Ladee Hubbard: Elizabeth’s Lemon Cake

Ladee Hubbard: Elizabeth’s Lemon Cake

Ladee Hubbard: Elizabeth’s Lemon Cake

The Rib King is set in the early 20th century and tells the story of an African American domestic servant in a wealthy household who creates a meat sauce that becomes a national sensation. Food is an important emotional core of the novel and a lot of my research involved considering what the book’s characters ate and what their relationship to food and sustenance might reveal about who they were. The chance to sample a recipe from the era becomes a wonderful way to connect with these characters and the complexity of their experiences.

The following recipe for Elizabeth’s Lemon Cake is from Toni Tipton-Martin’s cookbook Jubilee: Two Centuries of African American Cuisine. Tipton-Martin adapted the recipe from Malinda Russell’s A Domestic Cook Book: Containing a Careful Collection of Useful Receipts from the Kitchen. Published in 1866, Russell’s book is the first known cookbook written by an African American woman in the United States.

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Ladee Hubbard's Lemon Cake

Ladee Hubbard recommends this lemon cake recipe to accompany a book club discussion of her novel, THE RIB KING. The recipe, from Toni Tipton-Martin's JUBILEE: Two Centuries of African American Cuisine, was adapted from Malinda Russell's A Domestic Cook Book: Containing a Careful Collection of Useful Receipts from the Kitchen, the first known cookbook written by an African American woman in the United States.
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Total Time 2 hrs
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 12

Ingredients
  

For the cake

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup grated lemon zest
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice

For the lemon glaze

  • 2 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 3-4 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice

Instructions
 

To make the cake

  • Have all ingredients at room temperature. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 12-cup fluted tube or 2 (8×4-inch) loaf pans.
  • Cream together the butter and 2 cups of the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 5-7 minutes. Gradually beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the lemon zest.
  • Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Combine buttermilk and vanilla in a small bowl. With the mixer on low speed, alternately beat in the dry and liquid ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. 
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes or until a wood tester inserted in the center comes out clean. 
  • Combine remaining 1/2 cup sugar with lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until sugar dissolves. When cake is done, use a skewer to poke holes over the entire top. Carefully spoon the lemon syrup over the cake, allowing syrup to soak in before adding more.
  • Cool in the pan for 30 minutes, then invert cake onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the lemon glaze

  • Combine powdered sugar and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Spoon over cooled cake.
Keyword Cake, Lemon Cake
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