Meyer Lemon Tea Cakes with Pomegranate Glaze

Meyer lemon juice and zest flavors these cute little cakes.

When a good friend gifts you a few late-harvest Meyer lemons from her backyard tree that have ballooned into the size of oranges, you know you need to do something special with them.

Not just halved and squirted over fish on the grill. Not just sliced to garnish glasses of iced tea. And not merely juiced to make mundane lemonade.

Nope, these babies were made for “Meyer Lemon Tea Cakes with Pomegranate Glaze.”

This easy-breezy recipe for individual cakes is from “Sweet” (Artisan, 2013) by Pastry Chef Valerie Gordon.

A monster-sized Meyer lemon.
A monster-sized Meyer lemon.

She owns one of my favorite bakeries in Los Angeles, Valerie’s Confections, which I always make a point of visiting whenever I’m in town just so I can snag a slice of her impeccable rendition of the iconic Blum’s coffee crunch cake.

For this recipe, Meyer lemon juice and zest are incorporated into this cake batter, along with creme fraiche (I actually used plain yogurt instead) for tang and moistness. The batter gets distributed amongst large muffin cups that are buttered but not lined.

Once they are baked and cooled, turn the cakes upside down to dunk the flat sides into a glaze flavored with Meyer lemon juice and pomegranate juice. You are left with precious little cakes simply too cute to resist.

If you happen to have this cookbook, you may notice that my Meyer lemon tea cakes don’t look exactly like the ones pictured in the book’s photo, which are decorated with a bubblegum-pink glaze. Instead, my glaze is more of a very pale mauve color. That’s because I didn’t have pomegranate juice handy, so I went with pomegranate molasses instead, which didn’t create the same vivid, girly pink. Wanting to add a little more bling because of the more muted color, I added some gold leaf flakes overtop that had been in my pantry for years. (But hey, gold doesn’t go bad, does it?) All in all, I think they came out rather chic looking.

You also might notice that some of the measurements in the recipe below are rather odd. That’s because I cut the recipe in half, which Gordon advised could be done without a hitch. I mean, I like cake, but 24 of them is more than even I can handle. So, I settled on baking 12 instead.

They're just jumbo-sized muffins turned upside-down.
They’re just jumbo-sized muffins turned upside-down.

These moist, tender, fluffy little cakes have a lively citrus twang through and through. The pomegranate in the glaze adds a sweet, almost balsamic-like touch, too. If you wanted to simplify matters, you could skip the glaze and just dust the cakes with powdered sugar instead.

If you have any last-of-the-season Meyer lemons that you’ve been wondering what to do with, now you have your answer.

Just think: You don't even have to share.
Just think: You don’t even have to share.

Meyer Lemon Tea Cakes with Pomegranate Glaze

(Makes 12)

For the cakes:

1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

15 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup creme fraiche or plain yogurt

3 large eggs

3 tablespoons grated Meyer lemon zest

1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice

For the pomegranate glaze:

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 tablespoon Meyer lemon juice or more as needed

1/2 tablespoon unsweetened pomegranate juice or 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses, or more as needed

To make the cakes: Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat 12 large muffin cups with nonstick baking spray or butter.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl, using a handheld mixer), cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Mix the creme fraiche or yogurt, eggs, lemon zest, and juice together in a small bowl with a fork or small whisk. With the mixer on medium speed, alternately add the dry and wet ingredients in batches and continue beating until the batter is smooth, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl, about 3 minutes.

Using a large ice cream scoop or a large spoon, scoop a scant 1/2 cup batter into each prepared muffin or cake cup. Bake for 18 minutes, or until the tops of the cakes appear matte and the shiny center has disappeared; do not bake until the cakes turn golden. Let cakes cool in the pans for 5 minutes before removing them. Cool the cakes completely on a cooling rack before glazing, about 1 hour.

To make the glaze: Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a small bowl. Add the lemon juice and pomegranate juice and stir with a small spatula until completely smooth. If the glaze is too thick, add a little more lemon juice and/or pomegranate juice or pomegranate molasses. The glaze is quite sweet, so don’t worry about adding more acidity to it. If the glaze is runny, let it sit at room temperature for 10 minutes to firm up slightly before using. You want it to be thin enough to fall smoothly and languidly from a spoon but not so thin that it pours in a gush like milk. If the consistency is on the mark right after you stir the glaze ingredients together, it’s ready to use without letting it sit at room temperature to thicken up.

To glaze the cakes: Pour the glaze into a wide shallow bowl. One at a time, pick up each cake, and turn it over so that the top is facing down, and dip it into the glaze. Carefully remove the cake in a slow, circular motion so the entire surface is coated with glaze, then shake the cake gently so any excess glaze falls back in the bowl and put on a baking sheet. Put the cakes in a cool, dry area and let stand until the glaze loses its sheen and sets, about 20 minutes.

Storing: Once the glaze has set, the cakes can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Adapted from “Sweet” by Valerie Gordon

Another Valerie Gordon Recipe to Enjoy: Blum’s Coffee Crunch Cake

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  • After all these years, I just yesterday planted a Meyer Lemon tree (what the heck took us so long?!) in a big half wine barrel. It’s covered with buds, so if all goes well, maybe a few months from now we’ll be harvesting a fruit or two (squirrels be gone!) and I can comment on the deliciousness of this recipe. For now, I have a bit of drool to clean off of my keyboard!

  • Hi Carroll: I hope your new tree thrives! I have my dwarf tree in a half wine-barrel, too. And I don’t think you have to worry about squirrels. My lemons have never been pilfered by the critters. They only seem to go after everything else — peaches, tomatoes, kale, etc. LOL

  • Those look divine! I’ll give it a try. Mahalo!

  • Hi Kiyo: They are very easy to make and deliciously rewarding. Enjoy!

  • We had a Meyer lemon tree when we lived in Florida — loved it! Still love Meyer lemons, of course, but now we have to buy them. Luckily they’re available everywhere these days. Anyway, such a nice recipe — thanks!

  • Hi John: Meyer lemons have such a lovely fragrance, and their juice is the perfect balance of sweet and zingy. Glad you’re such a fan of them, too! 😉

  • Update to my above comment: Happily, the sweet little lemon tree we planted last year did, in fact, bear an abundance of fruit, Last night I made these to cap off a “special occasion” dinner for dear friends, and they (the teacakes as well as the friends) were sensational! I did not have pomegranate liquid i any form, so went with just lemon for all but one of the cakes. With the last bit of frosting, I added a smidge of Fig Balsamic Glaze just to see what would happen. Predictably, it turned the lovely pale lemon glaze a sort of maple-ish muddy brown which tasted fine, but in no way improved on the plain lemon version. The recipe has been requested, and I suspect you will have an enthusiastic new blog reader (Hi Kathy!) here very soon. These would be perfect additions to the table for a bridal or baby shower, and will be going into my regular rotation for friends and family very soon. Thanks, yet again, for another winning recipe, Carolyn!

  • Hi Carroll: Yay! I’m so glad the cakes were a hit. Because they’re individually-sized, they always feel more special when eating, too. I’m envious that your Meyer lemons are already ripe. It’s a weird year for mine, as they are still fully green. Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to be a little more patient until they finally ripen. 😉

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