Friday 24 January 2014

Lemon Drizzle Cake

As you may have guessed, I do a fair amount of baking, but there is one recipe that people request more than any other: lemon drizzle cake. It's a fairly simple cake, lifted to incredible heights by the fact that you soak the cake in a syrup made simply of lemon juice and icing sugar. It is lovely both paired with a cup of tea or presented as pudding, always feeling light thanks to the citrus content.

On this occasion I was making it as a thank you for special someone who hemmed my husband's trousers and gave us chocolate for our Rocky Road. My children had been excited to see me getting out baking ingredients, and were disappointed when I immediately explained the cake was for someone else. However, when I explained that person was the one who made our recent Rocky Road possible, they were in full agreement that said person deserved cake!

I got started once the kids were in bed, meaning everything was not at room temperature. 

This was one hard block of butter. If you are skilled, you might manage to just soften it slightly on a low setting in your microwave, but I always end up with a molten crater and hard edges when I try doing that, so instead...

I beat the butter into submission. It took a good few minutes, but eventually the friction did the job just fine.

Then in went the caster sugar. Granulated sugar in the USA has the same consistency as caster sugar here...why is that? Granulated sugar here is slightly chunkier.

Ah, nice and creamed.

Then lemon zest was added so it looked like this.

Then the eggs went in one at a time. I used to just always add the eggs all at once, in spite of instructions saying to do it one at a time. Then I read an article in Cooks Illustrated that said you do in fact get a superior cake if you do them one at a time and you'll spend less time overall mixing it (it takes fewer strokes to do it one at a time). So now, when I remember to, I do them one at a time. It's all very scientific here in the Calwell kitchen.

At this point the mixture looked a bit curdled and gross. That's normal in my experience.

I trusted myself that it would get better.

And saying a small prayer, added the flour.

Once that improved it, in went some milk. The photo at the top shows a whole milk container, but it actually contained semi skimmed milk, as my other milk jug split slightly, spilling milk all over my stairwell. I managed to save enough to decant into the jug above and have been fooling everybody with it since. Annoyingly it was also just after the stair cleaners had visited.

There - a nice, smoothish batter. It went into a lined loaf tin, but I forgot about taking a photo until it was in the oven, and I'm not about to show you what the inside of my oven looks like.

It ain't pretty, I can tell you that.

While it baked, I juiced a couple of lemons. At the moment, this piece of plastic is one of my son's favourite toys.  Toddlers...

On went some icing sugar...and some caster sugar, since I ran out of icing sugar. Oops.

I stirred it to combine it and then heated it briefly in the microwave to help most of it dissolve. If it doesn't all dissolve, that's fine - it leaves a nice crusty sugary glaze on the top when that happens.

Out came the cake.

I then took a toothpick (skewers work better, or simply a sharp knife will do) and poked holes all over the top.

Like so.

Then I poured on the syrup.

And it oozed in all over the top, drifting down the sides. I then left it overnight to cool and soak all the juices through.

The next day I brought it in and presented it to my colleague. She immediately announced that a whole cake was too much for her, that she would end up eating it in one sitting.

So instead, she chopped it in half.

Because it's totally ok to eat half of this cake. Not that I would know what that's like. Ahem.

She gave half of it to another colleague who gets really excited about my baking. REALLY excited.

You can see how the syrup drenched the middle of the cake here - heaven on a plate I tell you.

Nigella, you're the best.

Lemon Drizzle Cake (adapted from recipe for Lemon Syrup Loaf Cake in How to be a Domestic Goddess)

Preheat oven to 180C/350F

125g butter
175g caster sugar 
2 eggs
zest 1 lemon
175g self-raising flour
4 Tbsp milk

for syrup:
juice 2 lemons
100g powdered sugar

1 loaf tin - preferably lined for ease of cake removal

Put butter in large bowl.  Beat and mash and mix with wooden spoon until fairly fluffy.  Add sugar and beat and mash and mix until a lighter shade of fluffy and even consistency throughout.Add zest & eggs one at a time and mix thoroughly.  Fold in flour then mix in milk.  Pour into loaf tin and bake.  Test after 45 minutes (knife should come out clean). Meanwhile, heat lemon juice and sugar until sugar is dissolved (either on the hob or in short bouts in the microwave).  Once the cake is out of the oven, punch loads of holes in it with a knife or skewer and pour the syrup over the top.  Leave to cool in the tin so all the juices are absorbed fully.

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