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Photograph by Emma Fishman, food styling by Pearl Jones, prop styling by Stephanie Yeh

To make the lemon-iest lemon cake, work smarter not harder. Instead of upping the amount of fresh fruit, seek out a more intense initial product. Preserved lemons, when puréed into paste and incorporated into the simple batter, bring a powerful citrus flavor and subtle brininess that zest and juice alone could never achieve. Olive oil reinforces the fruity savoriness and works with the sour cream to keep this loaf plush and moist for days. (And before you worry, even though preserved lemons are salt-cured, the final product does not taste salty.)

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What you’ll need

  • Food Processor

    $49 At Amazon
  • Loaf Pan

    $20 At Amazon
  • Microplane Grater

    $16 At Amazon
  • Citrus Juicer

    $8 At Amazon
  • Silicone Spatula

    $13 At BA Market
  • Wire Cooling Rack

    $17 At Bon Appétit Market
  • Small Offset Spatula

    $6 At Amazon

Ingredients

Makes one 8½x4½" loaf

½

cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for parchment

1

preserved lemon (about 55 g)

cups (188 g) all purpose flour

2

tsp. baking powder

½

tsp. ground turmeric

3

large eggs

1

cup plus 2 Tbsp. (225 g) granulated sugar

½

cup sour cream

1

Tbsp. finely grated lemon zest

3

Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

¾

cup (83 g) powdered sugar

1

Tbsp. whole milk

Flaky sea salt

Preparation

Step 1

Place a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 350°. Line an 8½x4½" loaf pan, preferably metal, with parchment paper, leaving generous overhang on the long sides, and brush with oil. Cut preserved lemon into quarters; remove any seeds. Transfer to a small food processor and process to form a paste (you can also do this with a mortar and pestle or simply chop and smash with your knife).

Step 2

Whisk flour, baking powder, and turmeric in a medium bowl to combine. Beat eggs, granulated sugar, and remaining ½ cup oil in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed until smooth and incorporated, about 1 minute. Add sour cream and mix to combine. Add preserved-lemon paste, lemon zest, and lemon juice and mix to combine. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients, and mix until just combined, about 15 seconds. (Batter can also be mixed together in a large bowl with a whisk.) Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top.

Step 3

Bake cake until top is golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 50–60 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cake cool 15 minutes. Run a knife around sides of pan to loosen and, using parchment paper overhang, lift cake out of pan and onto rack. Peel away parchment paper and discard. Let cake cool completely.

Step 4

Meanwhile, whisk powdered sugar and milk in a medium bowl until smooth.

Step 5

Transfer cake to a platter or large plate. Using a rubber spatula to help guide glaze, spoon glaze over cake, letting it drip down the sides (you should have a fairly thick coating). Sprinkle sea salt over glaze and let cake sit until glaze is set, about 30 minutes.

Do ahead: Cake can be made 3 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

How would you rate Preserved-Lemon Tea Cake?

Leave a Review

Tell us what you think
  • it was alright

    • Hutch

    • indiana

    • 6/23/2022

  • Agree that this is lemon pound cake’s more interesting cousin. It has a depth of flavor I’ve never encountered in a lemon dessert. I used slightly less than 1c of sugar and it was perfect. Don’t skip the Maldon on top! Def a keeper.

    • AlisonO

    • Charleston, SC

    • 6/20/2022

  • This cake is lemon pound cake’s more interesting cousin. Incredibly good—I can’t hold onto it for more than a day once people know I have made it! My only advice is *WEIGH THE PRESERVED LEMON* There should be no need to rinse it, and I imagine that it wouldn't make much of a difference if you did. If you’ve made this and it’s salty, my guess is that you’ve either thrown in a whole lemon without weighing it (mine weigh about 110g, which is double) or you’ve accidentally added the flaky salt garnish to the cake as well. It’s genuinely one of the best cakes I’ve ever made—it has a savoury backnote that is undetectable as savouriness, but adds a ton of complexity.

    • Sam T

    • Hebden Bridge, UK

    • 6/15/2022

  • If you have access to Whole Foods market, I get mine by asking staff behind the cheese counter and they come out with a huge jar full. Name your count.

    • Southofboston

    • South of Boston, MA

    • 6/14/2022

  • Look in your are for mediterranean or middle eastern markets for preserved lemons. It is easy and inexpensive to make your own, but you do need some time for them to develop.

    • Anonymous

    • Winter Park, FL 32789, USA

    • 5/31/2022

  • Delicious cake with the perfect amount of sweetness, saltiness and tartness. I did not need to rinse my preserved lemon but I did make sure to weight it to reach 55g only instead of using a full preserved lemon.

    • Lah

    • Sacramento, CA

    • 4/17/2022

  • I love this recipe and have made it twice. I used yogurt instead of sour cream and since I didn't have preserved lemons but did have a tree full of Meyer lemons, that's what I used! I pureed a smallish Meyer lemon in the food processor and the cake was tender, moist and delicious. I added 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt.

    • Kathleen

    • Redlands, CA

    • 4/10/2022

  • Its also insanely easy to preserve your own lemons yall!!! Just pack them babies in sugar after quartering them and let them sit u refrigerated for a bit! NBD!!!!

    • When life gives ya lemons.

    • Portland oregon

    • 3/12/2022

  • I've just left review (5 stars)- but wanted to say that most preserved lemon recipes call for 5-10% salt. I used a locally-made organic preserved lemon product only 2% sea salt and it was perfect. Might be a good idea to check (or taste) the preserved lemon first - if salt is the dominant taste best to give it a rinse.

    • Susan

    • Wellington New Zealand

    • 3/11/2022

  • A great cake/loaf was delicious even without the icing. I had to sub in yoghurt for sour cream but I doubt if that made a difference to the outcome. A lovely moist cake with a great crunchy crust - and the colour is divine. The result was so glamorous - I almost didn't want to admit how easy this was to make. This will definitely be my party trick - once we start having parties again.

    • Susan

    • Wellington New Zealand

    • 3/11/2022

  • For the cook seeking preserved lemons, I've found them at well-stocked grocers, as well as World Market, and Amzn. (The jars are pretty small, generally.) I hope that helps. Happy cooking and baking!

    • Allison O.

    • PNW

    • 3/5/2022

  • I want to try this, but I am stumped at the thought of getting my hands on preserved lemons. Should I expect this in my local mega grocery store? Any recommendations for a brand? I've seen Paula Wolfert's recipe for making them, but they involve at least a month's wait. I'd like to make this cake today! TIA.

    • Betty Rubble01730

    • Bedford, MA

    • 3/3/2022

  • This is a beautiful, beautiful cake, with its a lovely crunchy brown slightly caramelized crust, and lovely yellow inside. The taste is rich, tart, and delicious. 10 out 5 stars from me (if I could)!

    • Anonymous

    • Saskatchewan

    • 3/1/2022

  • I’d love to make this recipe and would really love it if you could include more detailed instructions on preserving the lemon and steps on using. Or a video on this recipe. Thanks much!!

    • Jeanine Lindhorst

    • Upstate NY

    • 2/28/2022

  • For the cook who said it was too salty, you need to rinse the preserved lemon to remove excess salt. Then use to cook

    • Anonymous

    • California

    • 2/27/2022