I’ll never forget the first time I found meyer lemons in a regular grocery store. It was 2010, and I was doing a last-second rush for supplies before a blizzard. I have no idea what I shopped for that day (my then-oven ran at least 150F cool, so options were limited), but I remember seeing a display of meyer lemons and thinking they were so…exotic. I had heard of meyer lemons, of course, but never seen them in the wild (er, Cobble Hill grocery store). Out of curiosity, I put a couple in my cart. I couldn’t begin to tell you what I did with them, but that is the probably-tedious story of how I came to love meyer lemons.Fast forward nine years and I have used meyer lemons many, many times. I see them in every store this time of year, and while I no longer think of them as exotic, I always look forward to adding their orange-lemon flavor to my bakes. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that I only have one lone meyer lemon recipe in my archives! Just one measly recipe for scones—very good scones, mind you, but how is that the only recipe I have to celebrate one of the best winter citruses out there?!Well, consider that oversight rectified. Today’s Meyer Lemon Drizzle Cakes celebrate everything that is wonderful about this winter citrus. There’s meyer lemon zest in the batter, the cakes are soaked in a sticky meyer lemon syrup, and the cakes are topped with a thick meyer lemon icing drizzle. Yesssss.This recipe is based off the Orange Cardamom Cake I posted last fall. The batter itself is near identical; just sub meyer lemon zest for orange and nix the cardamom. Instead of baking it in a bundt pan, I went for two loaf pans—one to share, ya know?!
I also upped the temperature by 25F. This extra burst of heat allows the cakes to dome slightly, which comes in handy when you drizzle on the thick meyer lemon icing.But before we get to icing, let’s talk syrup! After baking, these cakes are soaked with a meyer lemon simple syrup. To make it, just combine equal volumes of meyer lemon juice and granulated sugar over low heat, stirring just until the sugar dissolves. Easy.While the cakes are still warm, poke ‘em full of holes. I like to use a thin, flexible knife to keep them inconspicuous, but a skewer will work. Whatever you use, poke it through to the bottom. Then pour over that syrup. You’ll think it’s too much, or that it’ll make your cakes soggy, but it won’t. It’ll just make them extra moist and dense and outrageously delicious. This is the good stuff.Last but not least, let’s talk about the drizzle. It’s a just a simple icing—two ingredients, one bowl, no mixer—but it’s the crowning glory on these tea cakes. Once the soaked cakes are cool, set them on a cooling rack and pour the icing down the center. The cakes’ slight domes should help the icing to “spread” itself, but you can coax it with the back of a spoon, too. It’ll drip down the sides a bit, but should be thick enough that most of it stays on top. The icing will set quickly, which is a good thing because you’re going to want to dig right in.Meyer Lemon Drizzle Cake is good on the first day. Very good, even. But if you have the patience, you should wait a day or two to have a slice. The cakes become even more tender and the orange-lemon flavor intensifies over time, making those day-old slices absolutely heavenly.I, however, have no patience around Meyer Lemon Drizzle Cake.
Meyer Lemon Drizzle Cakes
makes two 9×5-inch loaf cakes
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon fresh meyer lemon zest (about 2 medium meyer lemons-worth)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 16 pieces
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 cup milk (preferably whole), room temperature
2/3 cup freshly squeezed meyer lemon juice (about 4 medium meyer lemons)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice (about 1 1/2 medium meyer lemons)
Place an oven rack in the center position. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease two 9×5-inch loaf pans. Line with parchment, leaving overhang on the two long sides, and grease again. Set aside.
Make the cake. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Use an electric mixer to mix on low for 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium and mix for 3 minutes. Batter will be thick.
Transfer batter to prepared pans and smooth the tops with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon. Tap full pans on the counter five times to release any large air bubbles. Bake 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cakes cool in the pan for 15 minutes while you make the syrup.
Combine meyer lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir constantly until sugar dissolves, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat.
Stab warm cakes (still in their pans) several times with a thin, flexible knife or skewer, making sure to poke all the way to the bottom. Pour syrup evenly over the cakes, about 1/2 cup each. Let cakes soak in the syrup until they are completely cool.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment and set a cooling rack over the top. Use parchment overhang to remove soaked cakes from pans. Discard used parchment and place cakes on prepared cooling rack.
Make the icing. In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together confectioners sugar and meyer lemon juice. Mixture should be very thick, but pourable. If it’s too thick, add more meyer lemon juice by the teaspoon. Pour over the centers of the cakes—the icing should “spread” itself, but you can coax it a bit with the back of a spoon. Let sit for 20 minutes to set. Move cakes to a serving plate before slicing and serving.
Leftover cake will keep covered at room temperature for up to three days or in the refrigerator for up to five. Meyer lemon flavor will intensify over time.