This cake is one of my favorite treats to bake in the spring, when fresh lemons pop up in farmers markets and backyards all across Southern California. I sweeten it with honey from the beehives that apiarist Billy Williams keeps all around the ranch, which makes the cake sweet and fragrant and gives it a hearty, dense texture. Lastly, I glaze it with a simple mix of sugar and lemon juice and decorate it with golden bee pollen and the blossoms from the sage plants in our kitchen garden, which put up gorgeous purple flowers every spring (see Cook’s Note).
TIP: Using fresh flowers is an easy, beautiful way to decorate a cake. You can also use them to hide any imperfections or mistakes.
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup honey
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, for the baking pan
1 tablespoon dried bee pollen
Sage blossoms or other edible flowers, for decoration
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 to 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Sift the flour into a large bowl and mix it with the baking powder and salt; set the bowl aside. Put the butter and eggs into a large bowl and beat them with a hand mixer until the butter is whipped and fluffy, about 2 minutes.(Alternatively, you can mix the ingredients together in a stand mixer using a paddle attachment.) Add the milk, vanilla, lemon zest, and lemon juice and beat until well mixed.
Add about 1/3 of the flour mixture to the mixing bowl and beat it into the wet ingredients until just incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a rubber spatula, then repeat the process two more times to use all of the remaining flour mixture. Slowly pour the honey into the batter and gently mix and fold it in until it is thoroughly incorporated.
Using a paper towel, spread the oil into an 8-inch round cake pan, making sure to cover the bottom and sides well. Pour the batter into the pan and bake until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes.
When the cake is done, let it cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then flip it onto a cooling rack and let it continue cooling upside down. (Using the bottom of the cake as the top will give it a nice flat surface.)
While the cake is cooling, make the lemon glaze: Sift the powdered sugar into a medium bowl to remove any lumps. Drizzle in 1/4 cup of the lemon juice, beating the mixture slowly with a whisk and adding more juice as necessary, until the mixture is the consistency of heavy cream and drips easily.
With the cake still on the baking rack, gently pour the glaze onto it so that it sits on top of the cake and drips over the sides. Transfer the cake to a serving plate.
Crush the bee pollen with a mortar and pestle until it becomes a fine powder, then scatter big pinches of it onto the glaze. Arrange the sage blossoms or other edible flowers around the edges of the cake.