This cake is incredibly easy to make, and really, really lemony – it verges on being too sour, in fact, which may possibly have something to do with the fact that I didn’t follow the recipe and also to do with the fact that I used the enormous lemons from our tree. It’s also the most glorious sunshine yellow, which has nothing to do with the lemons at all. You see, we’ve started getting our free-range eggs from the farmers’ market too, and the yolks come in a truly extraordinary palette of colours at this time of year: deep orange-gold, daffodil-yellow, pale butter-yellow, and an almost chartreuse-green-yellow. (This does make me wonder just how free range those supermarket eggs are. Judging by the uniform colour of their yolks, they certainly do not have the varied diet of the chickens who lay our eggs).
Anyway, aside from providing endless entertainment when cracking eggs (and hard boiled eggs from these chickens are even more fun), I’m finding that even the palest of the yolks from these eggs give anything they are mixed into a much brighter and more vibrant colour than I am accustomed to. Omelettes and frittatas are positively fabulous in their yellowness. And this cake is pretty fabulous, too.
Your shopping list100 g butter, softened (unsalted is best) 100 g caster sugar (raw caster sugar is lovely here) + 2 tablespoons 3 large, unwaxed lemons (Who waxes lemons anyway? It’s not like they have hairy armpits) 4 eggs (free-range and from the farmer if you can get them) 250 ml milk 300 g self-raising flour
Now what will you do with it?
Preheat the oven to 170°C, and line two 22cm loaf tins with baking paper.
Zest and juice the lemons. Add 2 tablespoons of sugar to the lemon juice and set aside.
Cream your butter and sugar together with the lemon zest. Or, if you’re lazy like me, just mix them together well.
Break the eggs (pausing to admire their glorious yolks), and beat lightly. Add to the butter mixture along with the milk and the self raising flour, and beat everything until well-mixed.
Divide between the two pans, and bake for about 45 minutes or until a little golden and cooked through. These are little low cakes, so don’t worry that they don’t fill the tins or come up to the brim.
Remove the cakes from the oven, and carefully pour the lemon juice and sugar mixture over them. Let the cakes cool in their tins and absorb the syrup.
Keep one loaf for yourself and take the other to work, to cheer up your colleagues. This loaf is very nice served as a dessert with berries and yoghurt – but then, isn’t everything?
Dairy free is easy for this one – Nuttelex for the butter, of course, and coconut milk would be lovely to replace the dairy milk. Go with soy or rice milk if you want a milder flavour, or go half and half. I’m not sure this one would veganise too well (all those eggs), but it’s pretty much a standard butter cake recipe with a lot of lemon in it – adding the lemon zest and syrup to a plain cake of any kind would get you a similar effect. It wouldn’t be so prettily yellow without the eggs, though. If you want to go gluten free, I’d use 2 teaspoons of baking powder with a gluten-free flour mix of your choice; I wouldn’t use straight quinoa flour for this, as I think it would overwhelm the lemon. Spelt flour works just fine if you want wheat free but not gluten free, of course.
In terms of flavours, this would be lovely with lime or pink grapefruit (of course, if you use pink grapefruit you will be morally obliged to tint the cake pink by any means necessary). And it’s one where you could get away with blood orange, too, because there’s no juice in the cake itself to react with the eggs and go green. Though I am now struck with the urge to experiment with blood orange juice and these really good eggs and find out just *how* green a cake would go.
Do you know what else would be awesome? Some fresh strawberries chopped up and stirred through the batter at the last minute. Or blueberries, I suppose, but they wouldn’t be nearly as exciting. Or you could make an orange cake and add some choc-chips. Try half a cup of any of these exciting additives, I’d say – you might be able to get away with more, but that seems like a fairly sensible starting point.