When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Ina Garten's Lemon Poppyseed Cake

Lemonade isn't the only thing you can make when life gives you lemons. Ina Garten's lemon poppyseed cake is a perfect solution for when you're overrun with this vibrantly tart member of the citrus family. Perhaps you have a lemon tree in your backyard or maybe the lemons looked so good at the farmer's market that you bought too many in your zeal for the sunny yellow fruit and now they're in danger of going bad before you get to savor the full extent of their pucker-powered potency. Whatever your situation, it's a great excuse to indulge in the bright-and-tangy-sweet-and-lemony bounty of flavor that is the Barefoot Contessa's version of lemon poppyseed cake.

One of the best things about this recipe, which was published in Garten's 2012 cookbook, "Make It Ahead," is the myriad ways in which Garten reinforces the cake's super lemony flavor. Capitalizing on every opportunity to bring out the full power of its zesty citrus zing, she layers in plenty of lemony essence in the form of juice, zest, syrup, and glaze — all to stunning effect. This is something most other lemon poppyseed cake recipes don't do, instead opting for much less lemon overall and sometimes producing a cake that is more poppyseed than lemon. Garten's version is truly a lemon lover's dream, and it's lusciously moist to boot.

Ina Garten's layered-lemon approach

If you're making a lemon poppyseed cake, you probably want that impactful bright and lemony flavor. However, adding extra lemon juice alone won't bring it, and overdoing it could ruin your cake's texture. Besides — lemon juice becomes subtle as it cooks. Many lemon baked goods employ the more potent lemon zest, lemon flavoring, or lemon essence to amp up the flavor. Garten infuses her lemon cake with the tangy citrus in many ways. Her cake calls for four to five large lemons and contains a generous grating of lemon zest — ⅓ cup! All that fresh-squeezed lemon juice is used in the batter, the syrup, and the glaze. Now, that's a lot of zip!

But using lemon in the batter (both zest and juice) is just the beginning. She also includes buttermilk, giving this poppyseed-laden wonder an exceedingly tender crumb. Next, she uses lemon juice and sugar to make a simple syrup that is poured over the cake, soaking in all that sugary-lemon goodness as it cools (a technique akin to rum cake). Finally, Garten pairs powdered sugar with lemon juice in her grand finale, making a glistening glaze to be drizzled atop the finished cake. Some may think Garten is overzealous in her fervor to squeeze every drop of flavor from this supple, canary-colored fruit, but true lemon lovers everywhere applaud the beloved cook for harnessing the tantalizing tartness of this mesmerizingly moist cake.