Spring is HERE my friends, and I could not be more ready.
This past week was tiring to say the least: my brother and I were on spring break, which meant a trip to my grandparents’ house for Passover and then a week of college tours and lots and lots of driving. That being said, we also spent the week not keeping Passover and going to some great restaurants (if you’re ever in Amherst, Mass make sure to hit up The Lone Wolf for a killer breakfast), and enjoying the beautiful weather. For a couple of days, the temp was hovering around 80 (!) and I was able to break out some summer wear for the first time in a whiiiile.
We got back to the city on Thursday after a solid week away, and it definitely felt nice to crash on my own bed and stop thinking about the dreaded college process for a bit. I baked this loaf on Friday and it was the perfect mellow project, made up of a simple lemon cake topped with a chamomile syrup and honey glaze. I packed it all up, got in the car with my mom and headed into the city to visit the Union Square Green Market and see Jill and her new puppy (more on him later).
The market was sunny and bustling and wonderful, but it’s not quite the season for my favorite spring ingredient–rhubarb. It’s also apparently a bit early for chamomile flowers, which I had been eager to use in styling this cake.
What we did find was Tweefontein Herb Farm, a tea and herb stand that carries jars of dried chamomile. I picked out a blend of chamomile, rose, calendula, and lemon balm, which caught my eye because of the pops of color in the dried rose petals.
Aaand then we went to Jill’s house (Jill is mom to one of my best friends, my mom’s good friend, and a food instagrammer) to visit her 9-week-old puppy and o m g, this thing was SO dang cute. I think he looks more like a stuffed animal than a real pup!
Jill let me crash her kitchen and play around with her props for this shoot, and it was so much fun experimenting with so many new backgrounds, dishes and flatware. And I think the pup had some fun too–he was constantly figuring out new ways to bypass my mom and sneak a taste!
Now some more about this cake: it screams springtime with bright, lemony flavors and a hint of floral chamomile, but it’s not so involved that it’ll keep you from enjoying the warm weather. The cake itself is adapted from Sarah Kieffer’s recipe for Iced Lemon Almond Bread, with vanilla subbed for the almond extract and some lemon juice added, just ’cause. I also used Meyer lemons instead of regular ones, but you can definitely opt for the latter if that’s what you have on hand. The 1/2 cup of almond meal that Sarah calls for gives a nice subtle textural element, and the recipe results in a crumb that’s perfect for the kind of loaf I wanted: not too sweet, with enough structure and heft to qualify as a breakfast or tea loaf without being overly heavy or moist.
Rather than the lemon icing that the original recipe uses, I made a quick chamomile syrup to use as a soak and then topped the whole thing with a simple milk and confectioner’s sugar glaze that has a touch of honey in it. The best part is that the whole thing comes together fast enough that if you start now you could be eating cake in two to three hours depending on how patient you are with cooling time (and that includes the hour of baking time–hands on you’re only looking at 30 minutes tops).
Lemon Chamomile Tea Loaf with Honey Glaze
Makes 1 loaf cake
Cake adapted from The Vanilla Bean Blog
For the cake:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup almond meal
- Zest of 2 large lemons (I used Meyer)
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 eggs, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup plain whole milk yogurt or low-fat yogurt (not Greek)
- Juice of 1/2 a large lemon
For the syrup:
- 1/3 cup of very strong chamomile tea (I made mine by letting 2 tea bags soak for around 10 minutes)
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
For the glaze:
- 1 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 1 tablespoon honey
- Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a 9″ by 5″ loaf pan with parchment and grease with spray or butter.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and almond meal. Set aside.
- Place the granulate sugar and lemon zest in the bowl of a stand mixer and use your fingers to rub the zest into the sugar. Add the butter and cream on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes.
- Add the eggs one at a time, scraping the bowl as needed. Stir in the vanilla.
- With the mixer on low, add half of the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Stir in the yogurt, then mix in the rest of the flour mixture. Add in the lemon juice, then mix on medium for another minute if you’d like a more structured cake (I actually forgot this step and it didn’t seem to matter!)
- Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the top is browned and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before removing from the pan.
- Meanwhile, make the syrup: in a small pan, combine the tea with the sugar and heat on low until it thickens slightly and the sugar has dissolved. Set aside to cool.
- After removing the cake from the pan, use a toothpick to poke deep holes all over the top of the cake. Brush or spoon the syrup over the cake (you will have some left over), then allow the cake to cool completely and absorb the syrup.
- Next make the icing: in a medium bowl, combine all ingredients and whisk until smooth.
- When you are ready to ice the cake, set it over parchment and spoon the glaze over the top, allowing it to drip down the sides. Let the glaze set for a few minutes, then serve with extra chamomile syrup to drizzle on top of the slices as needed.