Poke Cake Reimagined
Do you remember poke cake? It is an old fashioned dessert where a freshly baked cake, usually in a 13 x 9 pan, is covered in a glaze as soon as the cake is removed from the oven. The hot cake is pierced or "poked" all over the top with a carving fork while the glaze is poured on and into the holes. The cake is then left to cool completely. The glaze seeps down into the cake as it cools resulting in a deliciously moist dessert.
My mom made a poke cake that we called orange cake. She baked a lemon cake and poured on a glaze made with orange juice and confectioner's sugar. Once the cake cooled it was covered with foil and refrigerated over night. The cold orange cake was a terrific, refreshing dessert in the summer time.
Today, we're going to make a lemon buttermilk quick bread that is a riff on the old fashioned poke cake. The recipe for this bread was developed by King Arthur Flour and is available on KAF's website. After the bread is baked, it is poked all over with a cake tester or other long thin instrument (I used my Thermopen) and covered in a lemon glaze. The cooled bread is moist and yummy, yummy, yummy! Ready to give it a go?
As you would imagine from the name of the recipe, both the quick bread and the glaze require fresh lemon juice. I love using fresh lemon juice in baking recipes but juicing a lemon with a wooden reamer left me with the additional task of fishing the lemon seeds out of the cup. A couple of years ago I found a handy gadget which makes this task easy peasy. It's called a JuiceLab. You can get for less than $10 on Amazon. The juicer top fits onto a flask which is etched with graduated liquid measurements on the side. The perforations on the top catch pulp and those pesky seeds while allowing the juice to flow through into the flask. After you have juiced your lemons, insert the stopper into the flask to protect the juice and prevent spills. I love a good kitchen gadget! Okay; on to the recipe.
For this recipe you need 6 tablespoons of unsalted butter, one cup of sugar, 2 large eggs, a quarter cup of fresh lemon juice, 3/4 cup of buttermilk or yogurt, 1/2 teaspoon of lemon oil or 1 teaspoon of fresh grated lemon zest, 2 cups of AP flour, 1 teaspoon of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Then, prepare an 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 inch loaf pan by lightly coating it with butter. To make your life easier, insert a sheet of parchment paper cut to fit the loaf pan and grease the parchment with butter. You'll be glad you did this when it is time to remove the bread from the pan!
Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and set the mixture aside. Then, in a separate measuring cup or bowl, mix together the buttermilk or yogurt and the lemon oil or fresh zest. Set this mixture aside.
Cream together the butter and the sugar using your mixer. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each egg to ensure it is fully incorporated into the butter and sugar.
Add the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar mixture alternately with the buttermilk/lemon mixture, mixing well after each addition. Your batter is ready for the oven! Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake the bread for about 50 minutes or until a tester inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.
About 5 minutes before the bread is done, you need to make your glaze. Remember, the glaze needs to be drizzled onto the bread while it is still hot from the oven. In a measuring cup, whisk together the juice of one lemon with 1/2 cup of granulated sugar. Keep stirring the glaze until the sugar is completely dissolved. Making the glaze in a measuring cup will make it much easier to drizzle onto the hot bread.
When the bread is done, remove the pan from oven and, just as you would with a poke cake, immediately poke holes all over the top of the bread. You need to use something long and thin like a cake tester or an ice pick. Drizzle the glaze over the bread while it is still in the loaf pan, concentrating on the holes you've made and stopping occasionally to let the glaze sink into the loaf.
After you have used all of the glaze, set the bread aside to cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the bread from the pan and let it cool completely before slicing it. This is easy if you took the time to line the loaf pan with parchment. Just lift the loaf out using the overhanging edges of the parchment and set it on a rack to cool. To avoid making a mess on the counter, set your rack over a baking sheet which will catch any glaze that drips off the bread.
Are you ready to taste your bread? Treat yourself and your loved one to a moist, tangy slice of lemon bread. This bread keeps well, not that you'll have any left. Although I did not try this, you could refrigerate the bread before serving it, like my mom used to do with her orange cake. That would make quite a refreshing treat in the warmer months, don't you think?