Baked Sunday Mornings: Lemon Lemon Loaf

I thought that this week's Baked Sunday Mornings recipe would be easy -- the Lemon Lemon Loaf cake is just a simple quickbread. The method seemed a little unusual, but it's pretty straightforward: blitz sugar, eggs, lemon juice, and lemon zest in the food processor; drizzle in melted and cooled butter; add sour cream and vanilla; transfer the mixture to a large bowl; and fold in the sifted dry ingredients (cake flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt). The mixture from the food processor was quite thin and when I folded in the dry ingredients I ended up with a ton of lumps. There were so many lumps that I decided to put the batter through a sieve. A fair amount of lemon zest got caught in the sieve so I zested an additional two lemons and added the zest to the batter before dividing it between two loaf pans to bake.

About 10 minutes after I put the loaves in the oven I realized that I had forgotten to add the baking powder, baking soda, and salt. I tossed them and started over. But my dirty food processor bowl and blade were sitting in the sink and I was still irritated from all of the lumps I had in the batter the first time. So for my second attempt I decided to make the cake according to the two-stage or high-ratio mixing method, which works for cakes where the weight of the sugar is equal to or greater than the weight of the of the flour. This cake has a ton of sugar in it (450 grams), substantially exceeding the combined weight of the cake and all-purpose flours.

To use the two-stage mixing method I didn't just change the order of mixing the ingredients, but I also used softened butter instead of melted butter. I put all of the dry ingredients (both flours, sugar, baking sugar, baking soda, and salt) into the bowl of my stand mixer; added the softened butter and a quarter of the liquid ingredients (sour cream, eggs, lemon juice, and lemon zest); beat the mixture on medium high for a couple of minutes; and then added the remaining liquid ingredients in three parts, beating well after each addition.

When I made the cake batter the first time in the food processor, the resulting batter was liquid. It poured easily and nicely filled two loaf pans. When I re-made the cake using the two-stage method the resulting batter was thick like American buttercream, and I quickly realized that it was too much batter for two loaf pans. So I divided it between three parchment-lined pans, crossed my fingers, and put them in the oven.
The cakes ended up with relatively flat tops. While the cakes were still warm, I poked holes in the top with a skewer and brushed on a syrup made from sugar and lemon juice. After the cakes were completely cool, I drizzled on a glaze made from lemon juice and powdered sugar. When I cut the cakes, they had a very fine crumb -- exactly what I would expect from a butter cake made with the two-stage method. And this cake was very tender. There wasn't that much lemon flavor in the cake itself, but the top portion of each slice that was soaked through with lemon syrup and coated in the lemon glaze delivered a sharp burst of lemon flavor.

I liked this cake a lot, although I'm not sure how it would have turned out if I had made it following the prescribed method. But my tasters loved it, and I appreciated being able to make it in the mixer without much muss or fuss.

Recipe: "Lemon Lemon Loaf" from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, recipe available here at Baked Sunday Mornings.

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