Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Fresh-Squeezed Lemon Cake


I have a lot of happy memories surrounding cake of all kinds, flavors and colors. I don't think that's necessarily because cake makes me happy, but mostly because I was eating cake during happy times. That said, however, let's face it: Cake makes me happy.

I love eating cake, I love decorating cake, I love the satisfaction of mixing and baking a cake and pulling it out of the oven and knowing that I did a good job, and that the cake cooperated with me to turn into a good cake. And did I mention I love eating cake?

But not just any cake. I don't like dry cakes. Not one bit. They have to be moist or at least not be dry and crumbly. I don't want to feel like it's drying my mouth out. I prefer dense cakes, but I also adore light, airy angel cakes. I like a tender crumb or a firm cake equally, as long as it isn't dry and it has great flavor. Almond is my favorite, but I also love nearly any other flavor including chocolate. I don't skimp on cake ingredients, either. Real butter and pure everything, please and thank you. (There is a difference between butter, shortening and lard in cakes, no matter what the lady behind the counter at a local grocery bakery said in her argument with me.)

So it's no wonder that I was excited when Kate from Gluten Free Gobsmacked - our host this month for the Gluten-Free Ratio Rally, said we were doing white or yellow cake for our theme. Check out her rally post where she gives her incredible cake ratio recipe and hosts all the other delicious recipes the other participants baked up this past month. (And thanks, Kate, for hosting us!)

Logo designed by Anile Prakash

Cake is also the reason I decided to give the ratio rally a try. Cake is the first thing I tried with weight baking (not ratio) - and it was the weight baking that made my favorite cake recipe finally come out perfectly while still being gluten-free - as I detail with many words and photos in this post about my beloved four-egg cake.

(If you want to read more about my reasons for joining up with the ratio rally, you can check out my peach poppy seed bread post here. I also have links to all the rally posts I've written in the recipe/subject index.)

I tried to get my four-egg cake to work out into a clear ratio because in my own opinion and that of many friends and family members, it is one of the best cakes ever. Sadly, however, it just didn't work out into a ratio that made much sense. 

I'm glad, though. I once again was forced to step out of my comfort zone and try something beyond my tried-and-true. The result was nothing short of mouth-watering delicious. The texture soaked up the flavor quite well, and it was the perfect amount of sweet and almost-puckering lemon. I make a lemonade cake that has a little different texture and frosting, and wanted to get a similar taste in a bit different cake this time.

For this cake, I used Michael Ruhlman's sponge cake ratio of 1:1:1:1 (1 part egg:1 part sugar: 1 part flour: 1 part butter - 8 ounces each in this recipe). That being said, I'm not sure if it was because of the gluten-free flours or the difference in mixing according to Ruhlman's instructions as opposed to what I'm used to for sponge cakes (Joy of Cooking), but this cake turned out much more like a butter cake, in my opinion, than a sponge cake. I'm used to sponge cakes (even my gluten-free ones) being much more light - almost like an angel cake with a yellow color and not as high. This cake was very firm and pretty dense. But it was a fantastic cake, nonetheless.

The next time I make it, I'll experiment with backing off an ounce or so of starch and replacing it with more brown rice flour, as well as using my preferred organic cane sugar rather than the refined pure cane sugar I used this time around. I think the flour change may make the cake have a little more tender crumb.
Projected prep time: 15 minutes; Projected bake time: 35 to 40 minutes
8 oz. eggs (4 large eggs plus one yolk)
8 oz. pure cane sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 tbsp. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tbsp. fresh lemon zest
1 tsp. pure vanilla
2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/4 oz. almond flour (34 grams)
3 1/4 oz. brown rice flour (93 grams)
3/4 oz. sweet rice flour (20 grams)
1 1/4 oz. tapioca starch (35 grams)
1 1/4 oz. potato starch (37 grams)
1/2 oz. white rice flour (13 grams)
8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted but cooled to room temperature

Lemon curd (homemade or store-bought, just make sure it's gluten-free)

3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Fresh-squeezed lemon juice

Lemon peel curls and slices for garnish

Have all ingredients at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line bottom of 9-inch round cake pan with parchment paper.

Combine your room-temperature eggs, sugar, salt, lemon juice and vanilla in large mixing bowl. Whisk at low-medium speed until the sugar begins to dissolve, 

then switch to high for about five to seven minutes, 

until the eggs have turned a light yellow color and have increased some in volume.

Sift your room-temperature flours together with the baking powder and carefully fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture until combined.

Fold room-temperature melted butter into the mixture and pour into lined pan.

Bake 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. I opened my oven at 25 minutes to check it and it was too soon, causing the cake to fall a little in the middle.

Place pan on a wire rack to cool for several minutes. 

When cooled enough to touch, run a knife around the edges and flip over onto the wire rack. Let it cool a few more minutes, then carefully slice the cake in half horizontally to make two layers.

Place the cake pan back over the layers, flip back over and cover with plastic wrap. Place in freezer until firm.

When cake has firmed up some, remove from freezer and place the first half on a cake plate, cut side up. 

Spread lemon curd over the entire surface, 

then place the remaining half on top, cut side down.

Prepare your glaze by mixing the powdered sugar with just enough fresh-squeezed lemon juice to make a glaze with a good spreading and drizzling consistency. You don't want it to be too thin, but not nearly as thick as a traditional frosting, either.

Spread glaze over the top and drizzle over the sides. Garnish with lemon peel curls and thin lemon slices. 

Allow glaze to set before cutting into cake.

If your family is anything like mine - and thankfully my mom was visiting to help out with the tasting, be prepared to have most of the cake eaten in one sitting. (I did help, too. Quite a bit.) They loved this cake and said it was almost as good as my four-egg cake, and it was so close it was almost hard to tell.



  1. I was so excited seeing this, lemon is one of my favorites!

    I was also really excited to see your cake pictures, mine turned out visibly comparable in terms of texture and color. Glad to see that I did something right!

  2. holy yum, that looks delicious! anything with lots of lemon and glaze... i'm there.

  3. Tart, sweet and moist: this is a winning combination indeed. Well done!

  4. YUM. This is one of my very favorite kind of cakes. Looks so moist and perfect.

  5. My mouth is watering.... I love lemon flavor and this is pretty much the ultimate incarnation of a lemon cake. Beautiful.

  6. I LOVE LOVE LOVE lemon cake. I have one I make with Meyer lemons but I've never tried it GF. Yours looks totally delicious!

  7. Loving the glazes and definitely a fan of anything I can zest. I could see this being delish with grapefruit or even blood oranges too. Yummers!

  8. Cake makes me very, very happy too! Your lemon cake looks awesome. I also went with lemon - muffins. Super fun being in the GFRR with you :)

  9. oh, oh, oh!!!!! lemonade cake!! I have to try this and then I have to try it again using my pineapple curd. Ain't it amazing what happens when we step just outside the circle?! :)

  10. lemon cake is a tradition for me growing up, i love the gorgeous top --lovely inside and out

  11. T.R. - You don't give yourself enough credit! Your recipes always look great! Heading over to see your cake recipe soon - finally back from vacation!

    Gretchen, Rachel, Ginny, Britt, Winnie: Thank you all!

    Charissa - I bet that would taste fabulous!

    Marla, thank you - lemon is a perfect flavor for so many things. I love being in the rally with you as well!

    Brooke - I agree. And pineapple curd. Yumm!

    Karen - thank you. I love that tradition! :)

  12. This looks like a lovely cake! I think that we have very similar tastes in cake, not only in both making lemon for the ratio rally, but I also hate a dry cake, love something nice and dense but it must also have a little crumb. Your cake looks like it ticks al the boxes!
    Looking forward to more ratio rally baking with you and the gang:)

  13. Beautiful cake! I truly cant get enough of anything lemon so this is getting a big fat thumbs up from me :)

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