Lemon pound cake (and the delights of New York City)

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Last month I went on a grand adventure with two friends to New York. We attended the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and then spent a week exploring the city. It was an amazing experience in all respects and I grew very quickly to love New York – the city scape (look up! became my motto), the people I met, the outstanding galleries and museums, the shopping, the distinct and colourful neighbourhoods, and the unspoken but compelling imperative to take each day and wring as much out of it as humanly possible.

The food was also fabulous. We found great little restaurants wherever we went and the street food – pretzels, bagels and spicy lebanese lamb wraps, was delicious. While we couldn’t find a coffee that measured up to our exacting Australian standards, I did have some wonderful tea experiences in tea houses that seemed to be newly springing up all over the place. And this brings me to pound cake. Several times I tried delicious lemon pound cake in cafes and coffee shops. Unglazed, glazed or thickly iced it was ubiquitous and I loved it and came home determined to make it myself.

In my research I found that the name pound cake comes from the fact that the original pound cake contained one pound each of butter, sugar, eggs, and flour. It dates back to the early 18th century, and was favored because its ingredients were easy to remember: one pound each of four things. In the 19th century raising agents were added which made it a less dense cake, and most of the recipes I looked at also included yoghurt or sour cream or buttermilk to give even more tang and lightness.

My version has lots of lemon in both the cake and the icing and I was really pleased with how it turned out. The texture was as I remembered, and it was delicious with the sharp lemony glaze drizzled on top. I cooked it in a bundt tin, but it can also be made in 2 loaf tins. It keeps quite well, but also freezes well, so would work well for school or work as a post-lunch treat.

Makes 1 bundt cake or 2 loaf cakes

250g butter, softened
1 3/4 cups caster sugar
finely grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
5 eggs
3/4 cup greek yoghurt
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 cups plain flour

Glaze:
1 cup icing sugar
1 – 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Preheat oven to 160 C. Grease the cake tin with a little butter and dust with flour. In a medium bowl beat the butter, sugar and lemon zest together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time until well combined. In another small bowl combine the yoghurt and lemon juice (you should have just over 1/3 cup of juice). Stir in the flour, salt and baking powder alternately with the yoghurt and lemon juice. The batter will be quite thick and lemony. Spoon into the tin and smooth the top. Bake for 45 – 50 minutes, or until a thin skewer inserted into the cake comes away clean. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes and then turn out onto a cake rack until quite cool.  Ice with the glaze and serve in slices with tea or coffee.

To make the glaze mix together the icing sugar and lemon juice until smooth. If you want the icing to be thicker add a little less lemon juice. You can also make it very thin by adding a little more juice  – whatever suits your taste and aesthetic sensibilities.