Lemon Cake (adapted from Barefoot Contessa Parties Cookbook)

1 c butter, softened

2 1/2 c sugar, divided

4 eggs

1/3 c lemon zest (optional)

3 c flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 c lemon juice, divided

3/4 c buttermilk

1 tsp vanilla

2 c powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 8 1/2 x 4 1/2" pans or 5 mini loaf pans. Line bottoms only with parchment paper. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. Combine 1/4 c lemon juice, buttermilk, and vanilla. Set aside. Cream butter and 2 c sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time. Add lemon zest. Add flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to batter, beginning and ending with flour. Divide batter evenly between pans, smoothing tops. If using mini loaf pans, 3 #10 dishers goes into each pan. Bake for 50-55 minutes (40 minutes if making mini loaves) or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cakes cool for 10 minutes in pan. While cooling, make syrup by cooking 1/2 c sugar and 1/2 c lemon juice over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Remove cakes from pans and place on a wire rack. Spoon syrup over cakes. Allow to cool completely. Combine powdered sugar and 3 tbsp lemon juice in a small bowl, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth. Pour over cakes and allow icing to drip down the sides.