Monday, May 12, 2008

Best Light Lemon Bundt Cake

I recently purchased Cook's Illustrated Light Recipes (Spring 2008). The first recipe I tried was their "Best Light Lemon Bundt Cake" by Julia Collin Davidson.

I was pretty nervous and time was fleeting.
Gathering my ingredients together, I gave them (and my kitchen aid mixer) a pep talk. Thinking to save time, I filled a tub with hot soapy water and did the dishes before starting.

Reading down the list of ingredients, the recipe seemed straightforward. All the ingredients were old friends. I thought it should be fairly straightforward.

With the kitchen straightened, and the floor swept, I set to work. I lined up the ingredients with military precision. I measured out the dry ingredients (2 cups sugar, zest of 3 large lemons, pinch of salt, and 1 teaspoon baking powder) and let the kitchen aide mixer run them through the obstacle course. By the time they were done, they were a unit.

I set out another bowl and whisked the wet ingredients together (1 cup 2% milk, 3 large egg yokes, 1/4 cup olive oil, 4 tablespoons melted butter, and 1 tablespoon vanilla).

After cleaning out the kitchen aide mixer bowl, I whipped three egg whites up into a froth. A pinch of cream of tartar and 1/2 a cup of sugar made the eggs stand up straight and stay at attention.

I then mixed the wet mixture with 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, then mixed the wet mixture with the dry. Once they merged, I added the egg whites. It was then that I noticed the 3 1/2 cups of flour at 1/2 teaspoon baking soda were AWOL. I gingerly added the ingredients to the already mixed cake, and the egg whites began to sag. It was at that time that I noticed I should have only added 1 1/2 cups of sugar to the cake, not 2 cups. Ack!

Resigned to my mistakes, I poured the batter into a pan coated with a paste, made from 1 tablespoon melted butter and 1 tablespoon flour. The cake went into a hot (350 degree F) oven, and I set the timer for 45 minutes.

When it was done, and cooling, I made up the glaze (1 cup confectioners' sugar, 1 tablespoon lemon zest and 5 teaspoons lemon juice).

Just before leaving, I poured the glaze over the cake and let it sit for 10 minutes, then I wrapped it in plastic and left.

The cake was really well received; a bit heavier than the recipe said it would be (but then with the egg whites deflated, the texture of the cake made sense). I'm definitely going to have to try this again - with the proper recipe.

Lemon Bundt Cake

A light and lemony cake that is designed to please. The unique form of a bundt pan makes this cake perfect for glazing with either a lemon sugar glaze, or even just plain old confectioner's sugar. The lemon flavor is quite strong and offsets the sweetness of the cake.

Makes 16 servings.
Time: 1 hour + cooling time (1-2 hours).

3 cups cake flour + 1 tablespoon (for dusting the pan)
2 cups sugar, divided (1 1/2 cups and 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup lemon zest, finely grated
2 tablespoons lemon juice (from 4 lemons)
1 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
3 large eggs, yokes and whites divided
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter + 1 tablespoon (for the pan), melted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
Lemon glaze (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. The oven rack should be in the lower-middle position.
  2. Lightly coat the bundt pan with a paste made from 1 tablespoon flour and 1 tablespoon butter.
  3. Whisk the remaining flour, 1 1/2 cups sugar, lemon zest, salt, baking powder, and baking soda together in a large bowl. Set aside.
  4. In a second bowl, wisk together the milk, yokes, oil, butter, and vanilla together.
  5. In a third bowl whisk the egg whites with an electric mixer. When the eggs are broken and foamy, add a pinch of cream of tartar and increase the speed of your mixer.
  6. Continue to whisk the egg whites, adding the remaining sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. When all the sugar is added, continue to beat until the egg whites are shiny and foam stiff peaks.
  7. Slowly whisk the milk mixture and lemon juice into the flour mixture until the mix is smooth.
  8. Fold one third of beaten egg whites into the batter until combined.
  9. Fold remaining two thirds into the batter until combined.
  10. Pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan and smooth the top. Clean the edges of the pan.
  11. Bake until deep golden brown, about 40 to 45 minutes. A toothpick should come out with a few moist crumbs attached. Halfway through baking, rotate the pan.
  12. Cool the cake on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes before inversing the pan.
  13. Leave the cake for 1-2 hours to cool it. When cool, either dust with confectioner's sugar, or drizzle with glaze.

Lemon Glaze

Makes 1 generous cup, enough to glaze 1 cake.
Time: 5 minutes.

1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest, finely grated
5 teaspoons lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon table salt


  1. Whisk all ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl.
  2. Move the cake to a cooling rack over top of a piece of parchment paper.
  3. Drizzle cake with glaze and let it set for 15 minutes before serving.

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