April showers bring May flowers. But last winter’s deluge of rain nearly drowned my poor little Meyer lemon tree.
Usually flush with deep green leaves and bountiful with sunny yellow lemons, it looks more like Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree right now. In fact, I managed to pick all of about four decent-sized ripe lemons this year — not nearly enough to make this spectacular “Meyer Lemon Coffee Cake” by Martha Stewart.
But lo and behold, my friend Kiki to the rescue. With her tree overflowing with lemons, she gifted me a big bag of them — plenty to make this cake that requires a load of Meyers.
Thin slices of lemon are layered and baked right into the cake, which has a batter laden with lemon zest, too. Then, a mountain of crunchy streusel goes on top — an amount nearly as deep as the cake, itself. Finally, a Meyer lemon citrus glaze is drizzled over the top.
With Meyer lemon slices, zest and juice, this is a cake that is redolent of citrus through and through. Because Meyer lemons are less acidic than Eureka ones, they give this tender, moist, buttery cake a robust lemon taste, but one that’s not wincing in any way.
Given the amount of sugar — and there is a lot — this cake is surprisingly not saccharine.
The only tricky part may come in unmolding the cake. It requires an angel food cake pan. However, this cake is much heavier than that light-as-air one. Stewart says to cool the cake a bit, then remove the outer ring; cool again for a few minutes, then use two spatulas to lift the cake up and over the center tube. Try as I might — and even allowing the cake to cool an additional 20 minutes — I could not lift the cake with two spatulas without it threatening to crack in several spots.
So how did I eventually unmold it in one piece? By using the best kitchen equipment there is — my hands. Yes, with clean hands, I grasped the cake on opposite ends, and lifted it up while applying a little pressure to gently squeeze it a bit toward the center, to keep the cake intact. It worked like a gem.
This cake makes for a perfect Sunday morning treat or an ideal afternoon pick-me-up. And if my Meyer tree cooperates — or my friend Kiki is feeling generous again — I’ll be happily making it again and again.
Meyer Lemon Coffee Cake
For the streusel:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 teaspoon coarse salt
6 ounces ( 3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter
For the cake:
4 to 5 Meyer lemons (depending upon how large they are), cut into paper-thin slices, ends discarded
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
4 ounces (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
1 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons finely grated Meyer lemon zest (from 4 to 5 lemons)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
For the glaze:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 to 4 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice
Make the streusel: Mix together flour, brown sugar, and salt. Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, cut butter into the flour mixture until small to medium clumps form. Cover, and refrigerate until ready to use (up to 3 days).
Make the cake: Cook lemon slices in a medium saucepan of simmering water for 1 minute. Drain, and repeat. Arrange lemon slices in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch angel food cake pan. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Beat butter, granulated sugar, and lemon zest with a mixer on medium speed in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. With the mixer running, add eggs, 1 at a time, then the vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with sour cream.
Spoon 1/2 of the batter evenly into cake pan. Arrange 1/2 of the lemon slices in a single layer over the batter. Spread remaining batter evenly over the top. Cover with the remaining lemon slices in a single layer. Sprinkle the chilled streusel evenly over the batter.
Bake until cake is golden brown and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack set over a baking sheet, and let cool in pan for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pan, and remove outer ring. Let cool on rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the center tube, and allow to cool for another 15 minutes. Either slide 2 wide spatulas between the bottom of the cake and the pan, and lift cake to remove from the center tube; or using clean hands, hold onto the cake on opposite sides, applying a little pressure to keep the cake from cracking as you lift the cake up and off the center tube. Let cool completely on rack.
Make the glaze: Just before serving, stir together confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Drizzle over cooled cake, letting excess drip down the sides. Let glaze set before slicing, about 5 minutes.
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Meyer Lemon I: Sauteed Chicken with Meyer Lemon
More Meyer Lemon Recipes to Try: Meyer Lemon and Vanilla Bean Marmalade