I first came across the Meyer lemon when we were living in the US. I had frequently seen mention of them in American cookbooks and magazines, but I never really paid much attention until I saw them one day at the grocers. I bought them to use in place of normal lemons for a dish later that night, and upon slicing into the first lemon, I realised that I had made a crucial mistake. Whilst the skin was a golden yellow, the flesh was bright orange. Had I done my research, I would have known that a Meyer lemon was a cross between a common lemon and either an orange or a mandarin, thus explaining the orange hues. It follows that Meyer lemons are somewhat sweeter than ordinary lemons, and also much more fragrant with notes of orange blossom. They are a beautiful citrus fruit, perfect for use in cakes and desserts.
Of course, Meyer lemons are not available everywhere. If your local grocer does not stock Meyer lemons (typically in season between September and May in the northern hemisphere), your best bet is to grow them yourselves at home. I had been keeping a lookout for a Meyer lemon tree for several years and was so thrilled to finally find one recently at my local nursery which was already bursting with fruit.
To highlight this gorgeous citrus fruit, I had two cakes in mind – this Lemon Cake which uses the whole fruit (skin, pith and flesh) to produce the most exquisitely fragrant cake, as well as this Lemon-Syrup Loaf Cake. Given the abundance of Meyer lemons which I suddenly found in my possession, I ended up making both cakes.
Here is my slightly modified recipe for a Meyer Lemon Syrup Cake. Most syrup-drenched cakes tend to be on the sweet side, but I like my citrus cakes to have a slightly tangy note. Naturally, the sweetness (or sourness) of lemons vary, so I would suggest starting with less sugar in the syrup than stated in the recipe, and to adjust according to your tastes.
- For the cake:
- 125 g (4.5 oz) unsalted butter, softened
- 175 g (6 oz) caster sugar
- zest of 1 Meyer lemon
- 2 eggs
- 175 g (6 oz) plain flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- pinch of salt
- 4 tablespoons milk
- For the syrup:
- juice of 2-3 Meyer lemons
- 50 g (1.8 oz) icing sugar, plus more to taste
- Preheat the oven to 180°C.
- Grease and line a 20 cm (8 inch) cake tin.
- Cream the butter, sugar and lemon zest together until pale and fluffy.
- Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
- Gently mix through the flour, baking powder and salt.
- Add the milk and mix lightly until everything is combined.
- Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for about 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
- In the last 10 minutes of the baking time, make the lemon syrup. Place the lemon juice and icing sugar into a small saucepan and gently heat until the sugar dissolves. Taste and add more icing sugar to your liking.
- While the cake is still warm from the oven, puncture the cake all over with a cake skewer or bamboo skewer. Spoon the syrup over the cake, allowing it to soak through before spooning over more.
- Leave the cake to cool completely in the tin before removing.
- If you have an abundance of Meyer lemons, finely zest one lemon over the cake just before serving.
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