A couple weeks ago I was craving lemon poppyseed cake, but had no fresh lemons in the house. What I did have--what I always keep around--was a jar of preserved lemons. So I minced some of the rinds and added those to the batter in place of the fresh zest the recipe called for. It turned out unexpectedly wonderful: the minced preserved lemon bits became little gem-like flecks in the finished cake, with a deep and mellow lemon flavor that's not too salty at all.
This is a riff on an Ina Garten recipe, by way of Smitten Kitchen. This version adds sesame seeds and olive oil, for a cake that's elegant enough for company but also perfectly satisfying to snack on yourself. And though fresh lemons aren't necessary at all, if I have one around I'll sneak the zest into the batter and use the juice to make a glaze.
To bump up the lemon flavor even more, use a bit of the brine from the preserved lemon jar in place of the salt in this recipe. Preserved lemons vary in saltiness, so you may need to add a little more or less brine to the batter to get it tasting the way you want. For me, 1 1/2 tsp is usually about right. —ieatthepeach
1 loaf cake
1 large or 2 small
(230 g) plain full-fat yogurt
(200 g) granulated sugar
(100 g) extra virgin olive oil
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon (optional)
1 1/2 cups
(180 g) all-purpose flour
(8 g) baking powder
(3 g) kosher salt OR 1-2 tsp preserved lemon brine
Preheat oven to 350 F and position a rack in the middle. Grease a one-pound loaf pan and line the pan with parchment paper. (If you don’t have parchment paper, dust the greased pan with flour.)
Remove and discard the flesh of the preserved lemon(s). Rinse the lemon peel thoroughly to remove any excess salt. Mince the peel (you should have about 2 tbsp of minced peel) and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together yogurt, sugar, olive oil, eggs, vanilla extract, fresh lemon zest (if using), and lemon brine (if using). Add flour, baking powder, and salt (if using), and mix to combine. Add minced preserved lemon peel and sesame seeds, and mix to evenly distribute them through the batter.
Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then lift or turn it out onto a rack and let it cool completely.
Optional: Whisk together powdered sugar and lemon juice to make a glaze. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake, and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Let the glaze set for about 30 minutes before slicing the cake.
This cake gets even better on the second day. It will keep, covered, at room temperature for up to 3 days, or wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months.