Leftover lemonade summer cake

Lemonade is a quintessential summertime drink so of course Moriah VanVleet felt compelled to turn it into a refreshing summer dessert.

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Lemonade cake: the perfect, refreshing summer dessert. All photo: Moriah VanVleet

Lemonade is a quintessential summertime drink — it’s almost hard to imagine an outdoor event without it.  I recently found myself with a jug of leftover lemonade in my fridge, luring me in with its tart sweetness every time I opened the door. I’d take a little sip here and there, but more than anything, I felt compelled to turn it into a refreshing summer dessert.

Cake recipes nearly always rely on both liquid and sugar, so I decided to create one using the lemonade to help fill these roles. Since Meyer lemons are soft with a milder texture than the standard kind, it was their pretty slices that I pictured on the cake from the beginning. While this recipe is delicious without any embellishments, adding a sprinkle of sweet corn can bring to mind another summer staple, or a handful of coconut can add a tropical flare.

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Lemonade Cake (makes a 9 x 13″ sheet cake; serves 12-24 depending on slices)

3 large meyer lemons
1/3 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup sugar, divided
Optional: 1/3 cup cut sweet corn OR unsweetened shredded coconut
3 large eggs
½ cup coconut oil, melted
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 ¼ cup flour
1/3 cup almond meal*
2 tablespoons corn meal
¾ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups lemonade
Optional: powdered sugar for serving


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Whisk together melted butter and ¼ cup sugar until just pasty and even. Spread evenly in the bottom of a 9×13” pan. Finely zest the lemons; set zest aside. Cut off ends of lemons; discard. Slice lemons into rings 1/3 to 1/2 inch wide. Carefully pick out any seeds and discard them. Arrange lemon slices on bottom of pan, touching each other and edges of pan. If using, sprinkle the corn or coconut in the open spaces between the lemon slices.

Lemonade CakePreheat oven to 350 F.  In a large bowl, beat the eggs, remaining ½ cup sugar, melted coconut oil, and vanilla until smooth and even. Sift over the egg mixture: flour, almond meal, corn meal, salt, baking soda and powder.  As you begin stirring, gradually add the lemonade.  Mix well, until smooth and even, folding in the reserved lemon zest at the last minute.

Pour batter over the lemon slices and bake for 30-35 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking time.  When ready, the cake will be golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center will come out batter-free.

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Let cake cool in pan for about 45 minutes; bottom of pan will still be quite warm, but sides will be cooled enough to touch.  Loosen sides of cake with a knife, then invert cake on a large platter or lined cookie sheet.  (If you must wait to do this until the cake is fully cool, I suggest heating up the bottom of the pan using a kitchen torch or your stovetop to aid loosening.)  Let cool completely, then cut into squares and eat within a day.  The lemon slices soften significantly when cooked, so feel free to slice (or bite) right through them.   Sprinkle with powdered sugar just before serving if desired.

Lemonade cake is super moist and citrusy — a perfect seasonal treat.  With its hint of sour lemon and its toothsome texture, each bite offers a burst of summer in a delightfully delicious form.  Sure: when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.  But why stop there?  Once you have the lemonade, make a dessert to share!


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*For a hearty variation, use masa flour in place of the almond meal.  The result is rich with sweet corn flavor, reminiscent of Mexican sweet corn pudding, and it pairs particularly well with the sprinkle of corn suggested above.

Moriah VanVleet is the voice behind butter, sugar, flowers where this post first appeared.

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