Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Drizzle of Joy: Lemon Drizzle Cake

A Drizzle of Joy: Mini Lemon Drizzle Bundt Cakes

Merry (belated) Christmas!  Happy New Year!  And Happy Birthday to me! 

Lots of fun and delicious things to celebrate in December, as usual, and while I've been MIA in the blogosphere, I have been nothing short of prolific in the kitchen.  Here's a post I wrote a couple of weeks ago, as I prepped for Christmas dinner (I froze these cakes and then thawed and drizzled them on Christmas eve).  These delicious little lemon drizzle bundt cakes seem almost a distant memory now, but a fond one.  I hope everyone had a wonderful season with their loved ones!

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I became a cake addict pretty late in my life.  Up until the age of about 26 I'd pretty much avoided cake and sweets like the plague (except for the odd cookie or brownie), generally opting for savory foods over sweet.  I thought of cake as trite, over-used for parties and celebrations, over-decorated with cheap disgusting sprinkles, and, worst of all, covered in icing so sickly-sweet it made my lips pucker just thinking about it.  That was until I moved to London and joined the cult-following of cake as a way of life at The Primrose Bakery.

In addition to realizing that it's damn hard to keep your figure intact while professionally associated with a cake shop, I also discovered that the universal suspicion is true: there is definitely a secret, intangible ingredient put into home baked goods that actually does make you happy. It was always heartwarming to watch a child pick out his very own pink or green cupcake, or to look at faces as the first bite of that giant slice of chocolate cake went in.  Whether they'd chosen Victoria Sponge or Plum Cake, pretty much everyone who entered that little shop - celebrity, civilian or even the dogs - left looking visibly jollier than when they'd arrived.

It's that time of year again.  The time to be jolly, joyful, and spread all sorts of good cheer.  Christmas is one of my favorite times to bake, and this year I decided to make an old favorite from my bakery days, and one that doesn't seem to be all that common in the US - a guaranteed golden ticket to Smile City, or, if I can continue further with the cheesy phrases, a true drizzle of joy: Lemon Drizzle Cake (see below for recipe).

And in the continued name of random and rather purposeless Top 5 Lists: There were many perks associated with working at a bakery - most involving gluttonous consumption of sweet things - but here is a list of my personal top 5.

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Top 5 Reasons Working at a Cake Shop Rocked
and no, I'm not generally a "cake person"

5. Managerial Taste-testing Privileges
As the manager I didn't just get to oversee the practical day-to-day running of the bakery, I also got to scope out our offerings and determine whether they were up to snuff or not.  This often required hands-on taste-testing.  There were certain products that always had to be tested before they even left the kitchen.  The brownies for example.  And I do not believe I am overstepping the boundaries of propriety when I say that I truly believe Americans are more qualified to determine the worthiness of a brownie than our dear British compatriots.  Let's face it, a good American-style cake shop is only as good as its worst brownie.

4. Buttercream.
Cakes growing up always had that should-be-illegal sugar-water concoction that grocery stores try to pass for icing.  It is stiff and flavorless (unless of course you consider pure refined sugar a flavor, in which case I wholeheartedly encourage you to make your way to your nearest Kroger and dig in).  And once you've had real homemade buttercream icing, you can never go back to it.  Learning to make buttercream icing and then learning to ice cupcakes and layer cakes with it is a simple but delicious art which I wholeheartedly embraced during my time as cake-woman, and it is one I hope to carry on perfecting for years to come.  I know Matt and Roman are glad for it anyhow. :)

3. Champagne Truffles & Crystalized Rose Petals.
Another perk of working at a "luxury" cake shop, were the "luxury" items we ordered to put on the cakes.  Supplying people like Fortnum & Mason means you get to work with (eat?) amazing things like handmade champagne truffles and real crystalized rose petals on a somewhat regular basis.  If doing this isn't already on a list of sure-fire ways to up your happy-hormones, it should be.

2. Bottomless Cappuccinos.
What is a cake shop without top notch coffee and tea to go with the cakes?  A sad, sad place, if you must ask.  And let me tell you, our bakery was anything but sad.  We served only Illy caffe and artisan teas.  I must have consumed, on average, 5-6 cups of coffee every work day.  Give me a latte to start off the day.  Then there's the mid-morning cappuccino and chat with the owners.  Move onto the late morning pick-me-up espresso, and maybe another if the coffee supplier guy comes by, while you shoot the shizzle over the week's latest gossip.  Next comes another cappuccino in the afternoon, just to get you over the hump.  And maybe an Americano before you head out, just so the tube ride isn't too unbearable.  And the best part is, I learned to make them all myself.  I was a milk-frothing, espresso-pulling, splenda-slinging fiend.  And now I know that one day when I have an unbelievably cool, industrial grade Italian hand-pulled coffee machine in my kitchen, I will be able to razzle-dazzle all my family with my mad coffee making skills.

1. A Drizzle of Pure Joy.
Of all the things we served at the bakery, my favorite was one of the only cakes Martha and Lisa chose to leave out of their cookbook: the lemon drizzle cake.  As cakes go, Lemon Drizzle is kind of a UK Institution.  Everyone seems to eat it, like it, ask for it, and have their own recipe.  It's a super simple presentation of a lemon sponge cake with a lemon juice and sugar drizzle poured over it.  I love it anytime of year, but especially when I need a little reminder of my drizzly but joyful time spent living in London. :)

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Lemon Drizzle Cake
Makes 2 Loaves, 2- 8" Round Cakes, or ~16 Mini Bundt Cakes

This is a pretty standard lemon sponge cake recipe and the result is strikingly similar to the one at the bakery.  It is good enough to eat, really. :)

225g Golden Caster Sugar (or superfine sugar)
225g All-Purpose Flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
25g Cornstarch
2 sticks (225g) unsalted butter, at room temp
4 large eggs
2-3 large, juicy lemons - zest and juice

2-4 large lemons, juice
1 cup (100g) white granulated sugar

* * *

1. Preheat your oven to 375F.

2. Using a food processor, pour the flour, sugar, baking powder and cornstarch in and mix until completely blended.

3. Add the remaining ingredients (making certain the butter is completely at room temp first) and mix until combined.

4. Pour into two large loaf tins (the tins should be 1/2 to 2/3 full), dividing the batter evenly.

5. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown and a skewer or tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean. DO AHEAD: Allow the cakes to cool completely then wrap in cling film and freeze for up to a month.

6. While baking the cakes, make the drizzle by combining the sugar and lemon juice.

7. Allow the cakes to cool completely in their tins, then carefully remove and place on a plate.  Poke holes all over the loaves with a skewer then spoon the drizzle over the loaves and allow it to set.   Serve in slices.
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  1. If I ever doubted the advantages of working in a bakeshop, believe me they are gone. I hope you and your had a wonderful holidays. I'd like the continue to celebrating and I think the best way to do it is with a slice of this yummy sounding drizzle cake. They look like a bit of sunshine that is seriously necessary on this cold rainy SF day.

  2. I will eat this Lemon Drizzle Cake.

    I should also add that I've never taken cake for granted, especially your carrot cake.

  3. Oyster - hope you had a great Christmas! Thanks for the comment.

    Bean - Yes, make the cake! And send me a picture when you're done. :)

  4. Great post... about freaking time. Also, I'm sad you didn't mention the wonderful establishment that is Marina's and the Waffle House, especially in your list of classy things.