There is a restaurant in my hometown that everyone knows. It's one of those places that you're guaranteed to run into somebody you know and if you want to eat there on Sunday, plan on waiting a while. It's called the Pancake House. I have been going there literally since I was born. My dad loves telling stories of how the owner Dow Sherwood would walk around telling his famous corny jokes and handing out free pancakes.
I have been there in a dress and heels, and I have been there in tennis shoes with dirt on my face from a softball game. That's the beauty of it. The Pancake House isn't just a restaurant, it's a hangout. And while I have too many memories to count that were made sitting at those tables, a lot of the ones that come to mind are just the times that my family would go together. It didn't matter what time of day, we always ordered breakfast.
But if we were lucky enough to get dessert, it was PIE! Oh man... french silk pie, chocolate peanut butter pie... the choice was always so hard for us kids. But not for my mom. Her choice, every time, never-fail: Lemon Meringue.
This always confused me as a child. How could you choose lemon over chocolate??? I would always ask to try her pie, thinking I would like it as much as she did. Nope! I would just pucker up my lips and scratch my head. I soon realized my mom's love of lemon went beyond just lemon meringue pie. It was lemonade, lemon flavored Italian ice, and she absolutely loved lemon yogurt. If lemon is an option, that's what she's getting.
But it turns out, she was on to something. The more I grow up, the more I really enjoy the taste of lemon in my desserts. As a kid, I thought it to be too sour, but as an adult, I find it really refreshing and bright. There's just something about that sweet and tart combination. So good!
I wanted to make a dessert that was lemony enough to please my mom's taste buds but sweet enough that I can be confident serving it to people who really do prefer chocolate (like my cousins Katie and Amanda!). I also wanted it to be really simple to make because if it's too complicated, my mom is not a fan. Remember, we're talking about the lady who doesn't ever set a timer for anything because she thinks it's an "annoying" step! Got to love my mom :)
My quest for lemony, simple, and sweet led to my gluten-free Mini Lemon Cakes.
Oh man, these are good!
This recipe can be made in a flash. I start with a gluten-free vanilla cake mix and add great lemon flavor by using both lemon zest and lemon juice. Then, I top them with an easy lemon glaze (I love seeing the specks of yellow lemon zest in the glaze). These are a perfect summer treat. But I must tell you, they also taste fantastic with coffee in the morning! My mom went crazy for them! I hope you love them too :)
[Gluten-Free] Mini Lemon Cakes
Makes 26 mini cakes
¼ lb unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
4- 6 lemons
*5 teaspoons lemon zest (about 4-6 lemons), separated
*¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1-2 lemons)
¾ cup whole cow's milk or almond milk
1 ½ cups confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
3 tablespoons water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spray a mini muffin baking tray with cooking spray and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, melted butter, 3 teaspoons lemon zest, lemon juice, and milk until completely combined. Add cake mix in 3 parts and whisk after each addition until combined and batter is smooth.
Use a tablespoon or small ice cream scoop to pour batter into each greased mini muffin cup. Bake for 16-19 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of a cake comes out mostly clean. Let the cakes rest in the pan for 2 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack. Cool completely.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl whisk together confectioner’s sugar, water, and the remaining 2 teaspoons of lemon zest. Place a layer of parchment paper underneath the cooling rack to collect excess glaze.
Once cakes have cooled, dip the tops of each cake into the lemon glaze. Let the excess glaze drip off into the bowl. Then, place back onto wire cooling rack and allow glaze to harden (5-10 minutes). Keep in airtight container for 2-3 days. Enjoy!
*If you can't find Arrowhead Mills, use your favorite gluten-free vanilla cake mix. Follow the instructions, but substitute some of the liquid that's called-for with lemon juice and add lemon zest to the batter.
Lauren Marie’s Tips:
*Don't skip the parchment paper step! Otherwise, you'll have a very messy and sticky kitchen counter. I learned the hard way :)