Monday, 20 January 2014

RECIPE FOR LEMON DRIZZLE CAKE




I'm not really that into single-layer cakes. I much prefer a big fat Victoria sponge, preferably chocolate or coffee (or a mix of both), always sandwiched and topped with thick smooth butter cream icing.  If you're going to make a cake, make a cake.  That doesn't really mean anything, but let's pretend it's deeply profound.

However my allegiance to the double sponge completely falls down when I think about lemon drizzle cake.  The cake itself has to be light and fluffy, like a delicious pillow you wouldn't actually want to sleep on.  And the drizzle has to be crunchy and tangy.  Well, I think this recipe ticks those boxes, but you'll just have to make it for yourself to find out if I'm right.  Poor you.

INGREDIENTS

THE CAKE
250g unsalted butter
250g caster sugar
250g self-raising flour
4 eggs
Grated zest of three lemons
Sea salt
Juice of 1 lemon
Dash of milk 
1 tsp baking powder

THE DRIZZLE
150g icing sugar
50g caster sugar
75ml lemon juice

Line a tin with greaseproof paper.  I always use my 20cm square tin, but you could use a loaf tin with about a 1.5 litre capacity.

Heat the oven to 170 degrees centigrade/Gas Mark 3.  (This is 150 for fan ovens.)

Cream the butter and sugar together for at least 6 minutes.  It's so important to take the time to do this as it's what makes the sponge light and fluffy.  If you can go up to 10 minutes on a hand-whisk then you're a hero with a great cake and excellent arm muscles.  (If you have a stand mixer like me then you're a cheat and a terrible, terrible person, kind of).  Add the grated lemon zest and the juice of one lemon to the creamed mixture and then beat in the eggs one by one.  Add a tablespoon of the self-raising flour with each egg.  This stops it from curdling.




Sift the rest of the flour into the mixture with a pinch of sea salt, and the baking powder, and fold it all together gently using a metal spoon and the figure of eight technique.  Add about a tablespoon of milk, this makes the cake super moist.  If you don't like your cake too moist then you can omit the milk.  The word "moist" is so horrible.  What's a synonym for moist?  Damp? "Mm what a damp cake".  No.  No, that's much worse. 

Pour the mixture into the tin and spread it around with the back of the spoon so it's even.  Put it in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour. It all depends on your oven, but you'll know it's cooked when you press down on the middle of the cake and it springs back rather than leaving an indent.  I also swear by the toothpick method, which is where you put a toothpick in the middle of the cake and if it comes out clean it's done.  I originally learnt about it in the context of brownies as it's a much more accurate way to tell if they're ready than using a knife, but now I use it for everything.  Unlike with brownies you don't need to be too worried about over-cooking a sponge, as you have to really forget about them to risk burning.  And it's better to have it a bit crispy on top than undercooked and sagging.  Plus the inside should still be very moist which makes for a nice texture contrast.  


Mix together the lemon juice, caster sugar and icing sugar (I use a mixture of both so there is a bit of crunch from the caster sugar).  Using a skewer, or that trusty toothpick, make lots of holes in the surface of the cake, being careful not to go all the way down to the bottom.  While the cake is still warm in the tin, drizzle the icing over the top so it goes down the holes you've just made.  Do this slowly so all the icing is used, as a lot of it will just run down the sides.  I usually keep tipping the tin and pouring the icing back into the bowl so I can repeat the process. 


Leave it to cool completely then turn the cake out and serve in thick slices.  

And that's it!  Enjoy. 

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