Lemon Drizzle 61 Revisited

 

Last Saturday it was my friend, and flatmate, Lauren’s birthday. About two months ago I had asked her what her favourite cake was; I thought I’d give it a while so she wouldn’t suspect anything and without hesitation she answered “Lemon drizzle!” So, early on Saturday morning I snuck out of the flat, bought eggs, almost forgot to buy lemons, and rushed back to bake. Sadly, she woke up before the cake was all done, but she was not allowed into the kitchen until it was all ready.

I found this recipe on the BBC GoodFood website but I decided to revise it slightly, using plain flour and baking powder and making it a little extra lemony for Lauren, whose famous motto about lemons is “the more, the better”. This recipe is easy to remember, as butter, sugar and flour are all the same quantity, and the final result is very lemony but not sour, as there is quite a lot of sugar in the drizzle.

One thing I’ve learnt is that, even though recipes suggest you to heat the oven first thing, that’s not a great idea. Anyone who tells you that a cake preparation will only take 10 minutes is living in denial. What about the weighing? How about the chopping, melting, washing and grating? Liars. By the time you are ready to stick that cake into the oven, you’ll have wasted a good 20 minutes of gas – feel free to call me stingy. It doesn’t take that long to heat the oven, mine is old and dreams of holidays in the sun, but it takes less than 10 minutes to heat up. Just turn it on when you know you’re 5 to 10 minutes away from being done with the preparation.

Without further ado, I give you… Lemon Drizzle 61 Revisited.

What you’ll need:

For the cake

  • 225 gr unsalted butter
  • 225 gr caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 225 gr plain flour
  • 12.5 gr (2 and ½ spoons) baking powder
  • Finely grated zest of 2 lemons

For the drizzle

  • Strained juice of two lemons
  • 115 gr caster sugar

Preparation:

Wash the lemons very thoroughly, dry them and grate the zest finely. Set it aside. In the meantime soften the butter until very soft, but not hot! Combine the butter with the sugar and beat them with an electric whisk until they have become a soft, pale cream. Add the eggs one by one and keep beating the mixture until everything is well combined. Now preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160C/gas 4. In a different bowl mix together the flour and baking powder, making sure the powder is well distributed. Now sift that into the cake mixture and add the zest, mixing all thoroughly. Get yourself a loaf tin, grease it with butter and coat it with flour. Pour the mixture into the tin and then flatten it evenly with the back of a spoon. Bake for about 45 minutes (try the wooden toothpick trick – if it comes out clean, the cake is ready). While the cake is in the oven, get working on the drizzle. Squeeze the two lemons and sieve the juice into a bowl with the sugar. Mix well. When the cake is ready, prick it all over with the same toothpick and then pour the drizzle over the entire surface area, letting it sink into the holes. Let it cool and then, with a flat, butter knife detach the sides of the cake from the tin, being careful not to scratch the metal if you are using a non-stick tin. Remove the cake from it, place on a plate, slice and eat eat eat!

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My Mum’s Torta di Mele, aka Apple Cake

This is one of the most meaningful recipes in my recipe book, certainly one that brings with itself the sweetest memories. This is my father’s favourite dessert and my mother used to bake it for him every time he came back for his periodical home visits from working abroad. It reminds me of the feeling of expectation you have when you know you are going to see someone dear whom you haven’t seen for months, the fragrance of baking apples coming from the kitchen takes me back to how lovely it was to sit around the table, aged 5, on an afternoon with my dad smiling, having a slice of this cake, drinking his espresso and playing around with me. It reminds me of how lovingly my mum mixed all the ingredients together, confident that my dad would’ve appreciated it as a gesture of care and love.

This is indeed my mum’s personal interpretation of a classic Italian recipe, and getting the doses out of her was somewhat of a mission: “I go by the eye” is her official motto!

I always use plain flour + baking powder so I get through the flour quicker, but you can use self-raising flour, if you prefer.

So here it is, I hope you enjoy making it as much as eating it.

What you’ll need:

  • 100 gr butter (plus a little wedge for the tin)
  • 120 gr sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • About a tablespoon of vanilla extract
  • 125 gr plain flour (plus a sprinkle for the tin)
  • 1 level teaspoon of baking powder
  • 4 golden delicious apples (2.5 for the mixture and 1.5 for the top)

Preparation:

Wash, peel, core and dice the apples for the mixture in ½ in little pieces (leave the apple for the top for now, if you peel them too much in advance they’ll oxidise and be brown by the time you are ready to place them on the cake).

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350F/Gas 4 and grease and coat an 18cm/7in cake tin. Cream the room-temperature butter and the sugar together in a bowl until all uniform and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, a little at a time, and add in the vanilla extract. The mixture should be quite runny. If it isn’t, add a glug of soya or cow’s milk. Add the raising powder, mix really well and finally add the chopped apples. Now pour the batter into the tin.

It’s time to prepare the rest of the apples. Wash, peel and core them. To cut them, cut the apples into vertical quarters and then slice them vertically to a thickness of about 1/3 of a cm being very careful not to break the slices. Place the slices on top of the batter as shown in the first picture above.

Bake for about 35 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

This cake is wonderfully moist because of all those lovely bits of apples inside that go really soft when baking so you can serve it on its own, or if you like to contrast the apple flavour, serve with cream, custard or vanilla ice cream.

Finally, I thought long and hard whether to translate the word torta into pie, tart or cake. Pie is not right as there is no crust in this recipe, and tart just didn’t feel right, as that would be a separate base with a filling and a just a fruity topping. So I decided to settle for cake, as the preparation method for the basic mixture is not too different from a Victoria sponge. Let me know what you think!

Super Special Carrot Cake

Let me give you a bit of a background on this recipe. About three years ago I found it on the BBC Food website and made the cake for a picnic. I was very happy with the results so decided I would have made it again ‘soon’. That ‘soon’ arrived about two years later, when I looked for that same recipe high and low on the internet for hours, without ever finding it again. Bitter disappointment kicked in. Ah, if only I had made it more often, I probably would have remembered the recipe by heart! Then, about a couple of months after that sad incident, I decided to tidy up the two boxes on top of my wardrobe and there it was, a print-out of the recipe! I had completely forgotten I had printed it out. I thought I was going to faint from the excitement. Instead, I transcribed it into my recipe book to keep it safe and that’s how I can bring it to you. I recently made this cake for the office, and my colleagues wolfed it down, which I took as a good sign. So here’s what you’ll need:

For the cake

  • 250 g unsalted butter
  • 375 g caster sugar
  • Grated rind of 2 oranges
  • 4 eggs
  • 450 g carrots
  • 150 g chopped nuts (I generally use walnuts but you could try almonds or pecans)
  • 1 tbsp vanilla essence
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • 250 g plain flour
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp salt

For the icing

This will yield plenty of icing, a little more than you’ll need for the cake, but it’s so rich and tasty, you’ll want to use it on everything! Otherwise you could reduce all of its ingredients of 1/3.

  • 225 g mascarpone cheese
  • 65 g unsalted butter
  • 400 g icing sugar (I never said this recipe was low-calorie!)
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4 and grease a 23cm/9in tin. Grate the carrots and orange peel, then beat the softened butter, sugar and orange rind together until light and fluffy.

Gradually add the eggs to the mixture and then fold in the carrots and grated nuts. Add the vanilla essence and the orange juice. The mixture will look very liquid at this point but fear not! It’s all under control. In a different bowl, sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and mixed spices together and fold into the mixture gently. It will still look pretty runny and pale, but this is good, because it means that your cake will be soft and moist. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 50 to 70 minutes, depending on how efficient your oven is. You’ll know the cake is ready once its sides come away from the tin and a skewer comes out clean, if a little wet. Don’t worry if the final result looks much darker than the mixture you initially placed into the oven, this is completely normal. Finally, make the icing by creaming the mascarpone and softened butter together until smooth, add the icing sugar and vanilla essence and mix until it is all homogenous.

This frosting is amazing! Spread it generously onto the cake once it’s cooled down a little and enjoy.