This is my favorite sourdough cake recipe yet. The Chocolate Orange version is delicious, but I was craving something lemony. I love citrus cakes and I thought the extra depth of flavor that comes along with the sourdough starter would be wonderful combined with lemon. I searched online and found a few variations on the lemon sourdough theme, but not quite what I was looking for. So I turned back to the trusty King Arthur Flour Sourdough Chocolate Cake recipe and tinkered with that to suit my vision.
I wanted a good hit of lemon with a hint of rose in the icing, to bring one of my favorite summer lemonades to life in a cake. That’s just what I ended up with, although something about this cake also reminds me of a fresh doughnut, without the deep-frying. When you glaze the cake while it’s still hot from the oven, the rosy lemon sweetness soaks down into the top inch or so, making it sticky while a crispy crust of sugared waves remains on top. If you have fresh organic rose petals, they make a gorgeous edible decoration on top of the icing.
The next time I bake this, I’ll use a combination of lemon and orange juices in place of the milk for a Citrus Sourdough cake. I wanted to give the milk a try first since I’d already experimented with orange juice in my Chocolate Orange Sourdough Cake. Both cakes are wonderfully moist, but the milk-based batter is definitely a bit richer.
This cake does take a while to prepare, but only because the starter needs time to unite with the flour and milk or juice. You can let that happen overnight or during a lazy weekend afternoon. The other steps are straightforward and quick.
Sourdough Lemon Cake
- 1 cup of sourdough starter ready for a feeding (meaning starter that’s been resting for 12 hours at room temp, bubbling and active, and now it’s ready to be divided and fed)
- 1 1/4 cup milk, any kind (I used fresh almond milk) or the same amount of citrus juice
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups rapadura or granulated sweetener of your choice
- 1 cup oil or melted butter (I used 1/2 cup olive oil and 1/2 cup unsalted butter)
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons natural lemon extract
- 1 1/2 teaspoons natural orange extract
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, finely ground
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 cup eggs : 2 large grocery store eggs or 3 eggs if you’re using the slightly smaller ones my backyard hens lay
- fresh zest from 1 lemon
- Combine the sourdough starter, milk or juice, and flour in a large bowl, stirring everything gently but firmly to mix it all into a relatively smooth mass. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and set it aside to rest. If you’re in a rush, set it in a warm place for at least two hours; if you’re planning ahead, do this just before you go to bed, set it aside in a cool spot, and make time to finish the cake the next morning.
- Once your starter-milk-flour mixture is bubbling and looking lively, it’s time for the next step: Preheat your oven to 350 F and grease or line with parchment at 9″x13″ pan.
- In a clean bowl, blend sugar, oil/butter, extracts, salt, and baking soda together. You can do this by hand with a whisk or spoon, or use an electric hand mixer.
- Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition to create a smooth batter.
- Stir in the fresh zest – Do this part by hand with a spoon, as the zest will just wrap itself around the beaters on an electric hand mixer.
- Now it’s time to gently stir the sugar and oil mixture into the starter mixture. At first, this will look like a culinary train wreck. Keep at it and eventually the two will become one. Gentle strokes of a spoon and persistence will make for a lovely smooth batter.
- Pour the finished batter into the prepared pan and bake at 350 F for about 45 minutes, or until the center springs back under a light touch from your finger and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Set the hot cake on a wire rack and spoon the Lemon Rose Glaze over it while it’s still hot. It will stay fresh for a few days in the pan, covered and kept at room temperature.
Lemon Rose Glaze
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- at least 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- rosewater to taste
- Measure the powdered sugar into a small bowl.
- Add 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice and stir well. Drizzle additional lemon juice in as needed to form a smooth icing that pours easily from the edge of tipped spoon.
- Add rosewater to taste. I like about 2 teaspoons in my icing, but you can use less or more.
- Add more powdered sugar if your icing is too runny (or you can just wait a few minutes to let evaporation take care of that for you). Add more juice/rosewater if it’s not runny enough.
- Pour over a hot cake for a glaze that soaks into the top inch-or-so of cake, leaving a crisp crust of translucent glaze on top.
That’s all there is to it – If you give this a try, please let me know what you think of it. And if you have another flavor or sourdough cake for me to try, please let me know. I’ve still got plenty of fresh starter to bake with!