Meyer Lemon Tea Bread


This lemon tea bread took some doing. It’s not that it was hard to make, it’s that I had one of those rare, completely unnecessary baking disasters, and I wasn’t able to pull it together enough to give it another try until the next day. I’m glad I did, though; it was completely worth it. And yes, there will be pictures.

It started on Sunday. I had my special, limited availability Meyer lemons, and I’d made lemon poppy seed muffins with them that didn’t do much for any of us. I saw this recipe online and loved the story behind it.  (Go read it.)

First thing I did was zest the lemons. I needed 2 tablespoons of zest, and I went through about 5 or 6 of my precious Meyer lemons before I had enough.

Meyer lemon zest

I squeezed out enough juice for 2 tablespoons, which only required two lemons; these are very, very juicy. (Should I just juice all the zested lemons, and save it?)

Then I creamed the butter and sugar in my stand mixer. Normally I replace some of the butter with yogurt, and I may try that the next time, but this whole tea bread is healthy and light enough that I didn’t think it was necessary and since there was such tradition behind it, I wanted to stay pretty close to the original. Butter and sugar it was. (Less refined cane sugar, though.)

butter and sugar, creamed

I took the bowl off the mixer stand, then whisked in the eggs, one at a time.

eggs, whisked in

I added the zest.

added zest

I whisked that in with the vanilla, then set that bowl aside for a while. On to the dry ingredients.

In another bowl, I whisked together whole wheat white flour, baking powder, and salt.

dry ingredients

And I set that aside too.

I poured a half cup of buttermilk into a measuring cup, and whisked it together with the lemon juice. Then I alternated adding the flour mixture and the buttermilk mixture to the butter and sugar, finishing after 3 rounds of each.

flour going in

buttermilk goes in

The batter came together nicely, and tasted great. I poured it into a loaf pan.

batter in loaf pan

It said to bake for 45 minutes. I set the timer for 35, so I could check on it. And that is when things went terribly wrong.

How wrong?

About as wrong as they could, given all the labor and the rarity of the Meyer lemons.

At 35 minutes, I opened the oven door. I pulled the pan out. “Not done yet,” I said, pushing it back in. And then, I’m not really sure how it happened, but then, I think what happened is that my oven glove caught on the loaf pan somehow, and when I pulled my hand back, the pan came with it, flew out of the oven, and landed upside down on the floor.

It landed hard.

It landed loudly.

All the not-yet-done cake turned into a mishmoshy mess on the floor and I looked at it and just wanted to howl at the moon. Dave, my most wonderful husband, saw my out-of-proportion distress and within minutes was on his way to Trader Joe’s to buy more Meyer lemons.

I poked at the mess with a spatula, scooped it into the pan, and plopped it into the sink.

ruined cake in sink

ruined cake

I gave up for the day.

Later that evening, I went to meditation class, and calmed down.

The next day, I was ready to start fresh. I went through the process one more time, and when it came time to check on the baking progress, I did so with great care and calm. I was rewarded for my efforts.

loaf baked in pan

side view of lemon tea bread

And look at that perfect crumb.


The flavor is exquisite. The tang of a lemon with a touch of sweetness (but not too much), and a springy, juicy sort of flavor without a compromise on cakey texture. Really delicious, and perfect indeed for afternoon tea.

Juliet taste-tested it for me.

Juliet eating lemon cake

She loved it. Since she’s the Queen of Unfinished Food, I was gratified that all that she left was this:

last bit

I ate it, I admit it.

And I can’t resist adding this last cute picture of Juliet as she watched the “Sisters” song from the movie White Christmas on my iPad. (We were playing the Narnia board game, she was Susan and I was Lucy, and she was on a sisters kick.)

Juliet with iPad

It all worked out in the end. And damn, that lemon tea bread is delicious.

lemon tea bread


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