I'd always been intrigued by Meyer lemons. I'd never actually had the chance of baking with them, let alone buying them until a few weeks ago, mostly because every year I'd completely forget about them until it was too late. I wouldn't remember that it was Meyer lemon season until the very end of the season, and at that point, I always had to tell myself that next year would be different. Next year I'd try harder. Next year, I'd actually remember. It only took about three years of that for "next year" to actually happen.
Meyer lemons are something of a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange. They're rounder and more yellow than typical supermarket lemons, and are less acidic. They're super juicy and have a thin, wonderfully fragrant skin. They're really something special, and it's too bad they have such a short growing season! When I went shopping for winter citrus a few weekends ago (see, when "next year" finally happened, I made sure to really follow through and stock up on all kinds of citrus!), I bought tons of Meyer lemons, without any sort of clue as to what to do with them. The possibilities were endless but nothing seemed right. I wanted my first experience with Meyer lemons to result in something truly delectable, and settling on something that was anything less than that was not an option.
Eventually, I settled on Ina's classic lemon cake. This cake is, as they say, "an oldie but a goodie," and virtually everyone under the sun has made it, ate it, and loved it. I think I've made it once or twice before too, and had the same reaction. It's a wonderful cake, and I decided to remake it slightly with the bounty of Meyer lemons sitting in my kitchen. Stirring in a few tablespoons of poppy seeds seemed like a natural move, and as soon as "Meyer Lemon Poppy Seed Cake" crossed into my mind, my decision was confirmed. This was indeed the right decision.
Rather than bake the cake in two loaf pans like Ina does, I baked up the cake into a big, beautiful Bundt. There's nothing wrong with an easy loaf cake, don't get me wrong, but I will always, always gravitate towards a Bundt cake. They're big and awesome, and I secretly love that feeling of dreadful anticipation as you attempt to unmold them from their pans. I've been baking Bundt cakes for many years now, and I still get that slightly nervous feeling that maybe I didn't grease and flour the pan enough every single time. It's a great feeling when you see that yes, you did grease and flour the pan properly and the cake released without a hitch. It's a feeling of satisfaction that a loaf pan just can't provide. Meyer lemon and poppy seed is such a classic combination, and it's a perfect fit for a Bundt cake. The cake batter is mixed together in just a few quick minutes, the poppy seeds are stirred in, and the batter is poured into a perfectly greased and floured baking pan. A slightly longer baking time yields a beautifully golden brown cake with a fluffy, poppy speckled interior. It's a wonderful sight!
A simple lemony syrup is brushed over the warm cake to help seal in the moisture and add just an extra hint of lemon flavor. A quick drizzle of lemon glaze finishes off this simple cake, and that's it. This cake ended up being everything I could have wanted for my first Meyer lemon encounter and more. Bright, fruity, and pucker-inducing, this cake just made me happy. It sounds simple, but it's true. It's hard not to feel happy when you're eating something this bright in such a dark and dreary season! I love the way the poppy seeds are speckled throughout the cake, and the lemon syrup really adds something special to the cake, keeping it moist and full of flavor. This is a recipe to make while Meyers are still around, so don't waste another second!
Meyer Lemon Poppy Seed Bundt
recipe adapted from Barefoot Contessa Parties!
For the Cake
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar, scant
4 extra large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup grated Meyer lemon zest (6-8 lemons)
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons poppy seeds
For the Lemon Syrup
1/2 cup freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
For the Lemon Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and position a rack in the middle of the oven. Spray a 12-cup Bundt pan with nonstick spray and lightly flour, tapping out any excess.
In the bowl of a standard electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and granulated sugar until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer running on medium speed, add the eggs, one at a time, followed by the lemon zest.
In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a large measuring cup, stir together the lemon juice, buttermilk and vanilla. Add the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture alternately to the mixer, making sure to begin and end with the flour. Stop the mixer from running every now and then to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Stir in the poppy seeds and distribute evenly.
While the cake is baking, you can prepare the lemon syrup. Combine the lemon juice and granulated sugar in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Brush the warm syrup all over the warm cake. Allow the cake to cool completely.
Once the cake has cooled, prepare the lemon glaze. Whisk together the powdered sugar and lemon juice to create a thick, yet pourable glaze, adding more powdered sugar or lemon juice if necessary. Drizzle the glaze all over the cake and allow the glaze to set. Serve, and enjoy!
Makes 1 Bundt