mini meyer lemon tea cakes

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Sigh.

I haven't been this depressed by a winter…well, ever. Which is fair, since the last winter this miserable and snowy and cold in Chicago? Happened before I was born. So "worst winter ever" is actually, at least personally, true.

I've been eyeing my ice cream maker longingly, and every time I walk past the dresses in my closet, I sigh dramatically. My general malaise extends to the kitchen. I have pounds of beets and carrots cluttering my refrigerator, and no desire to use them. I'm tired of stews and roasted meat and root vegetables and apples; I want asparagus and berries and grilled everything and ice cold sangria on the beach.

Alas, while I'll be escaping to California for a little while soon, at this rate Chicago won't see warm weather and spring vegetables until late May. In the meantime, there's lemons. Meyer lemons, to be exact, in tea cake form. What better to counter winter blues than sunny yellow, fragrant meyer lemons?

mini meyer lemon tea loaves

And boy does this cake use a lot of meyer lemons. At least 6, but probably more like 8. The resulting cake (or in my case, cakes) with its lemon syrup glaze, tastes and smells strongly of meyer lemons. It's enough lemon that the cake has a nice tartness, even though meyer lemons are sweeter and milder than their more traditional relatives. I chose to make mini-loaves because a) adorable, b) they are ready faster, and c) I found those pans first. What, you thought I put some planning into this?

meyer lemon tea cakes
adapted from Baking Out Loud by Hedy Goldsmith

If you can't find meyer lemons, follow the book's substitution tip. Use regular lemons, but replace 3 tablespoons of the juice for the syrup and 1 tablespoon of the juice for the bread with orange juice.

You can use one loaf pan if that's what you have. I include baking times for both, but keep an eye on your small loaves after about 30 minutes.

for the syrup:
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice
2 tablespoons finely grated Meyer lemon zest

for the cake:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons finely grated Meyer lemon zest
1 teaspoon pure vanilla bean extract
3/4 cup whole milk, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 tablespoons fresh Meyer lemon juice

To make the syrup, combine sugar, juice and zest. Cook over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes total.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a 9×5 loaf pan or 4 miniature loaf pans by greasing and flouring; set aside. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. 

In the bowl of an electric mixer (or a large bowl), rub the 3 tablespoons of lemon zest into the granulated sugar until fragrant and evenly combined. Add the eggs and vanilla, and using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a handheld mixer, beat on medium speed until blended, about a minute. Reduce speed to low, add a third of flour mixture and beat until just. Add the milk and mix again until just blended, then another third of the flour and mix again until blended. Repeat again with the butter, then the flour. Add the lemon juice and mix a few seconds until blended. Increase the speed to medium high and beat for 2 1/2 minutes.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake for 55-65 minutes if using one loaf pan; 35-45 if using small pans. The top will be lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean.

Transfer the pans to a wire rack. Using a long, thin wooden skewer (or a fork), poke lots of holes into the cakes. Pour syrup evenly over the cakes. Let cool completely in the pans. Removing will be a bit tricky, so unless you need it for presentation purposes, just serve out of the pans!

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