Last week, I was asked if I would kindly bake a cake on behalf of a friend for a Douglas Macmillan coffee morning. I had just one day to ponder over the recipe I would use and to buy in all the ingredients for said recipe. In the end, I decided I wanted to do a lemon loaf cake (although it didn't quite turn out that way.)
Many a time I have established recipes on the preface of what I had in the cupboards, and I am sure that I am not the only one to do this. I didn't have enough butter in the house for a cake and I certainly didn't have enough for a cake with buttercream icing so that is how I ended up with a cake made using oil instead of butter. This is also the reason, in part, for the use of plain flour and baking powder as opposed to self-raising flour (although I do prefer to use plain flour and baking powder instead of 'SRF' because I feel as though I am more in control of the rising agents that way). You can never be sure how well mixed or how much and how active a raising agent is in 'SRF' so I find it best to do it myself.
In the end, I decided to bake the cake in a bundt tin instead of a loaf tin as I thought it would look nicer and hence sell more, making more for charity. Also, the candied peel was an additional 'saved from the cupboard' ingredient - I had some left over from last year's stollen and thought it would look nice sprinkled on top to mirror the lemon inside. As for the ground almonds, they were added not just for taste but also for the shelf life - a cake with ground almonds will always last longer than a standard all flour cake.
N.B. A point on the use of rapeseed oil. My reason for using it, apart from the fact that it is a good substitution for butter (in most cases), is that it is - unlike most vegetable or sunflower oils - overly abundant in the UK and has a plethora of uses. So long as you buy cold-pressed oil, it is perfectly good to use - the hot-pressed stuff looses its colour and has to have lots of additives included to bring it up to standard (a bit of an oxymoron there I'm afraid.) I always use British, cold-pressed, organic rapeseed oil so that I can be perfectly sure of the quality of oil I am using, and I suggest you do the same too.
Iced Lemon Cake
Serves: 8-16 | Prep time: 10 minutes | Cooking time: 40 minutes
- 100ml rapeseed oil, cold-pressed
- 225g golden caster sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- 250g plain flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 50g ground almonds
- 1 tbsp. lemon juice
- 7-8 tbsp icing sugar
- Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
- In a clean bowl, beat together the rapeseed oil, sugar, and eggs until light and fluffy - I usually do this for around 3-4 minutes on medium speed with an electric mixer.
- Next add in the zest and juice of the lemon and stir in.
- Follow this by sifting in the flour and baking powder and adding in the ground almonds - don't sift the almonds as they are likely to be too coarse to pass through your sieve.
- Fold in the dry ingredients, being sure not to overwork the batter or you'll start to build up the gluten (resulting in a tough/dense cake.)
- Transfer the mixture to a 9" bundt tin (or a two-pound loaf tin) and bake for 30-40 minutes or until a skewer in the centre of the cake comes out clean.
- Turn the cake out onto a cooling rack and allow to fully cool before icing.
- Meanwhile, mix together the lemon juice and icing sugar (adding more icing sugar if needed) to form a paste - it should be a highly viscous, dropping consistency.
- Once your cake has cooled, take the icing (a teaspoon at a time) and drizzle all over the cake. You can use an piping bag if you so wish but I just see that as extra washing up. Finally, top with a little candied peel if you have some although it's not essential.
Top Tip #1: If you want the cake to be extra moist and lemony, squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the cooling cake just after it's removed from the oven.