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 minutes
- Cook Time: 1 hour
- Total Time: 2 hours
- Yield: 12 1x
- Category: Dessert
- Cuisine: American
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
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.
Keywords: Cake, Lemon Cake