- Food & Drink
Last week I was invited to afternoon tea at Badger’s house and she suggested we all bring a cake to go with the mountains of sandwiches, scones, strawberries and scrumptious vanilla cupcakes she’d made. A masterstroke of an idea that ensured there was a wild excess of cake – enough to supply an afternoon long carb and sugar binge and still leave plenty of leftovers for other halves, work colleagues and midnight snacks.
But what to take? It’d have to be a cake that could survive a train journey across the wilds of South West London. I hit on a damp lemon loaf cake – a hardy brick of syrup soaked sponge that I used to make when I was little. It’s a trooper of a cake and would arrive at Badger’s in a better state than I would after mastering the engineering works and bus replacement services.
Or it would’ve done if I’d made it the day before. But I left it too late and had to wrench the cake from its tin still warm and with the syrup only just creeping past the crust. The middle was too soft and fluffy and it began to collapse as I put it in the box. By the time I arrived at Badger’s fundamental cracks had appeared in the middle, seriously destabilising the structure. The first slice out lead to a total collapse and the plate was a pile of sunshine yellow crumbs and crunchy bits.
It was still edible but the leftovers the next day were much better. So let the be a lesson to you: always bake ahead and never take warm cake on the train.
Damp lemon loaf cake
250g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
200g caster sugar
Grated zest and juice of 2 medium lemons
3 medium eggs, beaten
2 tbsp whole milk
300g self raising flour
125g icing sugar, sifted
1 Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180°C/fan oven 160°C. Grease a 900g loaf tin with butter and line the base with baking parchment. Set aside.
2 Beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy and combined – the mixture should begin to look pale. Stir in the lemon zest. Beat in the eggs, a little at a time, until combined and then beat in the milk. Sift in the flour and stir to combine.
3 Scrape the cake batter into the loaf tin and level the top. Slash a spatula or knife down the middle to make a shallow cut – about 1cm deep. Bake for approximately 40–50 minutes until the cake is golden, risen and firm to the touch.
4 Stir enough lemon juice into the icing sugar to make a thin, glassy looking icing. This will probably be the juice of 11/2 lemons, but you can throw all the juice in and not worry too much. Leave the cake in the tin and poke the top all over with a skewer so it looks like it has measles.
5 Pour the icing sugar mix all over the cake and leave to cool completely – the syrup will sink into the sponge and coat the cake in a thin, white crust. This cake is best eaten the day after it is made, so you can leave it in the tin overnight and then transfer to a cake tin. Eat on its own or with raspberries and a spoonful of crème fraîche.