sugar has crystallized into hard chunks, you should add the sugar to the wet ingredients to dissolve it.
In a separate medium bowl, beat the eggs. You should beat the eggs before adding any other wet ingredients so they're easier to mix. I happen to have a whisk, but any utensil works.
Measure the rest of the wet ingredients. I love using a 2-cup measuring cup because the increased capacity makes it easy to measure everything at once. Also, look at the pretty layers - the oil is on top, the lemon juice is in the middle, and the milk is on the bottom.
Add the rest of the wet ingredients to the beaten eggs, and stir to combine. The mixture may look slightly curdled because you're mixing lemon juice and milk, but it'll be okay!
Pour the medium bowl with the wet ingredients into the large bowl with the dry ingredients. Stir gently to combine. Do not over-mix - lumps in the batter are okay. If you stir too much, you'll get a dense cake.
To make lemon loaf cake, grease a loaf pan. If you don't, it'll be very difficult to extract the lemon loaf. Normally, I'd line the loaf pan with aluminum foil, but it'd make the picture less pretty.
If you don't have a loaf pan, you can use a 8x8 or 9x9 square pan, and bake for 35-40 minutes, or you make lemon loaf muffins and bake for 20-25 minutes.
Pour the batter into the loaf pan. Whenever I make muffins, I inevitably end up spilling some batter on the muffin tin, which I have to wipe up. It's so much easier to make a loaf because you only have to transfer batter once.
Bake for 50-55 minutes. After baking, to test doneness, stick a toothpick into the center of the cake. You can see the little hole above. If the cake is done, the toothpick will come out mostly clean. I have no use for toothpicks besides testing cake, so I used a small piece of uncooked spaghetti.
Let cool for about 10 minutes so it doesn't burn your turn and so you can easily remove it from the loaf pan. Once the cake has cooled, feel free to add lemon glaze. You'll love the cheery yellow color, soft fluffy texture, and the sweet-tart lemon flavor.
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