The first time I made this, I made a mistake. I didn’t read the recipe all the way through. The recipe was just a collection of letters, made into words, that were irrelevant to me until I started actually making the cake when they became vital and important, a means to cake. And then I realised that the sugar quantity was meant to be split in two, 165g of which was meant to be added to the cake mixture and 135g was meant to be reserved for the drizzle. So I never did the drizzle part and, actually, that was the best (to me) version of this cake I’ve ever made. I’m not overly keen on sugary drizzle on a cake. I mean, it’s like the sugar fairy has pissed on a perfectly good cake.
To me a cake should be soft, yielding, maybe creamy; but purposely moist – made moist – just confuses me. I think this is in part because there is an old Italian tradition, when eating stale bread, which is to wet it. A habit that I used to find abhorrent as a child, but then, I had that luxury, having not lived through a war.
So now, I occasionally make this cake the proper way and sometimes make it my way. I give both versions below. It’s a lovely cake to have in, it lasts a good few days and you always have something for guests. But it’s not the sort of cake you want to eat loads of, it’s not a dangerous cake. And it’s the best version of this sort of thing that I’ve ever made/had. I think the addition of ground almonds gives it a certain substance, a certain meatiness. And I like that. It was from Delicious magazine a few years ago.
165g soft, unsalted butter
250g caster sugar – if you intend to make the drizzle then use 165g of sugar in the actual cake and reserve the rest. If you don’t want to do the drizzle then just 165g of sugar is fine
The zest of 3 lemons and the juice of 2 (you only need the juice if you intend to do the drizzle)
165g plain flour (I sometimes put some wholemeal in there, or some oat flour, but not much, maybe 20-30g no more)
half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon of baking powder
50g ground almonds
50ml hot water
1 and half tablespoons of poppy seeds
Preheat the oven to 180C and line a 1litre loaf tin. MIx together the 165g of butter and 165g of sugar and beat until pale and fluffy. Mix in the lemon zest. Now beat in the eggs, a bit at a time, adding a spoon of flour as you go with each egg. Add the rest of the flour/bicarb/baking powder.
Mix in the hot water, the ground almonds and poppy seeds and pour into the tin. Bake for 40-50 minutes. A tester pushed into the cake should come out clean. My oven is very hot so I check after about 38 minutes.
Now, set aside to cool and that’s it if you are not doing the drizzle. If you are, then you now mix the lemon juice with the remaining 135g of sugar and heat in a pan until dissolved. Prick the cake all over whilst it’s still warm and in its tin (but has had about 10 mins to just chill) and then gently spoon the lemony sugar mixture over the top.