For many juvenile Southerners, like young and tender me, lemon lives in the libation section of the memory because it of its inextricable association with tall and frosty vessels of our beloved iced tea. And though a bright yellow wedge of citrus perched happily on the edge of a glass signals sweet refreshment for some, it is a vision that makes my tongue curl in abject terror.
You see, while my child hood was, largely, a sweet time that was filled with culinary delights provided by my Mamaws,
including one, Mamaw Ethel, who was not only a fine cook but also a master baker, it was also a time of certain frugalities. Though Mamaw Ethel would splurge on any number of cake ingredients, for her nearly constant companion, a giant jar of iced tea, she was content to spike her beverage with a healthy dollop of commercially concentrated lemon juice from a pale green bottle that lived in the door of her fridge.
Perhaps you can see the appeal? When compared to the cost of real lemons, this was a bargain of nearly incomparable magnitude.
But to poor, lil’ ole me who was accustomed to liking so many of the things at Mamaw’s table, the accidental and inevitable and always shocking swallow of her overly faux-lemoned tea was ruinous to my normally sweet complexion.
And thus it has ever been. To this day, good southern folk smile indulgently at the village idiot who orders “Iced tea, no fruit.”
And after all those years of suffering through the vile torture of sweet natured folks who just couldn’t believe that anybody would want tea without lemon, it has taken a long time for me to see the lemon as a friend.
But I am not alone. Little did I know that I was experiencing literally some of the most potent figurative aspects of this particular citrus. For in painting and in other matters artistic, the lemon may represent bitterness or wealth. The lemon’s pith, as I imagine you know, is a tongue bending taste – all on its own it’s fiercely bitter to my mouth – which, according to various voices on the inter-webs, is what you’re supposed to understand should you see a peeled lemon in a painting. It’s certainly what I see when I recall Mamaw’s free-flowing lemon in a jar.
Likewise, like black pepper and other spices, lemon once was a hard to get and expensive provision. If there was a lemon on your table, your neighbors might shake their head and cluck, “You can’t hide money…”
I don’t think Mamaw worried what the neighbors thought – I suspect she was just keeping her pennies for better uses: she did make a luxurious Coconut Cream Cake at a time with when coconut was much dearer in rural East Tennessee than it is now.
At any rate, I avoided lemon bars, slandered lemon ice-box pie, and nearly gagged at the thought of lemon cake for years. But it was, in fact, a well glazed lemon pound cake that changed my mind and my sweet life forever.
Of course, I didn’t know there was lemon lurking in every bite of that beautiful cake – it was the first pound cake that ever I saw crowned with a layer of nearly sculpted white glaze. It was perfect, and it was love at first sight; and even after the first bite, infused though it was with lemon, lemon, lemon, I was enthralled like Romeo (but without similar consequences).
The bright and happy sweetness of fresh lemon well blended with sugar and flour was so delightful, I even wanted to kiss the little bit of zest I found lying in wait in each mouthful. I did not eat this cake delicately, nor did I eat slowly or modestly with good sense. I ate my second slice with the same ravenous mouth that bolted down the first. I am not ashamed. I had years of eating to make up for.
Thus, with all due respect to Mamaw, it pleases me more than I want to admit that Mahasti has opted to share this particular Flour Head recipe. It is, methinks, the lemon loaf that greets the soul at paradise. It’s moist enough as it is with a generous cloud of sour cream, but once you add the lemon syrup and seal it with a kiss, er, that is, a smooth layer of lemon glaze, you may feel compelled to sing and, perhaps, quote Shakespeare.
Flour Head Bakery’s Lemon Loaf with Fresh Berries
For the Cake:
4 large eggs
1 1/3 cup Sour Cream
1 1/3 cup Granulated Sugar
2/3 cup oil
3 TBL Lemon Zest
2 TBL Lemon Juice
2 c All Purpose Flour
2 2/3 tsp Baking Powder
2/3 tsp Salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease and flour a 9x 5 loaf pan and set aside.
In a medium bowl whisk together eggs, sour cream, sugar and oil. Add lemon Zest and Lemon Juice. In another bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and whisk just until combined. Some lumps will be left; don’t overmix.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Drop the oven temperature to 325 and bake another 35 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 200 degrees or a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
While the cake is baking prepare the lemon syrup and lemon glaze.
2 TBL Lemon Juice
3 TBL Confectioner’s sugar
After you remove the cake from the oven, and while it is still hot and in the pan, spoon the lemon syrup over the top of the cake. Allow cake to cool in the pan for 30 minutes to an hour. Remove the cake from the pan, onto a cooling rack or plate.
1 1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
3 TBL Lemon Juice
1 TBL Lemon Zest
Carefully pour the glaze over the entire length of the cake, and smooth it out with the back of a spoon, covering the top.
Slice and serve with fresh berries.