I can't remember if I've talked about this cake from Ina Garten before it's friggin' amazing y'all. I've made three really different and really great tasting cakes using this same recipe as a jumping off point. Though, I admit I've never actually made the recipe as it was originally written because something about poundcake in the shape of a loaf seems unnatural to me.
The first time I tried it I made a lemon cake in two 9-inch round pans (which changed the cook time to around 30 minutes, start checking at 20), and frosted it with this cream cheese icing. (I had to double it.)
It was for my husband's birthday and it was really big hit. It is really, really lemony the batter is going to taste a touch to tart but it sorts itself out in the baking especially after you pour the syrup over it. It just says relaxing afternoon tea to me. It's a happy cake.
Next, for my birthday I used the same recipe and 9-inch rounds but I substituted oranges for lemons and used this chocolate sour cream frosting from the Smitten Kitchen. I was a little concerned the sour cream would add too much twang so I substituted one stick of melted unsalted butter for a half cup of the sour cream. The recipe makes plenty to frost the entire cake. I even had a little left over, and I am a thorough froster.
The result was wonderful. The flavor of the cake itself was very smooth and subtle and the frosting tasted like dark chocolate, flavorful but not too sweet or too rich. You will have to keep it refrigerated though, due to the two cups of sour cream in it.
Lastly, for Thanksgiving with the in-laws I made this orange poundcake in a bundt pan which put the cook time at around 45-50 minutes, more true to the original recipe and did the glaze in the original recipe which I left out of the other two, substituting lemons for oranges. In this one I did add a bit more zest and juice than the recipe calls for at every opportunity because I wanted a brighter flavor.
I got it. It was sweet and the orange flavor really stood out without being overpowering, plus the glaze is really simple but easy to do and looks impressive. In all cases I took the commenters suggestions and poked the cooled cakes several times with a toothpick to allow the syrup to soak in more easily.
If you're looking for a holiday dessert option, and don't mind taking a little time, any of these would be great choices.