Lemon-Spice Visiting Cake

Lemon-Spice Visiting Cake

Whether you pack this cake as a gift or have it ready when visitors come to you, the imperative to share is implicit in its name. The cake is built for comfort and durability – make it on Thursday or Friday and have it all weekend. And if it stales, toast it; the heat will intensify the lemon and spice deliciously. The cake is easy to make (no machines needed) and, like all spice cakes, better after a day’s rest. Giving it a swish of warmed marmalade when it comes out of the oven is optional. What shouldn’t be passed up is what I call the ‘lemon trick’: Use your fingertips to rub the recipe’s lemon and sugar together until the sugar is moist and aromatic. This easy step transfers everything essential from the lemon to the cake. Think of it as aromatherapy for the cake and you.

Ingredients

  • Butter and flour for the pan
  • 1 ½cups (204 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼teaspoons baking powder
  • 1teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ½teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 ¼cups (250 grams) sugar
  • 1large (or 2 small) lemons
  • 4large eggs, at room temperature
  • ½cup (120 ml.) heavy cream, at room temperature
  • 1 ½teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 5 ½tablespoons (77 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • ⅓cup marmalade (for optional glaze)
  • ½teaspoon water (for optional glaze)

Preparation

  1. Center a rack in the oven, and preheat it to 350. Butter an 8 1/2-inch loaf pan (Pyrex works well), dust with flour and tap out the excess. (For this cake, bakers’ spray isn’t as good as butter and flour.) Place on a baking sheet.
  2. Whisk the 1 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, cardamom, ginger and salt together.
  3. Put the sugar in a large bowl, and grate the zest of the lemon(s) over the sugar. Squeeze the lemon(s) to produce 3 tablespoons juice, and set this aside. Using your fingers, rub the sugar and zest together until the mixture is moist and aromatic. One at a time, add the eggs, whisking well after each. Whisk in the juice, followed by the heavy cream. Still using the whisk, gently stir the dry ingredients into the batter in two additions. Stir the vanilla into the melted butter, and then gradually blend the butter into the batter. The batter will be thick and have a beautiful sheen. Scrape it into the loaf pan.
  4. Bake for 70 to 75 minutes (if the cake looks as if it’s getting too dark too quickly, tent it loosely with foil) or until a tester inserted deep into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer to a rack, let rest for 5 minutes and then carefully run a blunt knife between the sides of the cake and the pan. Invert onto the rack, and turn over. Glaze now, or cool to room temperature.
  5. For the glaze: Bring the marmalade and water to a boil. Brush the glaze over the top of the warm cake, and allow to it to set for 2 hours. The glaze will remain slightly tacky.
  6. When the cake is completely cool, wrap in plastic to store. If it’s glazed, wrap loosely on top.

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