Agata Lima's Lemon Cake
Agata Lima is a professional cook in Ravello. What does that mean? That she has been hired to do everything from being the personal chef to many of the illustrious people who come to Ravello - for its remoteness and relative tranquillity, medieval charm, and stunning views from its perch above the Amalfi Coast - to frying 100 pizzette for a local church supper. Flavored with lemon rind and moistened with lemon syrup, Agata's is a particularly rich, moist example of a standard pound cake from the Sorrento peninsula, where the hills are terraced with lemon groves. As moist and sweet and lemony as Agata's version already is, her husband, Salvatore, likes to pour a little limoncello on his slice, as you can see many people do in the bars of Amalfi. As you might imagine, the commercial version often needs a little "freshening," as one bartender put it.
- 6 ounces (1-1/2 sticks) butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 eggs
- 4 large lemons, juiced to make 1/2 cup), the rind grated
- 3 cups all-purpose flour, measured after being sifted
- Pinch salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- Slivered almonds
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch bundt pan.
- In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy about 5 minutes.
- Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating very well between additions. Beat in the lemon peel.
- In a small bowl, stir together the flour, the salt, and the baking powder.
- Fold in half the flour, then stir in half the milk. Fold in the remaining flour, then stir in the remaining milk.
- Pour into the prepared 9-inch bundt pan.
- Bake for 40 to 45 minutes.
- While the cake is baking, make a sugar syrup: In a small saucepan, combine the water and the sugar. Stir over high heat until the mixture boils - the sugar should be dissolved and the syrup crystal clear. Let the syrup cool a few minutes, then add 1/2 cup lemon juice.
- When the cake tests done, remove from the oven and let cool on a rack for 15 minutes.
- While the cake is still in the pan and still warm (but not hot), make holes in the cake with a skewer or toothpick, then slowly spoon the lemon syrup over the cake, letting it absorb each dose before adding another. Reserve a few tablespoons of the syrup.
- Turn the cooled cake out onto a serving plate.
- Boil the reserved few spoons of syrup until it is thick - the bubbles will become larger as it thickens. Brush the outside of the cake with this thickened syrup. It should form a light glaze, or at least make the surface sticky. Press slivered almonds onto the sticky surface of the cake.