The Lemon Shizzle
On today’s menu…lemon drizzle cake. Why? Because it’s without a doubt one of the tastiest cakes known to man…and I’ve tried a few (cakes that is).
Also, it was between that and analysing in stomach-churning detail the horrendous Sainsbury’s-bought sugar monstrosity that I subjected a crowd to last night. This Brownie Mudslide was like X Factor in a cardboard tray: attractive in a garish sort of way but ultimately leaving you with a throbbing headache and an aversion to things jiggling up and down.
This week has also been the week of the Frosty Fancy. Good call Mr K; had you not cunningly produced a wintry white version, Mum’s across the country would surely have hesitated as to whether French Fancies were special enough to serve on Christmas Day. (Just out of curiosity, is there anyone out there who actually doesn’t find a French Fancy a bit of a chore? I’ve yet to meet any.)
Anyway, on to the matter at hand. Basically, if you’re looking for a cake that will really impress, baking one that requires you to soak sugar in more sugar, and put sugar atop of sugar, should probably do the trick. My lemon drizzle (why does that always sound like a euphemism?), has actually received manier rave review in the past. My mum, if you must know, but I’m sure Marco Pierre White would have cooed just as delightedly.
The key to making a good one, at the risk of sounding like an old aged pensioner unwittingly unsettling her younger relations, is to make it really nice and moist. A dry lemon drizzle cake is like a French Fancy without the fancy…Oh hang on, that’s actually a much more accurate description of what a French ‘Fancy’ actually involves. Anyway, take it from me, no one will thank you for skimping on the drizzle (again…?).
Ok, here’s the recipe that I would suggest (note the cunning addition of lemon butter cream. Cakes should always have a filling. Otherwise people are forced to do that undignified mouth acrobatics thing when trying to get both sponge and topping in at once):
- Grate the zest of three lemons. Most cooks suggest one, but they’re idiots. Also, this might seem like an odd first stage but you don’t want, as I have in the past, to cut them first and end up blinding yourself with lemony-delicious acid when you start to grate.
- Beat 225g of butter (most people prefer unsalted but, as anyone who’s ever attended a kid’s party will tell you, salty and sweet just GO), and 225g of caster sugar together in a bowl. Try to resist eating too much of the mixture, or keep your ratios right by adding a wee bit extra for tasting purposes.
- Add 4 whisked eggs gradually. Otherwise an unattractive vomity slop is created with the only silver lining of deterring you from recreating it by over indulging on the mixture. ‘But that’s an obscene amount of dairy,’ I hear all of you cholesterol-conscious cake fans cry. You don’t have to use this many eggs. One or two will do but it won’t be as rich.
- Sift in 225g of flour. Actually I always add a bit more than that to compensate for adding lemon juice to the cake mixture, which ensures it’s nice and zesty. Keep tasting your mixture as you add the juice and the zest (save some of each back for the butter cream filling and drizzle) so you know when it’s lemony enough. (The cooked cake will taste just like your mixture after all, just without the same sense of shame.)
- NOW turn the oven on to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Recipes always start with this pre-heating nonsense but, unless I’m just particularly slow at tipping things into bowls, you don’t need to do it until 10 minutes or so beforehand when you start to grease your tins. You’ll probably be wrestling with your greaseproof paper for this amount of time.
- Grease any sort of tin, loaf or roundy, with butter and line it with your greaseproof paper. Two tins are best for my recipe with butter cream but you can always try your luck at slicing one cake in two later (the beauty of buttercream is that it tends to cover any slash-happy incidents quite nicely).
- Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or 35 to 40 if you’re using two separate tins. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU EVER OPEN THE OVEN HALFWAY THROUGH. Otherwise the cake Gods shall strike you blind (and you’ll have some serious structural sagging on your hands).
- While the cake is baking, prepare your drizzle by adding caster sugar to a good half a cup of lemon juice. My rule of thumb here, and just generally in life, is the more juice the better. Make sure there’s plenty of sugar for a lovely crispy topping.
- When you take the cake out, prick it straight away and get drizzling like your life depends on it. You want your drizzle to soak in while the cake’s still warm and then to sit on top of the sponge as it cools.
- Now leave the cake to cool. This is crucial. I’ve been known to effectively butter my cakes before when jumping the gun on the butter cream front, only to watch in horror as my cake halves slid dejectedly apart as the butter melted.
- While the cake cools, make your lemony butter cream. Now I don’t know what proportions I usually use for this but make sure you use plenty of icing sugar so it’s nice and stiff. Otherwise you may find yourself holding the two halves together as you present your cake.
- Mix a good couple of spoonfuls of butter, lots of icing sugar, lemon zest and a very small amount of lemon juice. Then spread it lovingly onto your non drizzled half before popping the two together.
And hey presto you’ve got a cake that’s not only obscenely sweet, but will also clear the sinuses and fortify your immune system nicely should it be flu season.
I’ll just leave you to think on a magazine cake recipe I recently glimpsed…