It is far too cold this winter and I bet we could all do with a little sunshine, and what could be better than sunshine in cake format?
I first used the “Lemon Getting What You Want Cake” recipe from Jenny Colgan’s Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe to make “Sour Attitood” Cupcakes (inspired by a malice- and vitriol-filled person. If you can’t beat ’em – make cupcakes :-)). I loved the texture which is unusually squidgy, somewhere between a very fine-textured sponge cake and a gel which perfectly complements the sunny-weather citrus-ness.
I made it several more times, giving the recipe just the briefest of glances; no problem, it worked perfectly every time.
Then – disaster struck: when my mother and sister visited last week, I wanted to make sure it was perfect and read the whole recipe through and followed it to the T.
Epic squidgy fail.
It turns out that the recipe in the Cupcake Cafe book is very different to what I had been baking all along – it is yummy in its own way but it’s not even remotely squidgy. It’s just regular cake.
Of course I had several sleepless nights as I racked my brain trying to recall what I had done previously. Did I use regular cake flour instead of self-raising? Were the batteries in my scale that flat? Had I used an electric beater or a wooden spoon?
Three tortured days (and many lemon cakes of varying textures) later and I have recaptured the secret to squidginess!
This recipe will make one very flat (3cm at the most) loaf or 3 mini-loaves. Do NOT deviate or make any substitutions – the squidginess is essential to this cakes success. It will look incredibly ugly after the first icing, so I ice it twice for aesthetic purposes – it isn’t overly sweet due to the amount of lemony freshness. It is possible to use bottled lemon juice in place of fresh lemon juice but it won’t be the same without the fresh zest.
For the Squidgiest, Sunshiney-est Lemon Cake:
60g cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 pinch salt
60g white sugar
60g softened butter
2 large eggs (not extra-large, not random sized – look for the word “large” on the carton)
The finely-grated zest and all the juice of one large luscious lemon. For some reason I don’t own a zester yet, so I use my teeny tiny nutmeg grater instead.
Preheat the oven to 180 degreese Celsius. Sift the flour and baking powder together. Add everything else and beat it all together with a wooden spoon until it’s just evenly blended.
It should be thick but pourable, not as thick and stodgy as a regular cake batter. Pour it into an appropriate non-stick-sprayed baking receptacle of your choice (I used my mini loaf pans) and bake for 20 minutes making sure it does not brown on the top – it must be only just baked through. It should have a smooth fine-grained yellow top and pull away slightly from the sides. It should look “springy”, not dry and cake-like. It should also look disappointingly flat but that’s how it’s supposed to be.
As soon as you remove it from the oven, mix about half a cup of icing sugar with a few drops of lemon juice (or water, if you’ve run out of lemons). The amount will depend on how much cake you have to cover; it needs to be thick but still fluid enough to be spread over the surface of the cake. Once it’s mixed, remove the warm cake from its tin, then spread the icing over the top using the back of a teaspoon – gently does it, so it doesn’t lift the crust off. The residual heat in the cake will make the icing melt and absorb in and look transparent and nasty – this is perfect.
Allow it to cool completely, then mix up another batch of icing (a touch thicker this time) and spread it over the top to form a nice glossy white layer. Before it sets, stud it with chopped sour jelly worms, preferably the 2-tone kind so you get a nice mix of colours. It may not be a traditional cake embellishment but it suits the texture and flavour perfectly. And since you won’t need a whole packetful you get to eat the rest.
Pour yourself a cup of Earl Grey tea, grab a book about a warm exotic location (I’m reading Bella Tuscany by Frances Mayes), submerge yourself in a cosy armchair, then take a bite of squidgy sumptuousness… and feel squidgy rays of sunshine hit your tongue. Hmmmm!