Sour milk and lemon cake
Behold, here's cake

The milk keeps going off in my fridge. I could blame the fridge. Suggest it has a faulty dial that makes it run warm, or a loose seal that means the door quietly pops open in the middle of the night. Maybe it has ambitions to be an oven. But it isn’t the fridge’s fault. It’s mine. I’ve stopped drinking tea.

I don’t remember my first cup of tea because, unlike my first kiss, it wasn’t disappointing. It happened somewhere between the ages of 10 and 12, when my parents finally decided I was old enough to be trusted with a cup of hot liquid. My dad would make tea after dinner and pass the cups round his food coma-ed family, all settled on the sofa and the floor.

You might think that the early evening is a reckless time of day to feed a child caffeine, but I drank my tea made with half milk, half hot water and 6 spoons of sugar. Essentially, it was a drinkable pudding and no more likely to keep me awake than the jelly and ice cream or Angel Delight I’d already scoffed.

Tea became one of the stations in my day. In the morning I’d dance across the cold kitchen floor and hop from foot to foot while I waited for the kettle to boil. In the evening, Dad would make the rounds. On weekends there was an extra dose of tea in the middle of the afternoon (mid-mornings were for coffee and it took me another 20 years to like inky black shots of that). Tea was where the day started and ended.

Sour milk and lemon cake with cream
No point crying over sour milk

I carried on the tea-drinking rituals when I left home. Filling the kettle was an instinctive reaction to being awake and on my feet. Pottering about with spoons, mugs, teabags and – when I was feeling upwardly mobile – a teapot was how I closed the curtains and drew the night in. Then, somewhere along the line, I just stopped making it.

I still drink tea, but only at work, when a walk to the makeshift kitchen is my best excuse for leaving my desk. It’s not a domestic lodestar anymore. Just a little pause, a moment’s breath among the deadlines and the documents.

This change in habit still hasn’t registered with me, though. I keep buying milk because I know I like to drink tea, so I must need milk. It’s a shopping loop I can’t get out of. But the kettle stays unboiled and the milk grows thick in the fridge. Which brings me to cake.

A solution to all problems, cake can suck up sour milk like a, well, like a sponge. Using sour milk (or buttermilk if you don’t have bottles of bad milk stacked up in your fridge) in the batter means you end up with a soft, damp cake that has a good amount of squodge. The sort of cake you eat with a fork – by itself, or maybe with fruit and cream for an in-joke afternoon tea.

Sour milk & lemon cake
Serves 8-10

200g salted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
200g caster sugar
4 medium eggs
250g sour milk
1 lemon
200g self-raising flour
1 level tsp powder

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180°C/Fan 160°C. Grease a 23cm round cake tin and line the base with baking parchment.

Beat the butter and sugar together for a few minutes till they’re a pale, milky colour and fluffy looking. Beat the eggs together, then beat in a little egg at a time till you have a thick, liquid batter.

Pour in the sour milk and beat that in, too. The batter will start to look like cottage cheese that’s been left in a smoking room for a few years – worry not. All will be well.

Finely grate the zest off the lemon. Add to the bowl. Juice the lemon and add that. Sift in the flour with the baking powder and a pinch of salt. Use a flexible spatula to fold the flour into the batter. It will be look terrible and should be fairly liquid still. Pour it into the cake tin.

Bake for around 45 minutes to an hour till the cake is golden and firm. It won’t rise massively, but should look a lot more like a cake than you were expecting. Leave it to cool in the tin. Serve in slices by itself (parsimonious) or with summer berries and cream.

Tagged with: BakingCakes

8 Responses to Sour milk & lemon cake

  1. Mmm I like the sound of this cake – good way to use up sour milk too. I bet it tastes fabulous as you suggested. Do you think there’s scope for ground almonds in there?

    • ginandcrumpets says:

      There is always scope for ground almonds. Mostly because there is always half a pack of ground almonds lurking in the cupboard, and this is nothing if not a thrifty cake.

  2. Naomi says:

    For the last few days I have had a bottle of milk in the fridge slowly tipping towards sour.
    It has sat untouched for similar reasons: I drink tea, therefore buy milk, but recently things have changed. The catalyst for my break with tea is rather mundane: I’m a uni student and have decided that tea (at least kinds I enjoy) doesn’t fit in the budget, and my supplies have just run out. Since this won’t last forever I don’t want to break my milk buying habit, at least not yet.
    When I was wondering what to do with my sour milk I remembered a recipe for raspberry sour milk cake, but of course raspberry are also off the shopping list. I set my brain to thinking up a suitable substitute and it latched on the lemons in my fruit bowl. Finally, this morning I got around to making a google search for Lemon Sour Milk Cake. And great was my surprise when I came across your blog post! First thing I clicked on, I might add. I’m not sure which I appreciate more; your lovely story or the recipe itself.
    Thank you very much,I look forward to making the cake, and reading more of your blog.

  3. Such a good idea- looks delicious too!

  4. Lisa says:

    My god, Jassy, this is the best cake post. Now that I have two children (TWO?!! How the hell did that happen?) we somehow go through 4 litres of milk every 2 and a half days. There must be an algorithm somewhere that can solve the conundrum of how to keep enough spare milk backed up for the days when milk usage tips (a few extra cappuccinos or hot chocolates) or dips (someone forgets to make pancake batter the night before). But I don’t have it, so we generally have several spare litres, and frequently I shop and forget I’ve bought it… and 3 spare litres becomes 6, which pretty quickly becomes… well… now I shall call it an EXCUSE FOR CAKE. Hurrah.

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