Sunday, January 31, 2010

What's Wrong With This Cake?

Are you the Miss Marple of cakes? Or perhaps the Sherlock Holmes of baking (he does live on Baker Street . . .)? If so, I need your help! Yesterday I baked a tried-and-true recipe - Lemon Tea Bread. I've made it zillions of times (okay, this kind of statement makes my husband raise an eyebrow, but I say a little hyperbole just makes your point). Back to the baking - it's an easy recipe that results in a perfect product. Except this time . . .

The center was sunken and I ended up overcooking it in an attempt to get the center to rise to a normal height. The result is this - it's too dark on the edges and dryer than normal, AND the center - well, you can see what's wrong with the center. On the bright side, it is still delish and looks a bit like a heart, so it could be an early Valentine attempt.

I think perhaps my butter was too soft. I didn't make any of the usual mistakes that cause a cake to cave (i.e., wrong amount of flour, over- or under-beaten, oven temperature wrong, etc.). And it didn't fall after it was removed from the oven, it was like this as it cooked. Plus, this is a simple recipe - not a sponge cake or other complicated type.

Having said all this, you might still like the recipe. It's a wonderful tea bread that's not too heavy and has a nice lemony flavor. Perfect with a cup of tea on a cold afternoon, and if you don't overcook it as I did, you can slice it thinly.

Lemon Tea Bread


1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk

2 tablespoons lemon rind, divided

1 cup powdered sugar

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon granulated sugar


Beat softened butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add 1 cup granulated sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.

Stir together flour, baking powder, and salt; add to butter mixture alternately with milk, beating at low speed just until blended, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in 1 tablespoon lemon rind. Spoon batter into greased and floured 8- x 4-inch loafpan.

Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center of bread comes out clean. Let cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove bread from pan, and cool completely on a wire rack.

Stir together powdered sugar and lemon juice until smooth; spoon evenly over top of bread, letting excess drip down sides. Stir together remaining 1 tablespoon lemon rind and 1 tablespoon granulated sugar; sprinkle on top of bread.

From Dorsella Utter, Louisville, Kentucky, as seen in Southern Living, October 2004

Maybe Dorsella, who developed this recipe, will read this and offer a suggestion! Have a great Sunday and good luck if you're baking . . .


  1. I wonder if your baking soda is outdated. Sometimes when I use old baking powder in my recipes, they don't rise like they're supposed to. Just a thought. Either way, your cake looks delicious. My mouth is salivating at the thought of the clean lemon flavor.

  2. That was my first guess too; the baking powder has lost its potency. You can test it by taking some and adding a little water; it should fizz. I have occasionally added a little more cream of tartar when I was in doubt, but you can always make your own baking powder:
    1 t baking soda
    2 t cream of tartar

    I agree with Gabriela that the cake still looks delicious!

  3. Thanks G & C! I bought that baking powder just before Thanksgiving, and it isn't close to the expiration date, but I think I'll replace it just in case. I'm off to try the fizz test, first, though!

  4. that sounds absolutely delish! found you by way of reading my tea leaves. love your blog! hugs!!

  5. I'm laughing! I, too, have a recipe that I've made 20 gazillion times (I think that's more than you;O)), and lately I've had the same thing happen in the center! I can't figure it all out...same flour, same milk, same everything. It must be this extra chill in our southern air! I'm so ready for some Spring warmth! Have a great day!


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