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Author Notes: This cake is based on a foolproof recipe for a glazed lemon cake I have been baking for years, from the You Asked for It feature in the late, great Gourmet Magazine (as Lemon Bread Billie Holliday's Lantern Glow). I wanted to also try to replicate a wonderful, simple nut cake my great aunt used to make; she was our surrogate grandmother and was the matriarch of the extended family. I was unfortunately too young to know to ask for that treasured recipe, so I turned to the lemon bread poundcake recipe for the basic, toasted up some walnuts and added Meyer lemon juice, zest and a gently sage-infused honey glaze. —creamtea
Makes one loaf cake, 4-1/2 x 8-1/2 inches
For the Glaze
- 3-4 fresh small-to-medium sage leaves, rinsed and patted dry, sliced thinly (1 scant tablespoon, loosely packed)
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon mild honey, such as orange-blossom or clover
- 1-2 strips of zest from a Meyer lemon (about 1 x 3 " each)
For the cake
- 1 cup walnut halves
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup organic sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (sifted before measuring), plus 1 tablespoon flour to coat the walnuts
- 1 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Place a rack in center of oven and pre-heat the oven to 375º. Butter and flour a standard loaf pan (4-1/2 x 8-1/2 inches).
- Combine all ingredients for glaze in a very small, nonreactive saucepan. Stir to combine, then place over a medium-low flame and bring just to a bare simmer. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
- Strain glaze through a mesh tea-strainer to remove sage and lemon peel, and set aside while you prepare the cake.
- Spread walnut halves on a rimmed baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and when oven is ready, toast walnuts in oven 8-10 minutes, stirring once or twice, until fragrant and a shade or two darker. Remove from oven, carefully lift up foil and remove from pan and allow to cool on a rack or other flat surface. Reduce 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 to shake out excess flour and set aside while you prepare cake batter.
- To prepare the cake, lightly oil cooling rack with neutral oil.
- Combine the 1-1/2 cup flour with the baking powder and salt, and sift onto a piece of wax paper.
- In a large mixing bowl with an electric hand-mixer beat the butter. (You can also mix the batter by hand; the cake will be a little denser). Add the sugar and beat until creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.
- Alternately add the flour and the milk in three additions to the egg mixture, beginning with the flour and beating until just combined. Periodically scrape down sides of bowl with a rubber or silicone scraper.
- Stir in the vanilla by hand until incorporated, then stir in the nuts. Scrape into the loaf pan, jiggle pan or rap it lightly on the counter to eliminate air pockets. Run a small sharp blade lengthwise down the middle to create a seam.
- Place pan in center of oven, and bake 35-40 minutes or until tester comes out with a few moist crumbs adhering. (Disposable aluminum tins will require a longer baking time). Remove to a cooling rack and quickly pierce all over top with a bamboo skewer or toothpick. Swirl the cooled glaze to recombine, and pour or spoon it all over the top of 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 carefully invert on the rack. Quickly flip it right-side up to cool completely.
- Serve in thin slices with hot or iced tea. It is even better the next day, when the flavors will have mellowed.
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Fresh Herbs