Photo by Margo Greenman

Culinary Chemistry: Limoncello Loaf

by | Aug 11, 2016

Growing up, I very distinctly remember the smell of lemon cookies and cakes baking in my mother’s oven. As a child, however, these were not my favorite sweets. I much preferred ooey gooey chocolate chip cookies or a plain piece of white cake with chocolate frosting. Now, as an adult with a more mature palate, I appreciate the citrus flavors that turned me off as a child and I see myself following in my mother’s footsteps. Lemon zest is a regularly used ingredient in my kitchen that adds depth and a bit of bite to a variety of baked goods.

While lemon zest will always add a big burst of citrus flavor to whatever you’re baking, lemon liqueur is a way to add an extra punch of lemony goodness to your cakes and cookies. Because limoncello is made by steeping lemon peels in vodka then adding sugar, the vodka absorbs the same oils and aromas derived from lemon zest — a much more potent source of flavor than lemon juice on its own. For this recipe, use a limoncello like Glaser Estate Winery’s award winning variety, which is “tangy, tart and subtly sweet.” Or, you can easily make your own.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Bake time: 45 minutes to 1 hour
Yields: One 9”x5” loaf cake


For the cake:
1 stick butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
3 tablespoons lemon zest
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 ounces Glaser Estate Winery limoncello
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the glaze:
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
2–3 tablespoons whole milk
1 tablespoon lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350°F. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, 3–5 minutes.

Slowly beat in the eggs, followed by the lemon zest, until well incorporated. Add the lemon juice and sour cream, limoncello and vanilla extract, mixing until combined.

Sift in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Beat on medium speed until combined.

Pour batter into a greased loaf pan (9”x5”), place in center rack of preheated oven, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean.

While the cake is cooling, prepare the glaze by whisking together the sugar, milk and lemon zest.

Once cake has cooled completely. Drizzle glaze over top of cake, let set (10 minutes), slice and serve.


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