Toni Evins, Maida Heatter’s late daughter, who lived on East 62nd Street in Manhattan, created this tart, sweet cake. It became a favorite of the chic set after Craig Claiborne printed the recipe in the New York Times. “I hear that Bill Blass and Nancy Reagan asked for it,” Heatter notes.
MAKES ONE 9” CAKE
FOR THE CAKE
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1⁄2 tsp. salt
8 oz. unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup milk
Finely grated rind of 2 large lemons
FOR THE GLAZE
1⁄3 cup fresh lemon juice
2⁄3 cup sugar
To make the cake, adjust an oven rack one-third up from the bottom of the oven and preheat oven to 350°. You need a 9″ x 4 1⁄2” tube pan or Bundt pan. It should have a 12-cup capacity. Butter the pan and then dust it all lightly with fine, dry bread crumbs. Set aside.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter until soft. Add the sugar and beat until incorporated. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl as necessary with a rubber spatula. (The mixture might look curdled—it’s okay.) On lowest speed, add the dry ingredients alternately in three additions, with the milk in two additions, beating only until incorporated after each addition.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the lemon rind. Turn the batter into the prepared pan. Level the top of the batter by rotating the pan briskly.
Bake for 1 hour and 5 to 10 minutes, until a cake tester (a toothpick will work) comes out clean. Let the cake stand in the pan for 5 minutes and then cover with a rack and invert. Lift pan from cake, leaving the cake upside down. Place rack over a large piece of foil or wax paper and prepare the glaze.
To make the glaze, mix the lemon juice with the sugar and brush all over the hot cake. The cake will absorb it. Let cool completely and then transfer to a cake plate. It is best to wait a few hours before cutting the cake.
This cake can be made with 1⁄2 cup Key lime juice instead of 1⁄3 cup lemon juice (in the glaze) and it is wonderful. I think any kind of lime juice would be equally wonderful. But even if you use lime juice instead of lemon juice, don’t change the grated rind in the cake itself (lemon is better there).