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Great-Grandma Rose’s Secret Lemon Cake

When I first met my husband, my culinary skills were limited to Hamburger Helper (Tuna Helper, if we wanted to be fancy), chicken breasts covered in Italian dressing, and Chicken Paprikash (my grandmother’s recipe, which is still a favorite in my house). He, on the other hand, had a wealth of kitchen knowledge to draw upon thanks to his mother. And thanks to her, I slowly learned to broaden my repertoire and become more comfortable in the kitchen. Since those early newlywed days, I’ve become much more creative and savvy, and it’s primarily thanks to my mother-in-law. Also Gordon Ramsay.

Writing Juliet and Nate’s story, Love Me Harder, was so much fun because I got to indulge in my foodie-loving side. For research purposes, of course. I also wanted to pay homage to my mother-in-law in a small way. Mom Tayler loved lemons, so when I had to come up with a recipe from Nate’s family to incorporate into the story, I chose a lemon cake.

In the story, it’s Nate’s Great-Grandma Rose’s Secret Lemon Cake. It serves as his brother’s wedding cake and Nate bakes one for Juliet to show her his love. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get to properly present it to her and is forced to leave it cooling in her kitchen. It’s the one thing of his Juliet keeps after their “black moment”. (You’ll have to read for yourself what happens!)

Here is Nate’s Great-Grandma Rose’s Secret Lemon Cake with Lemon Butter Frosting. I’ve adapted the recipe from a couple of different sources, including the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. See if you can guess Grandma Rose’s secret ingredient. And no, it’s not love.

GREAT-GRANDMA ROSE’S SECRET LEMON CAKE

Ingredients

  • 2 ¼ cups cake flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbs limoncello
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • Lemon zest or candied lemon peels for garnish. Can also use sliced almonds or ground nuts, or crushed graham crackers, for a little crunch.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350⁰F
  2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl and whisk together.
  3. Add eggs, oil, lemon juice, and limoncello. Beat until smooth.
  4. Add sour cream and beat until smooth.
  5. Divide and pour batter into two 8-inch pans.
  6. Bake for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick or knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  7. Cool completely on rack before frosting. Garnish with zest or peels.

Lemon Butter Frosting

  • 6 Tbs butter, brought to room temperature (real butter, no margarine)
  • 4 ½ cups powdered sugar, divided and sifted
  • ¼ lemon juice, plus ¼ more set aside if needed
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla

Directions

  1. In a mixer, beat butter until fluffy.
  2. Gradually add half the sifted powder sugar, mix well.
  3. Beat in lemon juice, zest, and vanilla.
  4. Gradually add the rest of the powdered sugar, mix well. Add the additional juice, a little at a time, until frosting is of a spreadable consistency.

Bon appétit!