This cake is based on a foolproof recipe for a glazed lemon cake I have been baking for years. It was published in the You Asked for It section of Gourmet Magazine sometime in the 80's as Lemon Bread Billie Holliday's Lantern Glow. The original recipe has grated lemon zest in the batter and a tart glaze. It has a moist but compact crumb. I wanted to try to replicate a wonderful simple nut cake my great-aunt in Israel used to make. She regarded herself as our surrogate grandmother and was the matriarch of the family. Unfortunately I was too young to know to ask for that wonderfully satisfying recipe. I turned to my favorite recipe for the basics, adding chunky walnuts and vanilla, eliminating the lemon zest from the batter and adding Meyer lemon juice, zest and a gently sage-infused light honey glaze. Please try it exactly as written first before succumbing to the temptation to change it--it is simply perfect as it is. (less) —creamtea
I was really excited to see a teacake recipe in the walnut/sage contest. This recipe does not disappoint. Toasted walnuts are a favorite of mine and their flavor is highlighted so well in this tea cake. Simple to put together, elegant in flavor. Go heavy on the sage to really get the flavor throughout the cake. Infusing the cake with the glaze ensures a depth of flavor in every bite. Simply put, loved this little cake and will definitely be eating it again. —cgilsbach
one loaf cake 4-1/2 x 8-1/2 inches
For the Glaze
fresh small to medium sage leaves, rinsed and patted dry and sliced thinly (1 scant tablespoon, loosely packed) (the larger amount will give a more pronounced flavor)
mild honey such as orange-blossom or clover
strips of zest from a Meyer lemon (about 1 x 3 " each)
juice of 1/2 Meyer lemon, seeds removed
For the cake
(1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
large eggs, at room temperature
unbleached all-purpose flour (sifted before measuring) plus 1 tablespoon flour to coat the walnuts
Combine above ingredients in a very small nonreactive saucepan--I use a heavy-ish 1-1/2 cup stainless-steel measuring cup with a long handle. Stir to combine.
Place over medium-low flame and bring just to a bare simmer. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
When glaze is cool, strain through a mesh tea-strainer to remove sage and lemon peel.
For the cake
Pre-heat oven to 375º and butter and flour a standard loaf pan (about 4-1/2 x 8-1/2 inches)
Spread walnut halves on in a rimmed baking sheet lined with a sheet of aluminum foil. Place in the oven and toast 8-10 minutes, stirring once or twice, until fragrant and a shade or two darker. Remove from oven, lift up foil with walnuts to remove from pan, and allow to cool. Lower oven temperature to 350º.
When nuts have cooled, chop or break coarsely for a chunky texture. Toss with the one tablespoon of flour. Place nuts in a mesh strainer and shake out the excess flour.
Combine the 1-1/2 c. flour with the baking powder and salt and sift onto a piece of wax paper. Set flour mixture aside.
In a large mixing bowl with an electric hand mixer, beat the butter. Add the sugar and beat until creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Alternately add the flour and the milk in separate additions, beginning with 1/3 the flour mixture, beating until just barely combined, then 1/2 the milk, beating to combine; then repeat both steps. End with the flour mixture; do not over-mix. Periodically scrape down sides of bowl with a rubber or silicone spatula.
Stir in the vanilla by hand until incorporated, then stir in the nuts. Scrape mixture into the loaf pan, rap the pan on the counter top to settle the batter, and run a small sharp knife lengthwise down the middle to create a seam.
Place on the center rack of oven and bake 35-40 minutes, or until tester comes out with a few moist crumbs adhering. (Note: disposable aluminum pans will increase baking time). Remove to a cooling rack and quickly pierce all over the top with a bamboo skewer or toothpick, swirl the cooled glaze to combine, and spoon it all over the hot cake. Allow cake to cool on the rack in the pan for 10 minutes.
Run a thin sharp blade all around the cake to separate from the pan, then invert carefully onto the rack. Quickly flip it right side up on the rack to cool completely.
Serve in thin slices with a steaming hot cup of tea. It is even better the next day, when the flavors will have mellowed.