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Barefoot Contessa Vanilla Bean Lemon Cake

1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter, slightly softened
2 C. sugar
1 vanilla bean, split
Grated zest of 4 lemons
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
3 C. all-purpose flour
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. kosher salt
1/4 C. fresh lemon juice
3/4 C. buttermilk, at room temperature
1 t. pure vanilla extract

Lemon Icing
2 1/2 C. powdered sugar
1 T. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 T. fresh lemon juice
2 T. hot milk
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray a 10 x 5 1/4-inch loaf pan with baker's spray. Line the pan with a long piece of parchment and spray that, too. It's OK if the parchment hangs over the sides of the pan.

Combine the butter and all but 1 tablespoon of the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat until light and fluffy. The mixture will lighten in color until almost white.

Sprinkle the 1 tablespoon of sugar onto the split and opened vanilla pod; scrape out the seeds using a small knife. Add half of the vanilla seed/sugar to the butter mixture; reserve the remainder. Stir in the lemon zest. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt onto a piece of wax paper.

Combine the lemon juice, buttermilk and vanilla extract in a small bowl.

Add the dry ingredients alternately with the liquid ingredients to the butter mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a spatula to give a couple of last folds from the bottom of the bowl. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and tap lightly on the countertop.

Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan and a tester comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake.

Transfer the pan to a rack and let cool for 10 minutes, then turn the cake out onto a rack set over a tray.

For the lemon icing:
Put the powdered sugar and butter in a small bowl. Pour the lemon juice and hot milk over them and whisk until smoothly blended. Whisk in the pinch of salt and the reserved vanilla/sugar. Spoon the icing over the cake and spread it over the sides.

Note: I like to cut thick slices of the cake and surround with strawberries and raspberries that have been tossed with vanilla syrup (see recipe).

If you are serving the cake with fruit, you can delete the icing and serve the slices au natural.

Serves 8 to 10.
 

    
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