This post and recipe has been contributed by Saucy Dressings correspondent, Domini Hogg.
Where did it all start?
I was first introduced to homemade lemon drizzle cake when a friend produced one to thank me for performing in her mime production of Greek myths. I was the harpist and my role was to provide the sound effects for the fates spinning destiny and Zeus gallivanting from mistress to mistress. It was the most deliciously moist and zesty lemon drizzle cake I had ever tasted, so I asked her for the recipe.
A recipe with no method
It came, but with just the list of ingredients. No method. This of course was recipe enough for a consummate baker like herself, but for a novice like me, I had nowhere to start. Did I beat the eggs with the sugar? Did I melt the butter before I added it? When should I add the flour and the lemon? And how long should I bake it for? At what temperature? It was a dilemma. Fortunately I was rescued by my then housemate, who, also a dab hand with cakes, took pity on me and helped me bake the first one. It was a huge success. We invited our friends round and served it with raspberries. Everyone loved it and I tried to take as much credit for it as I could!
Soggy lemon pool for an important dinner guest
The next time I wanted to make it, however, I was on my own. The dinner was in honour of an important business guest. I had to get it right. I had asked my housemate to write in the method for me and indeed she had started…but she never finished. I discovered to my horror that the method broke off at “bake at 180C for….” How long was I supposed to cook it for? I tried Googling the answer and got a few suggestions, but I didn’t want to overcook it, so I decided to keep testing it. The first time it came out of the oven, I stuck my knife in and it came out covered in gooey substance…clearly not ready yet. I kept trying it and slowly the knife came out cleaner and cleaner until finally the knife was relatively clean and the top looked perfectly golden.
I was ready…only the cake was not. I started to serve it out. The first slice on the end came out beautifully clean, but as I got further towards the middle the cake’s crisp exterior started to collapse in on its still liquid centre. I had just enough solid pieces to serve my guests, but I had to make do with a soggy lemon pool and hope that no-one noticed. I learned my lesson. If you want to know how long to cook it for, it’s at least 25 minutes.
Next lesson – wrap it well or it’s embarrassing sticky lemon drizzle all over your gym gear
I was truly proud of my next perfectly solid attempt. I even took it into work with me to share with my colleagues. That was yet another mistake. Not because it caused me any trouble at work. Far from it. It won me many friends. No, this was a mistake I only realised in the gym long after the cake had already been demolished.
It was the first time I had ever been to a gym and the gym had offered me a personal trainer session for free to get me started. Already a little apprehensive, I pulled out my gym clothes only to find them covered in wet sticky patches of lemon drizzle that clearly had escaped the container on my way into work! The damage to my black tracksuit bottoms was slightly less obvious, but the clear wet patches on my white T-shirt were in all the wrong places. I resorted to my work shirt instead and introduced myself to my personal trainers as “really sorry I’m covered in icing sugar!”
It was in the context of my haphazard dealings with Lemon Drizzle Cake that I had to laugh recently when a friend came to stay and brought with him a homemade Lemon Drizzle Cake. He had been told that I was partial to the cake – clearly my reputation preceded me – but he had no idea of the disaster stories it entailed. I am glad (and relieved!) to say that he pulled it off with great aplomb. The cake was not only solid throughout, but also utterly delicious! A great success all round. I envied him his luck, or more probably, his superior baking talent.
If you have any cake left over and it goes a bit dry, you can revive it with Grand Marnier, or Cointreau, more limoncello…. or something of that sort.
Recipe for Davide’s luscious lemon drizzle cake with an Italian twist (the basil)
- 100g/4 oz butter
- 165g/1½ cups self-raising flour, or plain flour with 1½ tsps baking powder
- 60ml/¼ cup milk
- 150g/¾ cup golden caster sugar
- 2 eggs
- 3 or 4 leaves of basil
- 3 tbsps icing sugar
- 3 tbsps limoncello
- Juice and zest of a lemon
- 200ml/¾ cup plus a bit crème fraîche
- 150g/5 oz raspberries
- Preheat the oven to 180°C.
- Line a loaf tin with baking paper and grease it.
- In a large mixing bowl mix the butter, flour, milk, sugar, eggs, and lemon zest.
- Bake for about 40 minutes (it needs to be moist obviously, but it may need a touch longer, try sticking in a skewer, it should come out more or less clean, with a few moist crumbs sticking to it).
- In a small saucepan mix the lemon juice, the limoncello and the icing sugar. Warm to dissolve the sugar, and snip in the basil.
- Cut the cake into slices whilst still in the loaf tin. Drizzle over the sauce.
- Serve hot with crème fraîche and raspberries.
This post is dedicated to Davide Bussola.
In a survey carried out in September 2018 by Protein World, Lemon Drizzle Cake won the top slot at the UK’s most popular cake.