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Originally from baking guru Mary Berry, I’ve adapted this recipe to suit a much-loved tin, plus an unexpected overabundance of lemons and an almost empty packet of ground almonds I happened to have hanging around. The original doesn’t call for almonds and only uses 2 lemons. Try it her way, try it my way, make it your own.
For the cake: 8oz (225g) butter, softened; 8oz (225g) caster sugar; 10oz (275g) self-raising flour; 2oz (55g) ground almonds (optional, but adds to the soft density of the crumb); 2 tsp baking powder; 4 large eggs; 4 tablespoons milk; zest of 3 lemons
For the topping: 6oz (175g) granulated sugar; juice of 3 lemons
Rummage around in your cupboard for a straight-sided roasting tin or traybake tin with dimensions of about 12x9x2 inches (30x23x5 cm) or 10-inch square. I use the 12x8-inch Silverwood Eyecatcher brownie tin for this recipe, which makes a lovely deep cake. Grease the tin and line it neatly with baking/greaseproof paper. Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas mark 4.
Make sure the butter is completely soft – I usually melt it in small pan on the hob (but don’t overheat butter as it will quickly burn). Use a fine grater such as a Microplane to zest the lemons.
Put all the cake ingredients into a large bowl and beat well together, preferably using an electric whisk or cake mixer (or a wooden spoon and good upper body musculature). Beat for about 2 minutes, until well blended – the mixture should be light in colour and have the consistency of soft mousse. (Not moose.)
Spread the mixture evenly in the prepared tin, levelling the top with the back of a spatula. Bake for 35–40 minutes, or until the cake springs back when lightly pressed and is beginning to shrink away from the sides of the tin. Stand the tin on a cooling rack and allow to cool for a few minutes before the next bit.
Now you have choices: if you are using a tin with a removable base, you can add the topping while it’s still in the tin. I find this the least messy method – and I like to do it while the cake is still warm as the syrup topping absorbs better then. Alternatively, remove it from the tin by turning it upside down on the cooling rack, carefully peel off the lining paper, then turn the cake upright on a large board (you’ll need to scrape up dribbling syrup from round the side, so don’t do this on too small a board).
To make the topping, mix the lemon juice and granulated sugar in a jug. Prick the top of the cake all over with a fork. Slowly and evenly spoon the syrup over the cake – simply scrape up any drizzles from the board and spread back on top. When cool (or when you can wait no longer) cut into squares. Stored in an airtight container this cake should keep fresh for 4 or 5 days.
This is my friend’s favourite cake, but I have never attempted it myself.
I’m now inspired by the recipe to “have a go”, though I’ll drop the almonds (which should only be eaten directly from
their shells -IMHO). I may even invest in a new bake tin and magic marker it!
Thanks for sharing!
By Valerie on April 11 2012
You’re quite right, Valerie: the almonds are not strictly necessary, and generally I will pick nuts out of things rather than add them. But ground almonds can give a moister, denser texture to sponge cakes – and help them keep fresh for longer – without changing the basic flavour. In fact, because of the fat content in almonds, it can intensify other flavours, and works particularly well with citrus and chocolate.
Furthermore, on the subject of eating nuts from the shell, it’s my personal experience – and I have reason to know it’s yours too – that the almond is a tough nut to crack without the proper equipment.
By Liz on April 13 2012
Thanks for the tip. I never knew how the chemistry worked so will try it with ground almonds.
At least I won’t need a nut cracker
By Valerie on April 13 2012
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