Spring Lemon Cake

I can’t tell you how many lemons have been squeezed and cakes made here in the name of research.  Lemon drizzles, lemon curds, lemon polentas and of course there is the layered beauty that features here in Lemon Cake and the 1970’s (May 2013) and often graces our table as our Easter Cake*.

I’m happy to eat a lemon based cake any day of the year but in Spring it seems even more appropriate.  That bright yellow zip and zest works perfectly when there is still a nip in the air but green shoots are on show and the hope of sunny days feels well founded.  This then is a cake for teatime, picnics or rainy days, trips to the beach, eating outside or in front of the fire and, of course, for all those school bake sales.

This modest looking little loaf cake has been tried and tested in many incarnations and this  is my favourite.  It couldn’t be easier, is very quick and a doddle if you have children who want to make a cake.  If you don’t have any lemon curd don’t worry it will still be delicious but it’s worth having a jar of good curd in the fridge for such occasions.  You can stick with a crunchy sugar and lemon drizzle if you prefer but this lemony icing is our perfect topping.  Finally, whilst I am a huge fan of butter, it has become quite expensive and Stork or similar works brilliantly here – if its good enough for Mary Berry, its certainly good enough for me!

Spring Lemon Cake

160g butter or Stork (see introduction)

120g caster sugar

Good pinch of salt

2 large eggs

140g self raising flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Zest of one large unwaxed lemon

2 tablespoons milk

2 tablespoons lemon curd (see introduction)

150g icing sugar

Juice of 1/2 – 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 180 and line a loaf tin.  Cream the butter or Stork and sugar together until light and fluffy, I use a stand mixer for this but a wooden spoon and bowl work a treat too.  Add the eggs one at a time with a spoonful of flour until well incorporated and then add the remaining flour, salt, baking powder, zest and milk.  Finally swirl in the lemon curd leaving a few streaks.  Put the mix into the lined tin and bake for 40 minutes.  Check after 30 and cover with foil if its brown on top before a skewer comes out clean.  Whilst the cake is cooling, mix the icing sugar and lemon juice (add the juice slowly as you may not need it all) and then pour over the top of the cake.  Leave to set and then tuck in.

 

 

 

 

*Whilst I know a Simnel Cake is the usual Easter offering and I love it, none of my immediate family like fruit cake (also my daughter is allergic to nuts).  Besides, we all know what happens to a cake when only one person likes it……

Brown Sugar Meringue Cake with Blackberries and Lemon Cream

Blackberry and Lemon meringue 2

It feels as if autumn may be rapping her chilly fingers on the door.  There was a frost this morning and a proper mist coming up off the river.  Whilst I am not ready to immediately dive headlong into winter stews and duvets of syrup puddings I am certainly happy to wrap up a little and enjoy the cool air and changes in the landscape.  Leaves are turning bronze and starting to flutter down into crunchy piles demanding to be kicked, cobwebs in the hedges are highlighted by the frosty dew and birds are collecting, swooping and considering a winter in the sun.  Relish these September days, before you know it we will be hearing about Hallowe’en and Christmas.

So, this is  belter of a pudding, just the ticket for this time of year whilst there are heaps blackberries around.  It is also very straightforward, you can make the meringue discs days in advance and I  have used a good store bought lemon curd.  Do make your own if you have the time and the energy, I didn’t and was perfectly happy with a shop version on this occasion.  Crunchy and chewy meringue, dusky and toffeeish from the brown sugar, vibrant lemony curd marbled into whipped cream and the deepest dark purple berries.

Most of the year the brambles are a pest in the garden, catching and scratching you endlessly.  At the moment though, I am delighted to see their little berries almost as black and shiny as the jet buttons on a Victorian governess.  Take delight in them as like all other seasonal treats they will be gone in a flash.  You could make this with those big, blowsy blackberries you can buy in the shops but that misses the point of these autumn treasures.  I picked the ones you see here whilst the meringues were cooking.

So have a go at this, it really is as stunning as it is delicious and if you miss the boat with the blackberries try it with some late autumn raspberries.

Blackberry and Lemon meringue 3

Brown Sugar Meringue Cake with Blackberries and Lemon Cream

The first time I marbled the lemon curd directly into the whipped cream and then spread it onto the meringue discs but I found it got a little lost.  I then blobbed the lemon curd onto the cream once this was already spread and then marbled it a little which I prefer as it is more distinct.  Obviously do as you choose.  Likewise use as much lemon curd as you like, I used just over half a jar.

3 egg whites

100g soft brown sugar

50g golden caster sugar

600g double cream

1/2 -3/4 jar good lemon curd

Blackberries, as many as you want

Zest of one lemon (optional)

A little icing sugar to dust

Draw two 20cm circles on baking parchment and put them onto baking sheets.  Preheat the oven to 140c.  Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form and then add both sugars a spoonful at a time whisking well until you have a shiny, stiff mass.  Divide this between the two baking sheets creating two 20cm discs, smoothing the tops.  Bake for one hour swapping the tins half way and then turn off the heat but leave in the oven to cool with the door ajar.  When they are cool peel away the parchment and put one onto your serving plate, whisk the cream until just holding its shape and spread half onto the first meringue disc.  Dollop lemon curd over the cream and marble it slightly with a knife then scatter over some of your blackberries.  Place the second disc on top of this and repeat this time using up the rest of your blackberries.  Grate over a little lemon zest if you want and dust with icing sugar.  Serves 6.

Blackberry and Lemon meringue 5