Something about hunkering down while more than 2 feet of snow fell on the city last weekend put me in a major baking mood. First there were almond biscotti, then spelt olive oil bread. Triple ginger cookies followed (cheat baking — my mom’s cookie dough was in the freezer). By Sunday night, with temperatures rising, snow melting into slush, and lakes forming at every street corner, I thought I was done. But early Monday morning, still in that thinly veiled state between sleeping and waking, visions of my favorite lemon olive oil cake appeared. And tell me, is it ever not a good time to make a lemon cake? Exactly.
I’ve been making this particular lemon cake for about a year, originally adapting it from an Ina Garten recipe that I discovered via Smitten Kitchen. It’s dense and substantial yet moist, bright with lemon zest, not too sweet, and pretty much my idea of the perfect cake. Always a crowd pleaser. I’ve made it with and without a glaze, with fresh and frozen blueberries stirred into the batter, vegan-ized it (to surprisingly delicious effect) on several occasions, and, my favorite rendition — a mid-summer’s version studded with juicy, local blueberries, red raspberries, and black raspberries. Eaten on my parents’ back porch on a hot July afternoon, and accompanied by melting orbs of vanilla ice cream, that’s a hard one to beat. But on this slushy Monday morning in January, my plans involved matcha. Specifically, infusing into all this lemon-y goodness a pale green, subtly herbal matcha swirl, a sprout-hued reminder that spring will, eventually, come back around.
Via The Google I discovered there was already a precedent here, so I decided to go for it, making a few more tweaks to my usual recipe to create a lemon-and-matcha-swirled loaf. I used a basic and relatively inexpensive “daily” matcha powder (found recently on the second floor at Fairway, in the natural foods section). It’s about half the price of ceremonial-grade matcha and, although you can make a cup of tea with it, it’s more suitable for cooking and baking than for drinking straight-up. If you have swankier ceremonial matcha powder I’m sure that would work just fine, and might even add a more distinguished flavor to your cake. The amount of matcha called for in the recipe below brings a light green color and subtle herbal flavor to the matcha swirls, which nicely balance out the tangy waves of lemon crumb. If you want to achieve a more pronounced matcha flavor you could try bumping up the amount to 1 or 1-1/2 teaspoons of matcha powder (and if you do, please drop a note to let me know how it turns out).
Matcha-swirled lemon olive oil cake with matcha glaze
Adapted from Ina Garten’s Lemon Yogurt Cake, Barefoot Contessa at Home
Makes one 8-1/2 x 4-1/4 x 2-1/2 inch loaf cake
I’ve made this cake with regular all-purpose flour and with gluten-free flour plus almond flour (see recipe for conversion amounts) and it turns out great both ways.
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour (OR 3/4 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour plus 3/4 cup blanched almond flour [I used Bob’s Red Mill brand])
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup plain yogurt (I use 2% Greek yogurt)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (about 1 large lemon)
3/4 teaspoon matcha powder
1 teaspoon poppy seeds (optional)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon matcha powder
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Heat oven to 350F with rack in middle.
Grease an 8-1/2 x 4-1/4 x 2-1/2 inch loaf pan. Line bottom of pan with parchment. Grease and flour pan.
In a medium bowl whisk together flour (or GF flours), baking powder and salt until thoroughly combined.
In a large bowl whisk together sugar, eggs, yogurt, olive oil, vanilla extract, and lemon zest until smooth. Gradually add flour mixture and stir again until smooth.
Pour approximately half of the batter into a separate bowl and whisk in matcha powder until well combined (the batter may appear dark, depending on your matcha, but the color will lighten after baking). Stir poppy seeds into the lemon batter, if using.
Pour about 1/2 of the lemon batter into the prepared pan, followed by half of the matcha batter. Repeat with remaining lemon and matcha batter. Use a butter knife to gently swirl the batters, but do not over mix as this will obliterate the marbled effect.
Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Rotate the pan halfway through to ensure even baking. Cool cake on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then carefully remove from pan and allow to cool completely before glazing.
To make the matcha glaze, whisk together powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon matcha powder, and lemon juice until smooth. Add a few more drops of lemon juice if need to achieve a pourable consistency (similar to honey). Drizzle over cooled cake and allow glaze to set before slicing.