Lemon Cake (Cake au citron)

Lemon Cake (Cake au citron)

Aimee Bender’s
Lemon Cake (Cake au citron)

Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake


Aimee BenderThis is a recipe for lemon cake, similar to the one in my book, but different in some crucial ways. So, the cake in my book is also a lemon cake, but it comes packed with other stuff — the main character, Rose, requests a lemon cake for her ninth birthday, and I liked the idea of her wanting a type of cake that is sweet and sour at once. As soon as she bites in, that cake wakes up a certain new capacity in her, where she can taste the unknown feelings of the chef in the food prepared, and what is normally one of the most lovely and innocent parts of childhood comes packed with complication. This recipe here is likely to bring on less complicated feelings and should be quite purely good to eat. This cake doesn’t have the chocolate icing Rose asked for either. When writing the book, little did I know that that is a rare combination! Since the book came out I’ve had several conversations with bakers who shake their heads. The two flavors compete, they tell me. But I had a hard time imagining a kid wanting anything but chocolate icing — she was sophisticated in her lemon choice but wanted the classic for the icing. If you want to add a little more Rose to the cake feel free to add a chocolate icing.

Aimee Bender photo credit: © Max S. Gerber

Lemon CakeLemon Cake (Cake au citron) 

Note: This cake is excellent sliced and toasted. A homemade cake keeps for several days. Just wrap it in plastic wrap when it has cooled and keep it at room temperature. Cake should not be kept in the refrigerator, but you can freeze it. It will be good for several weeks.

10 tablespoons butter, plus a little extra for greasing the pan
2½ cups all-purpose flour, plus a little extra for flouring the greased pan
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, plus 1 heaping tablespoon if you decide to make syrup
Grated zest of 1 organic lemon
3 large eggs
½ cup milk, warmed in a small saucepan
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon lemon juice (optional) 

1. Dice the butter and melt it in the microwave at low power.

2. Use a pastry brush to grease the bottom and sides of a 10-inch round cake pan with butter. Sprinkle the pan with flour, turn it all around to spread the flour evenly, and tap out any excess.

3. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

4. Sift the sugar into a bowl. Add the lemon zest. Mix the sugar and zest well with your fingers, then whisk in the eggs. When the eggs and sugar are thoroughly combined, whisk in the melted butter and warm milk. Add the flour and baking powder, whisking constantly throughout.

5. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 8 minutes. Lower the heat to 300°F and cook about 40 minutes more. The cake is finished when the blade of a knife inserted in its center comes out dry.

6. Remove the finished cake from the oven, unmold it onto a cooling rack, and let cool.

7. Just after cooking you can, if you like, use a pastry brush to coat the cake with syrup. Just boil 4 tablespoons water with 1 heaping tablespoon confectioners’ sugar for a couple of minutes. Allow it to cool, then stir in 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Brush the syrup on the still-warm cake.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Excerpted from THE COMPLETE ROBUCHON by Joël Robuchon; Translated by Robin H. R. Bellinger. Copyright © 2008 by Joël Robuchon. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. www.ReadingGroupCenter.com