Monday, 10 September 2012

Lemon Drizzle Cake And Apologies

I've been neglecting you again. I could tell you I've been madly busy and had no time at all. But the truth is, I'm experiencing motivation issues. I really do like baking and writing for this blog, but for some reason I have recently been struggling to get up and DO it. So I apologise, and I promise I'm doing my best.

I made Lemon Drizzle Cake though, will you forgive me?

It was my aunt's birthday (Happy 60th!) and I was tasked with making The Cake. I actually made two cakes, and the lemon cake was only the secondary cake. You have the primary cake to look forward to in the next post.

Before I start I should make a confession. I hate lemon cake. I just don't like the taste of lemon. It's all very well as a minor seasoning, or mixed with something else. But desserts whose primary flavour is lemon don't make sense to me.

I didn't let it stop me though! And I've had some positive reviews for the cake, so hopefully it was still a success.

As usual, it was based on the ridiculously simple sponge cake ratio. I'm serious. If anyone has read that post and still think they can't make a cake or are too scared to try it, then I have failed at everything this blog is trying to do. If that is the case for you, then please do tell me, and tell me exactly what I could do to improve it! I'm serious.

Anyway. The lemon cake. You start with a basic sponge cake mix, which is just equal part of sugar, butter, flour and eggs. Then you make it lemony by adding - gasp! - lemon. I used lemon zest. The zest is where you get a fine cheese grater and grate the lemon peel. You have to stop grating as soon as you can see the white underneath the shiny yellow - that bit tastes bitter. Also make sure you buy unwaxed lemons, or rinse them under hot water and give them a scrub before you use them.

The 'drizzle' part is what makes the cake special. It's what makes it incredibly moist and extremely lemony. The drizzle is done by just making a syrupy mixture of lemon juice and sugar, and then soaking the cooked cake in it. You do that by pricking little holes all over the surface of the cake with a toothpick, and then pouring the syrup slowly over the top so it can soak in.

The last touch was the icing, which was just a simple glace icing (that's just the kind made of icing sugar and water), but in this case, made with orange juice for the liquid. Then I finished it off with orange zest (it works the same way as lemon zest - fine grater, white is bad).

  • This was a really big cake. I used a sponge with 400g of flour. I'm going to give the ingredients in halved quantities, because that will make a more normal-sized cake. So, my ingredients were:
    • 200g Butter
    • 200g Caster Sugar
    • 200g Eggs (4 Eggs)
    • 200g Plain Flour
    • 2tsp Baking Powder
    • 2 Lemons
    • 100g Icing sugar, plus a bit more (I didn't measure the extra bit)
    • 1 Orange

  • Start off by making the sponge cake. I added baking powder because the cake was going to very big and I wanted to make sure it would rise because I didn't have time for a second chance. As I say on a regular basis, you don't need baking powder. If you mix the cake right, it would still rise perfectly well without it. If you decide not to use baking powder, refer to the sponge cake post (linked above) for detailed instructions about how to get enough air into the mixture. Otherwise, you can mix it fairly simply. Beat together the butter and sugar until they're combined, then mix in the eggs one at a time, and finally stir in the flour with the baking powder.
  • Now add the lemony part. I used zest from half of all of my lemons. But if I did it again, I would probably zest all of them. So I recommend you use the zest of both the lemons. Just mix it into the cake batter.
  • Now bake it. 180C until it's done. Depending on the size and shape of your cake, the time will vary. Check it regularly and use the toothpick test to decide if it's done - a toothpick stuck into the middle should come out clean.

  • Time to make the drizzle. Squeeze the juice out of both lemons. Make sure the strain the juice so there are no lumps or pips - it's important to strain it finely because if there are bits, they will just sit on top of the cake and be very conspicuous. Add the icing sugar to the lemon juice and mix it together. If it seems like it's not dissolving, you could microwave it for a few seconds. I mean that, a few seconds and no more. Just enough to make it lukewarm to help the sugar dissolve.
  • Once the cake has cooled down a bit, but is still in its tin, you can prick the surface all over with a toothpick. The holes can be very small, just enough to break the crust on top so there is somewhere for the syrup to go. Now pour the syrup over the top. Start with just a teeny bit at a time, letting it soak in before you pour on any more. If you do too much at once, it will all pour off the rounded top of the cake and get stuck down the sides, leaving you with madly lemony edges and a flavourless middle (no one wants a flavourless middle).
  • Leave the cake in the tin for a while to make sure it is all fully soaked in, then take it out onto a rack to cool down properly.
  • Time for the final icing. You need the juice of the orange. But you will also (in a minute) need the zest of the same orange, and it's much easier to zest a whole orange than to zest the shrivelled halves of a squeezed orange. So grate the zest off first and keep it. Then squeeze the orange (strain it for pips and bits). You probably don't need all of the juice - in fact you don't need to use a real orange at all. You could use orange juice from a carton, or you could use extra lemon juice, or you could even just use water. But either way. Put some of the orange juice into a bowl, then add some icing sugar and mix it. Keep mixing until it is fairly thick, but runny enough to pour in a continuous stream off a spoon.
  • Get the icing into a small jug, and start pouring it in lines across the cake. Again, you don't have to do lines, you could do dots, or cover the whole top, or whatever you want. Lines is what I went for. It can be tricky to get the thickness right and avoid blobs, so practise on some paper first if you want (I did).
  • Finally, sprinkle the orange zest over the top. Make sure to sprinkle it as soon as you have finished pouring the icing, because that way it will stick to the still-wet icing.

Also, I was experimenting with using some black-and-white pictures, because sometimes it's really hard to take good colour photos in artificial lighting. What do you think?

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