A title like that practically challenges you to bake the darn thing, doesn’t it?
After all, you either fling yourself into it optimistically, confident that it really will be the best dang lemon cake you’ve ever sunk your teeth into or you grudgingly do it, all curmudgeon-like, waiting for that moment of smug satisfaction to prove hoity-toity Saveur magazine wrong.
Since I’m not one to scarf up lemon cake after lemon cake on a regular basis, I can’t say if it’s the very best damn Meyer lemon cake I’ve ever had in my life. But I will say it really is pretty darn wonderful.
As it should be since it’s based on a recipe by baking doyenne Maida Heatter.
A simple batter enriched with milk, ground almonds and plenty of butter gets livened up with Meyer lemon zest and concentrated lemon extract. It bakes up in a loaf pan — a light-colored one works best so that the cake doesn’t overbrown. When the cake emerges from the oven, it’s doused with a warm syrup of Meyer lemon juice and sugar.
Once the glaze has soaked in, turn the cake out of the pan. The recipe doesn’t say so, but I would advise using a piece of parchment paper to do this, rather than a plate, as the now-sticky top of the cake can easily adhere to a plate and come ripping off. Once you have the loaf out of the pan, invert it right-side up on a rack to cool completely.
Then, wrap the cake in plastic wrap and wait 24 hours before eating it.
I know, I know, you have to be patient, so that the glaze melds completely with the cake.
The next day, when you cut into the cake, you’ll find a crumb that’s fluffy and moist, and flecked with tiny bits of zest. The lemon flavor is front and center, but not at all puckery; just bright and sunshine-y.
After one bite, there’s only one word to utter:
The Best Damn Meyer Lemon Cake
Saveur recommends using a light-colored metal loaf pan, as a dark-colored one will cause the cake to overbrown; glass or Pyrex loaf pans will not conduct heat as well as metal.
1 tablespoon butter, plus 8 tablespoons melted
2 tablespoons fine dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup whole blanched almonds
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon fine salt
1 1/3 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup milk, at room temperature
2 tablespoons lemon extract
Zest and juice of 2 Meyer lemons
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a loaf pan measuring 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-by-2 3/4 inches with 1 tablespoon of the butter and dust it with bread crumbs. Invert and tap out excess crumbs; set aside. In a food processor, grind almonds until very fine, about 1 minute; set aside. In a bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.
Put remaining butter into a large bowl and add 1 cup of the sugar. Mix with an electric mixer on low speed until combined, about 1 minute. Add eggs, one at a time, beating just long enough to incorporate, about 30 seconds. Add flour mixture and milk mixture in 3 batches, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat until mixed after each addition, scraping down sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, about 3 minutes total. Mix in the lemon extract. With the spatula, fold in lemon zest and ground almonds. (The mixture will be thin.) Turn batter into prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean and dry, about 65 minutes.
Transfer pan to a cooling rack. Prepare the glaze: Combine remaining sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring, until sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes (Do not boil.) Brush glaze over hot cake. (The excess liquid may pool along the sides of the pan; it will absorb completely as it sits.) Once the cake has absorbed all the liquid, turn it out of the pan with the aid of a sheet of parchment paper. Turn cake right-side up on a rack, and remove parchment. Once it’s cool, wrap the cake with plastic wrap and let it stand at room temperature for 24 hours before serving.
Adapted from a recipe published in Saveur magazine, April 2008
More Lemony Goodness: Lemon-Walnut Biscotti
And More: Emily Luchetti’s Lemon Squares
And: Preserved Lemons