Jeannette * Lemon Tea Loaf
This is a simple cake with humble origins. It isn’t showy, or high-maintenance, and if you pass it over it won’t come calling after you. But if on the off chance you pause to notice it — this quiet, modest little lemon loaf — you’ll find that there is more to this cake than meets the eye.
Born in the early 1980s, this particular lemon tea loaf made its first public appearance in a cookbook called Lighthearted Everyday Cooking, produced by the Canadian Heart Association. It wasn’t a glamorous cookbook by any means, but when Jeannette Ordas’s mother stumbled upon a copy in the grocery store check-out lane, she gave in to an impulse and brought it home.
“It was her first English language cookbook,” Jeannette says of her mother. “She was French-Canadian, and up until that point, all of her cookbooks were in French.” The cookbook appealed to Jeannette’s mother for its emphasis on healthy, natural dishes; Jeannette liked the cookbook because she could actually read the recipes. It was an unlikely love, but this “average, run of the mill” cookbook soon became a family staple. “Some people grow up on Julia Child, but not in my house!” Jeannette laughs. “In high school, it was this weird, heart-healthy cookbook that became my go-to guide to cooking.”
One recipe in particular called out to both Jeannette and her mother — the lemon tea loaf made with yogurt and lemon zest. “Even on special occasions, my mother never made cakes with frosting because she had such a sweet tooth and was always worried about gaining weight,” Jeannette says. “That was fine with me. I never had a sweet tooth, and growing up, I couldn’t stand frosting.”
The tea loaf, then, was the perfect compromise between guilt-free and decadent. It wasn’t loaded with sugar, but a simple, sweet glaze was enough to turn it into a special treat. It was pleasantly dense, like a pound cake, but with less butter and hints of tangy-tart lemon giving way to the honeyed syrup drizzled over the top. It felt wholesome somehow — lovely and nostalgic in its simplicity.
“My mom and I made this cake more times than I can count,” Jeannette says. “It was usually a weekend thing, a sort of project, where we’d take our time baking and then settle down and watch a movie together. By the time I moved out of the house, I had gotten kind of sick of the tea loaf, but years later, I’ve come back to it. I have a real soft spot for the cake, and it always reminds me of my mom.”
Three Quick Questions…and Jeannette’s Answers
It’s your last meal. What do you have?
My favorite food is probably a cheeseburger, so I would say a really good cheeseburger with bacon and some salty fries. That would make me pretty happy.
Your kitchen is burning down. What’s the one thing you grab?
I think I’d grab my cast-iron fry pan. It was given to me by my husband’s grandmother who passed away a few years ago, and I use it for everything.
Do you have a favorite cookbook?
Right now, it’s Heart of the Artichoke by David Tanis. I have a lot of cookbooks and always tell myself I can’t buy any more, but this one I took out from the library and it just blew me away. The photographs are beautiful — they’re printed on this sort of matte paper so the ink really sinks into the paper, and many of the recipes are written almost like stories. They’re really quite simple and beautiful, and so of course, I had to go out and buy the book.
Want to learn more about Jeannette Ordas? Head over to her award-winning food blog, check out her web design & development company, or take a peek at her own fun, quirky greeting cards over at The Beautiful Project.
- FOR THE CAKE:
- ¾ cup sugar
- ¼ cup butter, softened
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons plain or lemon-flavored yogurt
- ½ cups milk
- 1½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- zest from 1 large lemon
- FOR THE GLAZE:
- juice from 1 large lemon
- ¼ cup sugar
- Butter & flour an 8x4" loaf pan. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a mixer, cream together sugar and butter. Add in the egg and yogurt and mix to combine. Beat in the milk. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder; dump into egg mixture and stir just until blended. Stir in lemon zest.
- Pour into prepared loaf pan; bake in 350°F oven for 1 hour or until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Once done, let the loaf sit in the pan for 5 minutes. Remove and place on a cooling rack with a plate underneath.
- Meanwhile, in small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and sugar until smooth. Pour over top of the warm cake. Let loaf cool completely before cutting.