Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Parties! by Ina Garten, 2001
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup grated lemon zest (from 5/6 large lemons)
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice from the lemons you zested, divided
3/4 cup full fat yogurt, (or low fat buttermilk if you're not trying to fatten anyone up) at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour two (8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch) loaf pans. For extra peace of mind, also line bottom of pans with parchment paper, butter and flour as well.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice, the yogurt or buttermilk, and vanilla. Set both bowls aside.
Cream the butter and 2 cups of the granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, and the lemon zest. Beat until incorporated.
Add the flour and yogurt or buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour.
Divide the batter between the pans, smooth out the tops, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean.
Combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. If there are pieces of pulp, strain into pitcher.
When cakes are done, cool for 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans, peel off parchment paper and set them on a rack set over a tray or sheet pan lined with wax or parchment paper.
Pierce tops of cakes with toothpick or cake tester and pour the lemon syrup over them.
If you feel up to it, carefully remove wax paper with syrup drippings and pour drippings over cakes again. Allow the cakes to cool completely.
Yield: 2 loaf cakes