Friday, March 19, 2010

Technique and Lemon Pound Cake

I'm back home after spending two days in upstate New York. I catered a Chamber of Commerce mixer for Head Start. My best friend is the director for her county's Head Start program. And boy is she dedicated to her 125 three, four and five year olds who populate the program.

When I wasn't cooking, shopping for ingredients or catching up with my friend I was marveling at the beauty of her farm. Twenty years ago she and her husband made the pilgrimage from city life to farm life. One hundred and ten acres, two children, 6 horses, a bunch of chickens, roosters, dogs, cats and a duck that thinks it's a chicken later, they have never regretted their decision. It is exactly the environment I want to be in 5 years.

The other thing I noticed is her technique in life. Isn't technique everything? How do you manage a full time job, a full time farm (plus a bed and breakfast), 2 teenagers and all that life hands you?


And her technique is a calm equilibrium, focus, humor and love.

We should all be so wise.

I nicked this recipe off the blog, Jan Can Cook. And boy can Jan cook. Go visit her while this cake is baking. You won't be disappointed.

As I read through the recipe one thing that struck me is that this cake is all about technique. By precisely following these directions you will turn out a superior pound cake - at least unlike any I've made before. I think lemons are the perfect prelude to spring. They are my favorite color, they're fresh, fragrant and oh so good.

Jan Can Cook: Better Than Starbucks Lemon Pound Cake: this makes a big cake.


4 lemons, organic if you can find them
3 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, that is completely softened*
3 cups superfine, Baker's or caster sugar*
6 eggs, warmed for 10 minutes in hot tap water before using
1 cup full-fat sour cream, at room temperature


2 lemons
2 cups powdered-sugar*, sifted
Preheat oven to 325F. Grease a 16-cup tube pan and dust with cake flour; tap out any excess. Be sure to grease and flour the center column too. You can also use Pam with Flour (I do).

Scrub the lemons with hot soapy water. Rinse really well and dry completely. Zest four of the lemons, being careful to avoid the pith (the white part that live right below the yellow part of the lemon). With a very sharp paring knife, cut the tops and bottoms off of each lemon.

With one cut side down on the cutting board, trim the pith off the lemon, vertically, going all the way around each lemon, exposing the flesh of the lemon. ( has a great little tutorial how to do this. They illustrate the technique with an orange but it translates to any citrus fruit). Over a bowl, cut segments from membranes, letting fruit and juice fall into the bowl, being sure to discard the seeds and the remaining membranes. With a fork, break segments into 1-inch pieces.

In a separate bowl, combine the sugar and the lemon zest. Work the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic. Set aside.

Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.
Beat the butter for 2 minutes at medium speed in the electric mixer. Add half the sugar and mix for 2 more minutes, then add the rest of the sugar and mix again for 4 minutes, stopping once to scrape down the bowl and the beater blade.
Remove the eggs from the warm water and dry them. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating just until combined after each addition (about 30 seconds). On the lowest setting, mix in the dry ingredients, then the sour cream. Lastly, gently fold in the lemon juice and segments. Transfer batter to prepared pan.
Bake cake until tester inserted near center comes out clean, about an hour and a half. Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes. Cut around the cake in the pan, turn out the cake. Carefully turn cake right side up on rack.

While the cake is cooling, juice the remaining 2 lemons. In a small bowl, slowly add the powdered sugar to the and stir until smooth. It should look thick, opaque, and should be thin enough to it should be pourable. If it's too thin, add more powdered sugar. If it's too thick, add more lemon juice. Poke small holes all over the top of the cake using a fork or toothpick. Carefully pour about 1/2 the glaze over the tops and the sizes of the cake. Let the glaze harden for about 2 hours or overnight. Cover the remaining glaze and keep at room temperature. About a half hour before you're ready to serve, pour the remaining glaze over the cake.

Store in a covered container, either in the fridge or at room temperature.

Ingredient Notes:
* Butter - A butter knife dropped on a stick of butter should slide completely through the butter to its center. This means the butter needs to be at 70-72F.
* Superfine/Castor Sugar - You can make this by putting granulated sugar into the food processor and whizzing it around several times for a minute or two.
* Powdered Sugar - If you have an old, half-opened bag of powdered sugar sitting in your pantry, I'd strongly encourage you to throw it away! It's been my experience that powdered sugar that's been opened and not properly resealed starts to oxidize very quickly. It can give the sugar a metallic taste that will impart an "off" flavor into your dessert, especially glaze.

A Cook's Notes: I used Meyer Lemons because I love their extra fragrance and they are a bit sweeter than a regular lemon - but do use whatever you can find!


  1. I want that peacefulness. So bad.

  2. That cake sounds absolutely amazing. I love lemon cake. I'm glad you had a nice trip :)

  3. I will bake this luscious cake today to replace the missing sunshine!

  4. Kate - you will find your place and peace, it just takes time.

    Rachel - I love the sweet and tart flavors of lemon too.

    Kathy - without exaggeration, I think this is the best cake I have EVER baked in my life. Be sure to follow the instructions (technique) exactly. Darn, now that I've thought about it, I have to have another piece....

  5. This lemon pound cake looks divine! Really makes me want to bake one, now! And I agree, it is all about technique. Hope you're having a wonderful weekend, cher!

  6. I love lemon pound cake. I would make this tomorrow if I wouldn't then also eat it until it was gone! How nice to spend some time on a farm. Getting the feel, seeing and hearing what works, what to avoid, how to to enjoy. Time well spent, I'd say.

  7. OMG I cannot imagine having to look out for 125 three, four and five year olds!! Brave woman!

  8. Oh, Lord. I would love to gobble down a pound cake right about now. After Lent...

    One over at my place you might like to comment upon...

  9. Whispering - I think I ate 90% of the cake myself.

    Marguerite - I am going to try other flavors using the same technique. Pineapple, orange, coconut... this could get dangerous!

    Nancy - it is a dangerously good cake and huge! Make it when you have a crowd.

    Eternally - she is brave and has a heart of gold

    Suldog - opps - I forgot about your no flour lenten sacrifice. Now Chinese Food - that's good all year right? Left a comment on your post.

  10. Great that you got to spend time with your friend. Often Head Start directors are amazing, and with the limited budget they often have as well. Your friends life sounds fabulous. I hope you are were you want to be in 5 years, no doubt with great food!

  11. I want to make this cake so bad..but I am sooo afraid!! I am dieting and I know I will eat it all since its just me and my husband now...Your friend sounds like one of those women who can do it all effortlessly...I have a friend like that..her calm manner could be why..she can do it all...How wonderful to have a farm and all those animals..I would be in HEAVEN...

  12. I love lemon pound cake! My recipe is a Heritage recipe...Pound of flour, pound of eggs, pound of sugar, etc. That's why it's called pound cake!

  13. Oh, thanks for sharing this! Looks wonderful...may I pass it on to my readers as well? Lemon is my favorite flavor as well! I'll share my Lemon/White chocolate biscottis with all of you one day! Your blog is wonderful...

  14. Cousin B - please do share the recipes with your readers. The more happy eaters in the world the better!

  15. cant wait to try this , looks and sounds delic


Wow. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I love feedback... what with being a cook and all. I will respond to your comments via email (if you do not have a "noreply" address or here, below your comment) As always, Bon Appetite!

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