Lemon Visiting Cake

Lemon Visiting Cake

I made a lemon cake/bread yesterday to take with me when I go visiting this morning. It’s not the prettiest or most successful cake I have ever made. It will be very tasty, I’m sure of that. (Because of the recipe, not my particular talents.) I’m also sure the faults with this cake fall entirely with me. I probably didn’t measure the lemon juice as precisely as I should. Or maybe it was the sour cream? I’m fascinated by the science of what is happening in the baking process, but not so fascinated that I spend any time understanding it. I should. I’m sure I’d be a better baker if I actually understood why a recipe needs baking soda rather than baking powder, or both, or neither. Or why a cake falls in the middle one time out of the ten times you make a particular recipe. Because preventing that would be lovely. There is nothing sadder than opening the oven when your cake is nearly finished and seeing that huge dimple. Don’t get me wrong, slap some frosting or fresh fruit in that hole and eat up, it’ll still be tasty! Just not exactly what you were hoping for.

We got together with some folks last week, who inadvertently gave us one of the loveliest compliments about our inn and the comment itself has stuck with me. What was said was about the feeling of pulling up outside the inn, that the lights would be glowing softly, there would be the buzz of people inside, the anticipation of a good meal was in place and that there was a ‘whole delicious feeling’ to walking into the Inn. Not just delicious food, but a delicious feeling before the food was even in play.

It got me thinking about how much goes into a delicious meal. How much of what is great about a meal actually has very little to do with how the food itself tastes. One of the hubby’s favorite conversations is recounting favorite or best meals ever. These conversations are always full of side notes about this, that or the other, and often nothing to do with the food itself. (This dovetails into a conversation about online reviews and how incredibly subjective they can be, both because what you like and what I like might be entirely different but also, how much of all the intangible ‘deliciousness’ went in to what gets called a great meal?)

It takes an extra minute to stop and notice the things around you that are making you happy, during a meal and during life. (Goodness, I wasn’t intending this post to be quite so deep.) Maybe it is Italy still having an effect. The pace of things there is addictive. The pace of vacation is addictive. Do you know many places in Italy add a ‘table charge’ (it’s a couple of euros, not much) to all tables when you dine out? Why? Because Italians linger at their table. Waiters are not going to turn their tables quickly, getting one set of diners out and another set in. People are going to talk, order another bottle of wine and in the end, maybe you go away saying that was the best Pici alla Buttera you’ve ever tasted. Any maybe it was, but maybe it’s deliciousness was 100 other things as well.

And maybe this entire post is all a roundabout way to justify my slightly sad little cake. I know it will be tasty. I know I will enjoy the visiting that will come with this cake. I know the looks of this cake have next to nothing to do with how delicious my morning will be.

Here is the recipe, from the fabulous Sarah Kieffer and her Vanilla Bean Baking Book. Enjoy, however it turns out.

Lemon Visiting Cake

From the Vanilla Bean Baking Book


  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp grated lemon zest
  • 2 eggs room temperature
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Lemon Glaze

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • pinch salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a loaf pan.

  2. In a medium bowl whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a small measuring cup mix the lemon juice and sour cream.

  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth. Add the sugar and lemon zest and beat on medium until light and fluffy.

  4. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each and scraping down the bowl as needed. Add the canola oil and vanilla and mix on low until combined.

  5. Add half the flour mixture and mix until almost combined. Add the sour cream mixture and mix to incorporate. Add the remaining four mixture and mix on low to combine.

  6. Pour batter into loaf pan and bake 45-60 minutes.

  7. Let the cake cool on a wire rack for about 20 minutes while you make the glaze.

  8. Combine the sugar, lemon juice and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Boil for 6-8 minutes.

  9. Turn the loaf out of the pan and brush the top and sides of the warm bread with the glaze. Let it finish cooling before serving.

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