June 11, 2012

i love lemon: syrup two ways & a triple lemon cake

I love lemon.  It's versatile and sort of magic.  It enhances the flavor of both savory and sweet dishes.  It's vibrant and powerful, yet still lets other ingredients shine.  I'd be hard pressed to think of a dish that wouldn't benefit from a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. 

This time of year, the hot weather leads me to search for cold, refreshing beverages.  Last year, I couldn't get enough ginger.  I made homemade ginger syrup & added it to everything: sparkling water, iced tea, iced coffee, and um, adult beverages.  This year, however, lemon is the star of the show. 

If you are a lemon lover like me, I encourage you have a bottle of homemade lemon simple syrup in the refrigerator at all times.  You'll be thankful it's there, trust me.  I have two variations on the classic simple syrup: one is a sweet lemon flavor, similar to a lemonade concentrate, and the other is a lip-puckering tart lemon.  Either are beautiful mixed with still or sparkling water, tea, juice or cocktails. 

lemon syrup, full of zest, mixed with sparkling water.

Lemon simple syrup, two ways
makes 1 1/4 cups syrup

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (two or three lemons)
zest of two lemons

1 cup sugar
1 cup fresh lemon juice (five or six lemons)
zest of two lemons

Bring sugar, liquid & zest to a low boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer until liquid thickens slightly, 5-10 minutes.  Remove from heat, cool and store in glass bottle or jar for up to two weeks. 

Not long after the I made the season's first batch (of many), I found this recipe.  I found myself thinking about it at least once a day.  My lemon love was intensifying.  A family dinner party finally gave me a justified reason to make a triple lemon cake.  If you like lemon flavor, this cake is intensely layered with lemon flavor, both tart and sweet.  My version depends on the boozy flavor that limoncello brings.

I let the larger loaf (left) cook longer, and I was happier with the resulting browned crust.

Triple lemon cake
inspired by One Lovely Life's recipe

makes one large loaf or three mini loaves

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt
1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 tsp limoncello
zest from two lemons

1/3 cup prepared lemon syrup (sweet or tart, depending on preference), warmed  

2 tbs fresh lemon juice
1 tbs limoncello
1 cup confectioners sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare loaf pan by spraying with nonstick cooking spray. 

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.  Whisk yogurt, sugar and oil together in a large bowl.  Whisk in the eggs one at a time until fully combined, then add limoncello and zest. Slowly incorporate dry ingredients & mix until fully blended.  Pour into prepared pan and bake 50-60 minutes, until cake springs back to the touch and is fully baked.  (For mini loaves, bake 40-45 minutes.)

Remove from oven and cool about five minutes.  Remove from baking pan, poke holes in the cake with a toothpick, and while still hot, drizzle the warm lemon syrup over the cake.  Allow cake to absorb the syrup, and cool completely.

To make glaze, whisk the lemon juice, limoncello and sugar in a bowl until smooth.  Spoon over the cake, allowing to completely cover the top and run down the sides.  Allow to set completely before serving. 

I served this cake with vanilla whipped cream and fresh blackberries.  It received rave reviews, though if it's not eaten within one sitting I urge you to store it in an airtight container.  I didn't, and the texture suffered after a couple days. 

My lemon love affair will continue this week.  I'm thinking crepes with tart lemon syrup, butter and powdered sugar might be in order. 


  1. When I was a kid, any lemon dessert other than a lemon cookie seemed like a punishment. Now, it's pretty much my favorite. Clearly, I am much smarter than 30 years ago.

  2. that lemon cake was deeelish! thank you so much for sharing some with a fellow lemon lover. =) have you played around at all with making a lower sugar/calorie lemon simple syrup? i love sparkling lemon water (+ would love to make it entirely from scratch), but i'm trying to reduce the amount of sugar in my diet. sigh. i wonder if it would work with stevia, or something along those lines?

    1. thank YOU for being a taste-tester! i personally cannot consume sugar alternatives due to some allergies, so i haven't tried it myself. the tart version of the lemon syrup is so flavorful that i found just a tablespoon was enough for a full glass of sparkling water. if you decide to experiment with stevia, let me know how it turns out!