Today is a special post to me. Since I am leaving for school in about 9 days, I am going to be missing my grandfather’s birthday, which occurs about two weeks after I leave. He is turning 90, and I wanted to make things special for him, despite me not officially being there. My dad always told me stories of how my grandmother would make this lemon pound cake with lemon rind in the cake and in the frosting. He called it just perfect. My sisters also told me of this cake, as well as her Devil’s Food cake. Unfortunately for me, my grandmother had stopped cooking by the time I came along, so I missed out! She passed away two years ago, and my grandfather thinks that she is living through me in terms of my baking. “Pound-A-Butter Betty” has come through to me as “Pound-A-Butter Clara”, I feel honored with the title, and I wanted to make something special for him for his 90th birthday. So I made him Mamo’s Lemon Pound Cake.
Considering that Mamo never wrote down a recipe for anything, and it was apparently impossible to get them out of her, I had to go by word of mouth as to how to make this cake. I needed accuracy. Was it sour? Was it sweet? Did it taste like tangy lemonade? Did it taste like sweet lemon curd? I had to be as spot-on as possible to make this special ‘birthday’ cake a reality for Dado. After all of the research and thought-process, I put together a pound cake that was lemony, sweet, bright, and makes you feel happy on a summer day.
Behold, the old-fashioned pound cake.
For amazing smoothness, I used one 8 oz. block of unsalted European butter. European butter has a higher fat content than standard butter, so it ups the richness significantly. I’m going totally Southern here, richness is in my roots!
I went a pretty straight-forward way. I measured my ingredients so that I had an equal amount of each. Really, this is a half-pound cake, since I weighed everything to be eight ounces. However, you can definitely double the recipe and use a bundt pan for a ‘Pound Cake’.
Heck, since this is 8 oz. of everything, you could call this a Cup Cake! What? That’s what the phrase came from! Did you know that? Betcha didn’t!
I beat the butter and an equal portion of sugar in my mixer on medium speed for about 9-10 minutes. I know this seems like a long time, but this is how pound cakes were done in the past. However, we have stand mixers now, and not tons and tons of time to stir and stir and stir the butter and sugar together until nice and creamy and fluffy. Let me explain this process real quick.
When we cream butter and sugar together, the sugar granules are poking thousands and thousands of tiny holes in the butter so that air can come in. I did not use any other forms of leavening in the cake other than the creaming method. As a result, the cake is rich and dense, yet oddly light. That is the strangeness of the pound cake. The eggs puff when they bake, using the air pockets that we have created with this long creaming time, which causes the cake to rise. So, the long creaming time is ESSENTIAL. I use the time to my advantage, weighing my ingredients, preheating my oven, and prepping my pan all while this is happening. Trust me. It must be done.
At my grocery store, they had these beautiful large lemons on sale, not the teeny ones, but the mondo ones. I had a thought that if I used one of these lemons in the cake, it would give enough flavor without over powering the cake. I also did the same with the icing, knowing that the ratio of juice/milk will give the icing a tangy aspect. Also, the addition of vanilla to the cake will round out the flavors and really make the cake more…well…lemon-y!
I zested one entire lemon and used its juice, beating it in AFTER the creaming was completed.
I weighed four eggs. So I can tell you that a large egg (not extra large, please) weighs 2 ounces, so four of them weigh 8 ounces. There you go, I weighed everything for you. I also used half cake flour and half all purpose. The protein in the all purpose would give the cake a bit more firmness, while the cake flour would keep it tender.
I’m just working on the science aspect for you!
Okay, don’t be worried about filling the pan too high. It WILL look like the pan is too high, but trust me here, it will not overflow. The batter is simply too dense, and the lack of baking powder will not allow it to rise too much. So don’t worry, trust me. While it seems like there is a lot of batter, it really is just right.
And smooth it off, too! That’s just my little thing. I like it to be smoooooth!
Bake it for about an hour and fifteen minutes! The top will get nice and golden, and then it will crack in the center, like a wonderful, classic pound cake. So preeeeettyyy.
While the cake is baking, make the icing. Milk, powdered sugar, and zest and juice of HALF of one of the large lemons (or one whole smaller lemon) turned out to be just right. The frosting was thicker, don’t worry about that. We are putting it on the cake when it is still fairy hot, so it will ‘melt’.
Be sure to taste as you go! If it’s too sour, add more milk and powdered sugar. Too sweet? Add more lemon!
Welcome, little cake! It’s been quite a long journey, its dark outside now, I have lost my pretty natural light while waiting for you. But I forgive you. You are delicious.
You ARE called pound cake, after all!
Pour the frosting evenly over the top of the still-hot pound cake, it will melt and seep down the sides. Add as much as you want, I didn’t skimp. Also, its important to let the cake cool for a bit after the frosting is on, so that it can set.
Happy 90th Birthday, Dado! I love you!
Mamo’s Lemon (Half) Pound Cake with Lemony Icing
8 oz. Unsalted European Butter, softened
8 oz. Granulated Sugar (I used vanilla sugar, but you can use whatever)
8 oz. Large Eggs (four)
Zest of 1 Large Lemon
Juice of 1 Large Lemon
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
4 oz. Sifted Cake Flour
4 oz. All-Purpose Flour
1/2 tsp. Kosher Salt
1 3/4 C. Powdered Sugar
Zest of 1/2 Large Lemon
Juice of 1/2 Large Lemon
3 T. Milk, plus more in case the frosting is too thick
-Preheat oven to 350 and prep one 9″x5″ loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.
1. In a heavy duty mixer, cream butter and sugar together until almost completely white and very fluffy, about 9-10 minutes (this has to be done). Add in zest and juice, and beat for another minute.
2. Add in eggs, one at a time, beating until each egg is thoroughly incorporated before adding the next. Add vanilla and salt. The end mixture should look a bit curdled, this is alright.
3. Pour in flour in three increments, mixing until each addition is mixed in. Mix for about 30 seconds on medium-low speed after the flour has been incorporated.
4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top, do not be concerned about filling the pan too high. Bake in preheated oven for 75-80 minutes until cake is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the cake inside the crack on the center is slightly dry but springy. Allow to sit in pan for five minutes, then invert to a cooling rack set over a kitchen towel.
5. Prepare icing, whisk together powdered sugar, milk, zest, and lemon juice until smooth. The frosting should be as thick as maple syrup.
6. While the cake is still hot, use a toothpick to prick holes all over the top of the cake. Pour icing evenly over the cake. Allow the cake to cool and set before enjoying.