Makes 2 loaves
For the cake:
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2½ teaspoons baking powder
a pinch of salt
2? cups sugar
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
6 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup heavy cream
Zest of 2 lemons, finely grated
1 stick, plus 7 tbsp unsalted butter (15 tbsp total), melted and cooled
For the syrup:
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
Juice of two lemons
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350F. Butter two 9×5-inch loaf pans, dust the insides with flour and tap out the excess.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
Put the sugar and the lemon zest in a large bowl. Working with your fingers, rub them together until the sugar is moist, flecked with zest, and smells wonderfully lemony.
Add the eggs and whisk them into the sugar, beating until they are thoroughly incorporated. Whisk in the vanilla extract, then whisk in the cream. Use a large rubber spatula to gently stir in the dry ingredients in 3 or 4 additions; the batter will be smooth and thick. Finish by folding in the melted butter in 2 or 3 additions until combined. Pour the batter into the pans, smoothing with a rubber spatula. (Now’s the time to lick the bowl:)
Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. After about 30 minutes in the oven, check the cakes for color. If they seem to be browning too quickly, cover them lightly with foil tents.
Once the cake is in the oven, make the syrup: Stir the water and sugar together in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the sugar melts, then bring to a boil. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the lemon juice. Pour the syrup into a heatproof bowl and set it aside to cool.
When the cakes test done, transfer them to a wire rack to cool for five minutes before removing them from their pans and turning them right side up on the rack. Place the rack over a baking sheet lined with wax paper and, using a thin skewer or cake tester, poke holes all over the cakes. Brush the cakes all over with the syrup, working slowly so that the cakes sop it up. Be sure to use all the syrup—it will seem like a lot but it’s worth it! Leave the cakes on the rack to cool to room temperature.