Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Happy Birthday to me - lovely lemon cake

I've just returned from a wonderful fortnight on holiday. I haven't taken a full two weeks off work for six years, so it was a real treat. I usually like to spread my hols out throught the year, but I had a little spare this year and decided to make the most of it. After a wonderfully lazy few days is Provence with girl friends, I headed up to my beloved North Wales for a week and a half with family.

Since I was a baby, I have holidayed up on the Llyn Penninsula and really think it is one of the most beautiful parts of our country. The scenery is just stunning. Of course, the 'problem' with holidaying in the UK is the age-old one of the weather. It becomes an obsession. From our rented house, we watched the clouds and rain in earnest over breakfast, trying to decide what the day had in store. We'd look out of each side of the house, hoping for a touch of blue sky out of one of the windows. Sadly, on this occasion, 'him upstairs' was not on our side. We had a couple of sunny-ish days, but most were grey, grey and more grey...

It was a shame, but didn't matter too much. I still managed some lovely walks and loved catching up with nephews, nieces and parents.

I was also very spoilt. Yesterday was my birthday, you see. It wasn't one I was looking forward to. I'm now twenty-nine. Twenty-nine is not a problem in itself, you realise. It is just the fact that it comes before the dreaded three-oh. I know, I know. I'm still a young whipper-snapper. I've heard it all before. I'm afraid nothing will convince me though. Turning thirty is not something I'm looking forward to.

However, as I mentioned, I was very spoilt. The blow was duly softened by some lovely presents. Most exciting of all is my new
Kenwood Mixer! I have wanted one for ages and had to put it to use straight away.

It seemed only apt that I should bake a birthday cake. A challenge when staying in a rental holiday house without your usual cake tins, baking equipment, cook books etc... I thought about my favourite kind of cake. Luckily I had bought one book with me; my favourite
'How to be a Domestic Goddess' from wonderful Nigella. At first I thought I'd go chocolately, then fruity but eventually I decided upon lemony.

I adore lemony cakes and wanted a full-on explosion of lemony flavour. I followed Nigella's basic Victoria Sponge recipe, sandwiched it with lemon butter icing and lemon curd and then topped the lot with bright white lemon glacé icing. You'll see that Nigella uses a little cornflour in her recipe - this can be replaced with regular self-raising flour, but she reckons that the cornflour makes for a lighter sponge.

My efforts were hampered by various factors. I didn't have sandwich tins, so baked the cake in one large springform 20cm tin and then cut it in half. I was also cooking in an oven which had a mind of its own. Everything we made in it seemed to burn, so I cooked it on a rather low heat and relied on some guess work.

The result was, I think, absolutely delicious. Wonderfully citrussy with just the right balance between the sweetness and the tangyness. This is certainly an indulgent cake, with two kinds of icing AND lemon curd, but if you can't indulge on your birthday, when can you?!

Very lemon cake
Serves 8


For the sponge:
225g butter
225g caster sugar
4 large eggs
200g self-raising flour , sieved
25g cornflour
juice and zest of one unwaxed lemon

For the butter cream:
75g butter
75-100g icing sugar
juice and zest from half a lemon

Homemade or good quality bought lemon curd

Icing sugar and juice from half a lemon

You will also need two 20cm loose bottomed sandwich tins, buttered

1. Pre-heat oven to 180C. For the cake, cream the butter and sugar (in your brand-new Kenwood mixer...). Add the eggs one at a time, adding a tablespoon of flour after each addition and continuing to mix. Fold in rest of flour and cornflour, plus the lemon juice and zest. The mixture should be a dropping consistency. If too thick, add a touch of milk.

2. Pour the cake mixture into the prepared cake tins and bake for 25 minutes, or until the cakes are springy to the touch and a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the centre. Leave to cool in tins for ten minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.

3. Whilst the cakes are cooling, make the buttercream. Using a mixer, blend together the butter and sugar and add in the lemon. If too runny, add more icing sugar until a spreading conisistency is reached.

4. Sandwich the cakes together with a thin layer of butter icing and then a layer of lemon curd. Top the cake off with a layer of glossy glacé icing. Sieve the icing sugar and mix to reasonably thick consistency with the lemon juice. Add candles and away you go!


Sandie said...

Three cheers for Nigella's 'How to Be a Domestic Goddess'---such a very good book. Happy birthday! Your cake looks delicious!

Jules said...

Happy Birthday! This lemon cake certainly looks like a delicious way to christen your Kenwood Mixer.

Margaret said...

Happy Birthday Antonia - 30 soon oh well!
The Kenwood Chef will last you for years and years and I know that the two of you will be very happy.
Adding the cornflour really does make a difference to the cake. What a lovely birthday cake you made.
I'm a huge Wales fan and we have discovered just how fabulous secret mid-Wales is too.

nicisme said...

That cake looks fabulous!
Happy Birthday to you Antonia, what super presents you got.
I know what you mean about the weather in this country, we went to Devon for a week once and it peed down the whole bloomin' week!

Pam said...

That's a fabulous looking cake! Happy birthday!

Beth said...

Happy birthday. The lemon cake looks really moist. I love lemon curd so I must try this. I was depressed about turning 20! Im seriously not looking forward to 30! Im sure it will be fine though

Sylvie said...

Happy Birthday! Great cake and believe me the big three-oh, isn't all that bad. I felt just like you, but then when the day came along at the end of last year it wasn't so bad at all. said...

Happy birthday! Beautiful looking cake.

My mum's Kenwood is 32 years old and still going strong.

Antonia said...

Sandie - three cheers indeed. Such a favourite... I just want to cook everything in it!

Jules - it was a delicious cake. Can't wait to use the mixer again!

Margaret - Thank you. I think we will be happy together indeed. The mixer now has pride of place in the kitchen. I was surprised about the cornflour, but found it was a great addition. Very light.

Nic - I know, I was very lucky indeed!

Pam - thank you.

Beth - oh to be 20 again! The cake was nice and moist, especially with all that icing and lemon curd. Delicious.

Sylvie - that is good to hear, I really am dreading it but I expect it will be fine really. A good excuse for a party really!

Ginger - thank you! I hope mine lasts as long. My mother's mixer has been around a fair while too - I think they really are built to last.

Maria said...

Happy Birthday Antonia!

What a gorgeous Lemon Cake.


Lucy said...

Happy Birthday! And what a scrummy looking cake and WOW lucky about the mixer!


Trekkie said...

Yay, belated Happy Birthday to you. The cake looks stunning. I hope you and your Kenwood will have many happy years together.


Jaime said...

i love the fresh citrus and tang flavor of lemons!

happy birthday!

Katie said...

A very happy belated birthday. The lemon cake sounds yummy

Rosie said...

Happy Birthday 'dear' Antonia!! Oooh your lemon cake looks so moist and delicious!! GREAT news about the mixer ;)

Rosie x