Loaf cakes are a sturdy reminder that life is good. And that sweetness is within reach. They’re among the simplest cakes to make and the easiest to serve. And so many of them are play-aroundable – this one’s the key to a panoply of pleasures. It’s also the same kind of cake that was cooling on my Paris balcony in the last edition of xoxo Dorie
For this one, I went long on lemon – there’s zest (smushed – see last week’s newsletter for a how-to) and there’s all the pulp, too. Using the pulp makes the cake surprising – you get the tang of the fresh fruit only here and there, but when you do, it’s the kind of ping that makes you skip a half beat and take notice.
If you’ve never cut segments from citrus – in culinaryese, the segments are called supremes – it’s a good technique to know. After you’ve grated the zest, cut each end of the fruit to make a non-tipsy base. Cut the top and bottom deeply enough to expose the fruit. Using a sharp paring knife, start at the top of the fruit and, following its contours, cut away the pith (the white cottony stuff), again cutting so that you reveal the fruit (you might remove a sliver of the fruit in the process, and that’s fine). Holding the fruit in the palm of your hand, carefully (watch out for your hand!) work your knife into the spot where the membrane and the fruit connect and then slice the fruit as close to the membrane as you can in order to release the supremes. Remove the pits and set the segments aside.
Because the supremes are so juicy, once you’ve chopped them, it’s good to dry them – I usually put them in a little strainer, press against them with a paper or tea towel, and then let them drain while I get things organized and preheat the oven.
Did I mention that I add basil to the cake? Just a little and just for fun and just because I had some on my balcony. Also, just because adding a spoonful of basil makes the cake a bit more summery.
- xoxo Dorie
Double Lemon Loaf Cake
Makes about 8 servings
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
1 1/2 cups (204 grams) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup (120 ml/130 grams) sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (120 ml) olive oil
2 to 3 teaspoons finely chopped fresh basil (optional)
Before you do anything else, prep the lemons. Put the sugar in a large bowl and grate the zest of both lemons over the sugar. Peel each lemon down to the fruit and slice the fruit into segments (take a look at the intro for a quick how-to). Chop the fruit finely (or coarsely, if you want), drain it in a strainer (press against the fruit to get it as dry as possible) or between layers of paper towels; let sit while you work on the rest of the recipe.
Center a rack in the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8 1/2 - inch loaf pan or use baker’s spray.
Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl.
Working with your fingertips, rub, mash, mush and smush the sugar and zest together until the mixture is moist and aromatic. Whisk in the sour cream or yogurt and then, one by one, whisk in the eggs, followed by the vanilla. When everything’s in, give the mixture a couple of energetic beats, then switch to a flexible spatula. Add half the flour and mix until it’s almost incorporated, then add the remaining flour and stir until it disappears into the batter. Gradually stir and fold the oil in the batter. It may seem like a lot of oil, but stir and it will be absorbed – you'll have a thick, smooth batter with a light sheen.
Scrape the chopped lemon into the bowl and stir until combined. If you’re using the basil, drop it in now and stir it through. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top.
Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or – more important than time – until a cake tester inserted deep into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack, wait 5 minutes, then, if necessary, run a kitchen knife between the cake and the sides of the pan to loosen the cake. Unmold onto the rack and cool the cake to room temperature right-side up.
Storing: The cake is a good keeper. Wrap it well and it will be fine at room temperature for about 4 days (toast it if you think it's a little dry); it can be frozen for up to 2 months.