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Sour Lemon Cake

This tart treat from "Martha Stewart's Christmas" makes a thoughtful food gift -- if you can resist eating it yourself.

  • Yield: Makes two 6-inch round cakes
Sour Lemon Cake

Photography: Rob Tannenbaum

Source: The Martha Stewart Show, December 2011

Ingredients

For the Cake

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
  • 3 cups sifted all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • Zest of 2 lemons

For the Glaze

  • 1/3 cup Cognac
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Directions

  1. Make the Cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees; butter and flour two 6-inch round cake pans. Set aside.

  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

  3. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add flour mixture to butter mixture, alternating with milk, mixing well after each addition. Stir in lemon zest.

  4. Place 2 3/4 cups batter in each prepared cake pan. Transfer to oven and bake until a cake tester inserted into the centers comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly in pans; invert cake onto a wire rack.

  5. Make the Glaze: In a small bowl, mix together Cognac, lemon juice, and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Brush glaze over cake and let cool completely. Serve with candied lemon slices and kumquats.

Reviews (18)

  • s4nte 16 Jan, 2012

    The pound cake is great. Didn't like the candied lemon - it's chewy, difficult to slice through, and makes an unattractive cake topping. Not crazy about the glaze either - it's a bit too boozy. I used 2 6" pans and when the cakes we done I took them out of the oven, covered the domes with kitchen towels and pushed down the domes to level the cakes - worked great. I didn't have to waste cake (by carving off the domes) and it helps keep the cake dense and moist. Would def make the pound cake again

  • JasonB 25 Dec, 2011

    I like the diversity with this cake. I prepared mine in a simple round bundt pan. Instead of using cognac (or any alcohol) I made the glaze with a simple sugar solution and fresh lemon juice. I am considering adding a little sour cream to the cake recipe to make it more moist. Overall, a delicious cake.

  • rjameslarsen 23 Dec, 2011

    I made this into six three inch cakes to give as gifts, ate two of them and had to make more. I used meyer lemons for my cake instead of regular lemons because i prefer the flavor. I will be making cupcake sized cakes next, for a buffet, I plan on topping them with a nice fluffy meringue icing and a candied lemon peel. I don't understand the people who disliked this cake, it's absolutely delicious.

  • DebbieHursh 19 Dec, 2011

    so sad to say I was disappointed with this recipe. I first off thought the pan size was too small, I used a 7" pan (after baking 2 6") and it worked better. However, the flavor of the glaze wasn't quite what I hoped it would be. A simple lemon and sugar glaze would have been better. I also didn't like the candied lemon peel, followed the recipe exactly and they didn't taste good at all. Still looking forward to the next recipe I will try :)

  • cajuncookin 18 Dec, 2011

    Couldn't wait to make this after watching Martha's show. I made it in the two 6 inch pans, trimming the tops when done. I was disappointed in the cake. I prefer a sweeter pound cake, but it was overpowered by the baking powder taste. I hoped the cognac sauce would help, but it didn't. Looks great, but glad I tried the cake before making them for Christmas gifts.

  • cajuncookin 18 Dec, 2011

    Couldn't wait to make this after watching Martha's show. I made it in the two 6 inch pans, trimming the tops when done. I was disappointed in the cake. I prefer a sweeter pound cake, but it was overpowered by the baking powder taste. I hoped the cognac sauce would help, but it didn't. Looks great, but glad I tried the cake before making them for Christmas gifts.

  • cajuncookin 18 Dec, 2011

    Couldn't wait to make this after watching Martha's show. I made it in the two 6 inch pans, trimming the tops when done. I was disappointed in the cake. I prefer a sweeter pound cake, but it was overpowered by the baking powder taste. I hoped the cognac sauce would help, but it didn't. Looks great, but glad I tried the cake before making them for Christmas gifts.

  • KimDeV 17 Dec, 2011

    I am making 12 of these cakes as gifts this year. I did not want to invest in new pans (6") so I used my loaf pans. An 8X4 loaf pan has just slightlhy more volume than a 6" round. i put the recipe in 2 8x4 loaf pans and they came out beautifully! They look very elegant decorated with the candied lemons, and are easy to pack up in a basket with some ornaments and cards.

  • WmRichmond 14 Dec, 2011

    I plan to make about 30 of these for friends and family so i thought I had better do some testing. I too wanted to have a 9" cake so i decided to use my 9" spring-form pans. (parchment lined bottom) I made the batter per the recipe and used all of the batter in one pan. Baked at 350 for 60 minutes. There was a generous crown that baked up which I sliced off to create a flat bottom. (Will freeze and use this cake for something great latter) Cake was cooked perfect. Used every drop of glaze.

  • proudgeekmom 13 Dec, 2011

    I am making 8 of these to use as gifts for my husbands office staff. They love my cooking and baking and look forward to my Christmas surprise every year. So far, so good! I watched the video and that answered all of my questions about the glaze, etc. I am using Nordic Ware baby bundt pans as I do not have round six inch pans in my collection. The baby-cakes are adorable! Very easy and not cost prohibitive to make multiples. Don't tell, but I made an extra for my husband. Try this recipe!

  • Bwags 12 Dec, 2011

    I, too, am a bit confused. I watched Martha make this on her show and she talks about freezing it then glazing it if you want to make it ahead of time. I thought that the glaze needed to be put on when the cake was warm? Will it be a problem to freeze it with the glaze on it?
    Also, I am confused about cake pan size. The cakes on the show look small, so I assume she used a 6 inch pan. Does this make 2 6 inch cakes or do you stack them and make one??

  • AmandaCrump 11 Dec, 2011

    This a delicious recipe and very easy. The cake puffed up a bit over the pan but I just trimmed it while still in the pan and turned it upside down for presentation. The cake is moist and I look forward to giving these beautiful cakes as gifts.

  • annabigail 10 Dec, 2011

    I would like to make ahead and freeze to give as Christmas gifts. Would I take it through the step that applies the syrup over the warm cake? Any ideas anyone.

  • memeremalek 10 Dec, 2011

    Would love to make this but recipe is confusing. I I use the two round pans as instructed, do I put some of the glaze on each finished cake creating a layered cake? Can I make just one cake and only glaze the top? difficult to follow posted recipe, but ingredients sound wonderful

  • AZCindy 10 Dec, 2011

    I would also like to know what alternative to the alcohol I can use. Thanks it looks delicious!

  • dejuanahumble 10 Dec, 2011

    would love to make this cake for Christmas but do not have any alcohol in my house. What can I use in place of cognac?

  • WmRichmond 9 Dec, 2011

    I too would like to bake the larger single layer cake. Please update this as soon as possible. Thank you.

  • Furbalsmom 9 Dec, 2011

    I am anxious to prepare this recipe, but the recipe states makes one 9 inch cake, while the directions tell you to prepare in 2- 6 inch cake pans. I really want the 9 inch cake and want to know the suggested baking time.
    Really looking forward to making this cake!

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