March 2019 – Lemon Cake
If you take a look at the picture of this cake I just baked you probably wondering why I didn’t call it a lemon drizzle cake. Well I’m not sure this is a lemon drizzle cake it’s just a really lovely moist zingy lemon cake.
In my head I am thinking that a drizzle cake has icing running haphazardly over the sides and is quite messy or if you want to use flowery language “rustic”. Forgive my sarcasm but rustic is a byword for “I can’t ice it nicely so I called it rustic” I think all lemon cakes are improved by having the crust liberally soaked in sharp lemony syrup and I have always liked the addition of a thin lemon water icing. Now if you call this a lemon drizzle help yourself but I believe (feel free to disagree) that a lemon drizzle has lemon juice and granulated sugar syrup brushed over a hot cake and some of the sugar goes crunchy on the crust as the sugar dries out on the hot cake. These are sometimes drizzled with a little icing too.
I decided to bake this in a round loose bottomed tin and not a loaf tin as it has a thinner density for the heat to penetrate to the centre and therefore it bakes quicker. I prefer this as the baked crust is thinner and every slice has the same crust and therefore the same amount of lemon soaked and iced crust. If you bake a loaf shaped cake the two end pieces are heavily soaked but the slices in the middle less so. By cutting the round cake in 10 slices every slice is identical and therefore more consistent.
There are a frightening amount of lemons in my recipe nearly a lemon a slice but if you want a lemon cake with a great depth of flavour use lots if lemons.
I took a loaf version (made before I tried the round shape version) to ridge radio and you could smell lemon from 5 feet away when you took the lid off the box. One of the presenters said “how nice to taste a cake that actually tastes of lemons” enough said. I do also use a tsp of lemon extract to give a deep flavour, if you don’t have any extract you could add another lemon zest or a dash of lemon flavour or lemon oil.
I also use some ground almonds and a little milk in my recipe, the almonds make no difference to the flavour but they do add a moistness that was missing from my earliest versions. The addition of a little milk makes the cake fluffier and lighter, if you miss this out the cake is a tad dry and stales quicker.
After I have placed the cake into the oven I roll the grated lemons on the table top to soften them and help release the juice. Then I cut them in half and squeeze the lemons through a sieve to remove the pips. You will get a bit more lemon juice than you need for the recipe so reserve the remainder for another use. Weigh 100g of lemon juice with 170g of sugar and boil together either in a bowl in the microwave or in a small pan then place to one side.
Don’t make the water icing yet but place 30 grams of lemon juice in a small plastic bowl then weigh the icing sugar separately and place to one side.
Bake the cake until the centre lightly springs back then remove from the oven. When baked I immediately turn the cake out onto a wire rack top side onto the wire. Be brave the cake is quite robust and won’t fall apart on you honest!
I also place a large sheet of baking parchment under the cooling wire to catch any syrup and icing so unless you fancy cleaning table this is a good idea.
Once you flip the cake onto the wire carefully remove the paper from the sides and base then immediately brush the base and sides liberally with the lemon syrup reserving about 40% for the top. Be sure to spike the base of the cake to allow the syrup to penetrate the cake (a cake testing skewer is great for this) carefully flip the cake over (if this is too daunting use a second cake wire) and use the remaining syrup for the top taking care to spike this too.
Now for the water icing, boil the lemon juice then add the icing sugar whisk in to remove any lumps until the icing is smooth and shiny, pour the icing over the top of the cake and using a pastry brush guide the icing over the tops and sides using all the icing. The icing starts to set fairly quickly as you brush over so work quickly to get an even finish. Leave the cake on the rack to cool for about 30 minutes then slide a cake card (or the base of a tart tin if you don’t have one) between the cake and cooling rack and place into an airtight box.
This cake like all cakes will have a far superior flavour and texture the next day so taste if you must but if you can resist eating it until the next day do so as it’s much improved after 12 hours. I often get asked why this is and it’s because the crumb of cake relaxes and releases moisture and the flavour becomes fully developed after a period of rest. This is particularly true for cakes with a high moisture content like banana bread or carrot cake. If you want to challenge this take a slice out on the day you make it and eat it then place the cake into an airtight box and try a slice the next day. Do be sure to use an airtight box not just a cake tin an airtight box will keep this cake fresh for 3-4 days.
An interesting addition is to add about 35-50g of chai seeds or poppy seeds to the dry ingredients and some to the lemon water icing so if seeds are your thing give this a go.
Yield 1 cake (10 slices)
100g unsalted butter
130g caster sugar
Finely Grated Zest of 8 lemons
3 medium eggs
210g plain Flour
50g ground almonds
10g baking powder
5g (1tsp) lemon extract
15g whole milk
170g caster sugar
100g lemon juice
30g lemon juice
100g icing sugar
1. Line a 20cm round loose bottomed tin with parchment paper & place aside.
2. Place the butter, sugar, extract and zest into the bowl for a stand mixer.
3. Whisk until light then scrape down, whisk in one egg and mix in well.
4. Whisk again add one egg mix in well then add the last egg and mix in.
5. Sift the flour and baking powder and add to the bowl with the almonds.
6. Mix in slowly by hand with a maris.
7. Add the milk and fold in.
8. Place the batter into the tin.
9. Bake at 170°c until the cake spring back (approx 35 minutes).
10. Leave to cool in the tin for 2-3 minutes.
11. Boil the sugar and lemon juice together to make a syrup.
12. Remove the cake from the tin and upside down onto a wire rack.
13. Brush the bottom and side thoroughly with the syrup and spike with a skewer.
14. Carefully turn over and brush the remaining syrup over the top of the cake.
15. Spike the cake with a skewer and allow the syrup to soak into the cake.
16. Boil the lemon juice in a bowl in the microwave, add the icing sugar & mix in.
17. Brush the icing over the top of the cake and allow to dry.