Sunday, April 5, 2009
My favorite cake is this Lemon-Crème Fraîche Cake. (Well, to be completely honest, my favorite cake is whatever cake I happen to be eating at the moment, but never mind that.) This particular Lemon-Crème Fraîche Cake is perfection. It’s light as a feather and fluffy as a cloud. It’s incredibly moist and incredibly tender and not too sweet. And it really tastes like the name promises—the flavors of lemon and crème fraîche shine through. It fulfills all of my cake fantasies in every way.
This perfect Lemon-Crème Fraîche Cake originally came from the Pearl Bakery in Portland. I first encountered it there years ago. I remember how, as I was checking out the beautiful array of goodies behind the counter, the plain-looking cake caught my eye. It was already missing a slice so I could see the crumb. I ordered it on the spot. With no hesitation. Now, I’m not usually a decisive person when it comes to ordering in a bakery. I take my time considering the selection of pastries, I debate croissant versus Danish, and I pay no attention to the line forming behind me. But on that one day I knew exactly what I wanted—this cake was calling, no, screaming my name.
I was so smitten with the Lemon-Crème Fraîche Cake that I had to ask the bakery’s pastry chef at the time for the recipe. She graciously shared it, though the directions were a bit sketchy. I’m so thankful that she did because I haven’t seen my favorite cake at the bakery in a long time. Whether they’re all sold out by the time I get there or whether they’ve completely lost their minds and discontinued it, who knows? And with the recipe, who cares?
Lemon-Crème Fraîche Cake
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing the pan
10 ounces cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
Grated zest of 1 lemon
5 large eggs, at room temperature
11 ounces sugar
¾ cup crème fraîche, at room temperature
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter a 9×3-inch round cake pan, line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper, and butter the parchment. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Stir the lemon zest into the flour mixture.
In a mixer fitted with a whip attachment, mix the eggs and sugar on high for 4 to 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy and doubled in volume. Add the crème fraîche and mix on low until just combined. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture, then the butter, then 1/3 of the flour mixture, then the lemon juice, and then the remaining 1/3 of the flour mixture, mixing on low for only a few seconds after each addition until just combined, and stopping the mixer once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Do not overmix. Transfer to the cake pan and spread evenly. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until the edges of the cake start to shrink away from the pan and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Invert onto a cooling rack and finish cooling completely. Dust with plenty of powdered sugar, cut into portions, and serve.
Makes 1 9-inch cake, serving 8. This cake is best the day it’s made. Definitely try the recipe with Meyer lemons when they’re in season. And if you don’t have crème fraîche, you can substitute sour cream.