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April Cake: Double Header

28.April 2010

Anyone who’s ever been in the Jones household during one of my and my sister’s visits home knows that my mom loses all sense of proportion in the kitchen, cooking every one of our requests, old favorites, and new recipes that she can cram into a usually already-crammed schedule.  As luck would have it, I have a similar disregard for common sense in cooking and baking and whenever I’m home I join in the festivities with gusto. While visiting home last weekend, I remembered that I had only a couple of weeks left to come up with a cake for April.

So, naturally, I baked two.  

Cake, the first:

This cake comes from The Cake Book by Tish Boyle, which is an altogether beautiful book with varied recipes from everything from pancakes to pound cakes. The sour cream lemon poppyseed cake had a satisfying ration of poppyseeds to cake (enough that it’s very poppy-y, but not so much that it overpowers the other flavors), was impossibly light and tender with a subtle lemon flavor.  I could go on and on.  The ganache was originally meant to be whipped (which is a brilliant idea and definitely one I need to try when I have enough patience to let the ganache sit for 6 hours, which I did NOT have last week), but I left it as a glaze.  The lemon zest gave the white chocolate a much more complex flavor than white chocolate on its own and the flavor and texture was absolutely perfectly matched to the subtle complexity of the cake.

Sour Cream Lemon Poppyseed Cake with White Chocolate Ganache
from Tish Boyle’s The Cake Book

  • 2 1/4 c cake flour
  • 1 1/4 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 3/4 c poppy seeds
  • 14 T unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 c sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 T lemon zest (I used 3 lemons)
  • 1/4 c lemon juice (I used 3 lemons)
  • 1/2 t vanilla extract (I used 1 t, because I never think less than that is enough)
  • 1 c sour cream
  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Prepare pan(s).  (The recipe called for a 9″x13″sheet pan, but I opted for two 9″ square pans).
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add the poppy seeds and whisk to mix well.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar in an electric mixer.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.  
  4. Beat in lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla.
  5. Add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating it with the sour cream in two additions and mixing until just blended.  Scrape the batter into the pan(s) and smooth the top.
  6. Bake for 25-30 minutes until tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Cool for 15 minutes and then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely.

White Chocolate-Lemon Ganache

  • 6 oz white chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 c heavy cream
  • 1 t lemon zest

  1. Place the white chocolate in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Bring the cream to a gentle boil over medium heat.
  3. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let it stand for 1 minute to melt the chocolate, then whisk until smooth.
  4. Whisk in lemon zest.
  5. Let cool until ganache will thickly coat the back of a spoon.  Pour over cake.

Cake, the second: 

Unfortunately I have only one photo of this cake, but that should not reflect negatively on its taste or abundant beauty.  I loved both of these cakes, but (and I feel like a parent choosing between two beloved children when I say this) the lemon buttermilk cake wholly eclipsed the other.  The buttermilk gave it a silky texture and tangy taste and the glaze and lemon sugar topping were rich and unsubtle in their lemony goodness.

Lemon Buttermilk Sheet Cake 
from The Cook’s Country Cookbook

  • 2 1/2 c cake flour
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 3/4 c buttermilk (room temperature)
  • 1/4 c fresh juice
  • 3 T lemon zest (about 3 lemons)
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 c sugar
  • 12 T butter, softened
  • 3 eggs plus 1 large egg yolk (I just realized I didn’t add the extra egg yolk, but it didn’t have any negative impact)
  1.  Preheat oven to 325.  Prepare a 9″x13″ pan.
  2. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Combine the buttermilk, lemon juice, and vanilla in a measuring cup.
  3. Make lemon sugar: Beat together the sugar and lemon zest until moist and fragrant.  It will have the texture of fluffy brown sugar. Transfer 1/4 c of the lemon sugar to a bowl, cover, and reserve.
  4. Add the butter to the remaining sugar mixture and beat until light and fluffy.  
  5. Beat in the eggs one at a time (and add the yolk, if you’re actually following the recipe).
  6. Reduce mixer to low speed and add 1/3 of the flour mixture followed by half of the buttermilk mixture.
  7. Add half the remaining flour mixture, then the second half of the buttermilk mixture.  
  8. Mix in the remainder of the flour mixture until smooth. 
  9. Scrape batter into the prepared pan and smooth with rubber spatula.
  10. Tap the pan to settle any bubbles out.  
  11. Bake until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (about 28-34 minutes).


  • 3 c powdered sugar
  • 3 T fresh lemon juice
  • 2 T buttermilk
  1. Whisk ingredients together.
  2. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes, then spread the glaze over the warm cake and sprinkle with the reserved lemon sugar (I used a not-very-fine mesh sieve, which did the trick nicely).

Update: I baked this cake again for a big party.  It’s still spectacular and this time was prettier!

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