Lemon poppy seed cake

While I do not consider myself a picky eater, I will admit that there are a few foods that I simply do not like: oysters (too slimy), radicchio (too bitter), blue cheese (too strong), and mangoes (does anyone else think they taste like grass?!) are on this list, along with, strangely enough, any dessert made with citrus. Don't get me wrong -- I love clementines, have nothing against my mom's lemon grilled chicken, and will gladly drink orange juice at breakfast, but for as long as I can remember, I've thought something as sour citrus does not belong in dessert. I remember being extremely disappointed around age 8 when at a relative's wedding, I discovered that the towering white cake that had seemed so promising was not just a vanilla cake, but rather a vanilla cake with -- gasp -- lemon filling. A similar incident occurred not longer after where I mistook key lime pie for a slice of cheesecake at the dessert buffet (there was that sneaky citrus again!) and my dislike for this ingredient was solidified. To this day, I will always pass over the lemon meringue pie on the dessert menu in favor of something something sweeter and more chocolate-y.

So why, you ask, am I giving you a recipe for lemon cake? The truth is I needed to use up lemons leftover from making hummus, figuring I could bring the cake to my colleagues at work, who are for more accepting of citrus than I am.

To my surprise I not only liked this cake, I loved it -- it was light and moist with an intense lemon flavor that was not at all over powering, but rather bright and refreshing. It is delicious for breakfast, with tea, or as a dessert, and is perfect for Spring, and made me think that maybe citrus is another one of those ingredients like ricotta cheese that I may need to reevaluate. Here I have made it in a loaf pan, but you could definitely make lemon poppy seed muffins or a square cake with this as well.


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain yogurt (not low fat or non fat)
1 1/3 cups sugar
3 extra-large eggs
2 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil 

1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking powder. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sugar, eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Whisk in the vegetable oil. When the batter is smooth and all the ingredients are well combined, stir in the poppy seeds. I used 1 tablespoon but feel free to add more if you'd like.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, whisk together the lemon juice and 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.
When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan and  place it on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in*. Cool completely before serving. Serves 8-10.

*If you want you can skip the lemon syrup and just up the lemon zest in the recipe.

Adapted from www.foodnetwork.com.

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