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