lemon cornmeal drizzle cake
This lemon drizzle cake was not on my list of recipes to discuss, but then I made it twice in one week because it's been raining for years and it felt right and here we are.
Although decidedly yellow, this cake is not beautiful. Thanks to the high butter content, it positively shatters into a shower of golden crumbs if you so much as look at it and it needs no garnish whatsoever, so it doesn't photograph well. BUT! The taste is really something. It's so bright and undeniably lemon-zesty without veering into that hyper-acidic/cloyingly sweet lemon bar trap that so many lemon desserts fall into--you know, the one where your mouth shrivels like a snail while you jump on the furniture because your adult body can't handle that amount of sugar. The cornmeal adds volumes of texture, especially when it fuses with the lemon glaze and makes the aforementioned crumb situation. It's divine.
The recipe is slightly adapted from Ruby Tandoh's fabulous book, Crumb (Ruby, I am HERE FOR YOU, GIRL), and I'm here to tell you that American citizens are truly missing out by not obsessively following the Great British Bake Off. Not only is it a show refreshingly full of the nicest people I've ever seen on TV (not once has anyone said, "I'm not here to make friends"), but it's also shown me there is a long and storied tradition of British baking that I had no idea existed. It's educational and it makes me hungry and proud that considerate, kind people still seem to exist somewhere in the world.
If you are hungry and have some butter and lemons and a handful of semolina, and the forecast shows rain until your retirement in thirty years, I would try this cake on for size.
Note that measurements are in grams. I recommend grams simply for accuracy, and if you don't have a digital kitchen scale already, it should be your next $15 purchase. Here is a great conversion resource.
lemon cornmeal drizzle cake
- 125 grams unsalted butter, softened to room temp
- 125 grams sugar
- 2 large eggs, room temp
- zest and juice of 2 medium-to-large lemons, divided
- 100 grams semolina or cornmeal
- 60 grams all purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- pinch of sea salt
- 60 grams sugar
- lemon juice from 2 medium-to-large lemons minus 1 Tbsp
Preheat the oven to 340'F and grease an 8" or 9" cake pan with butter (preferably loose-bottomed like a springform pan). I find that the only difference from the pan sizes comes with the height of the slices, so use what you have. If you aren't using a springform, line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper; crunch it lightly then smooth it back out so that it lays flat in the pan (make sure to reserve a piece of parchment about the size of your open hand).
In a medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy, then add the eggs, lemon zest, semolina, and 1 Tbsp of the lemon juice to the batter. Reserve the rest of the lemon juice for the syrup. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the flour in two batches to the sugar/butter mixture, folding it in lightly with a spatula until just combined. If you beat it, it will develop the gluten and make the cake tougher. Spoon into the prepared pan, smooth the top and bake for 25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean.
While the cake is baking, make the syrup. Heat the sugar and remaining lemon juice over medium low heat, stirring until the sugar crystals have dissolved and the mixture has thickened. Remove from heat and set aside.
As soon as the cake comes out, set the pan on a wire rack and immediately poke all over with your cake tester or a toothpick to the bottom of the pan. Slowly spoon the lemon syrup evenly over the top, letting each spoonful absorb into the cake top (you should use all of it). Let it cool for a few minutes, then remove from the pan. If you've used a springform pan, release the sides and transfer it to a cake plate. If you've used a regular cake pan, take the piece of parchment that you've reserved and put it on top of the cake. Gently turn it over so that your hand meets the parchment and gently holds the cake while you pop the pan off. Turn it back over onto your cake plate and pull the parchment piece off. (You can use a plate or another rack, but this will wreck the crumbly syrupy cake top.)
It cools quickly, but is fine to serve right away or after a few hours at room temp. I'm a purist about this cake, but you can top with a sprinkling of icing sugar if you like.