“Mma Ramotswe sighed. ‘We are all tempted, Mma. We are all tempted when it comes to cake.’
That is true,’ said Mma Potokwane sadly. ‘There are many temptations in this life, but cake is probably one of the biggest of them.”
~ Alexander McCall Smith, In the Company of Cheerful Ladies
This is a cake that eats well on the first day it’s baked, and keeps eating well up to a week later. It’s a dense cake, like a lemony mud cake, but it isn’t heavy or overly rich. The lemon syrup gives the cake a zesty tang, and it’s the perfect cake for travelling. I baked this early on the morning I was going to my writers retreat, whipped it out of the oven, poured the syrup over it, wrapped the whole tin in foil and carried the fragrant and still hot cake up into the mountains.
It is delicious served warm, but for our four-day retreat I stored the cake in the fridge, and served it cold. There were no complaints!
This cake can easily be made gluten-free, by substituting your favourite gluten-free flour mix. Do use fresh lemons – they make all the difference.
250g soft butter, 3/4 cup caster sugar, 3 eggs, finely grated rind of two large lemons (about 1 and 1/2 tablespoons), 1/4 cup of lemon juice, 1 and 1/4 cups plain greek-style yoghurt, 1/2 cup almond meal, 1 and 1/2 cups self raising flour (self-rising for my USA friends or 1 cup of all purpose flour, 1 and 1/2 x teaspoons baking powder and a pinch of salt, sifted together)
1 and 1/3 cups caster sugar, 1/2 cup lemon juice, finely shredded zest of one large lemon
Preheat your oven to moderate (160 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit).
Line a loaf tin (23cm x 12cm – 9 inch x 5 inch) with baking paper. (You can use a round or fluted tin if you prefer – just shorten the cooking time a little.)
Cream the butter, sugar and lemon rind together until creamy and light.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Then add the remaining wet and dry ingredients and fold through gently with a spoon.
Transfer the batter to a baking-paper lined loaf tin, and smooth the top.
Bake for around 60 minutes. Test for doneness by insert a skewer into the centre of the cake. If mixture still clings to the skewer bake a little longer.
Check your cake after 40 minutes. If it is browning too fast place some foil on top of the cake to prevent it taking on any more colour. Don’t be too fussy with the foil, just place it gently over the top.
I was away from our farm and cooked this cake in a gas oven that is temperamental and doesn’t hold a consistent temperature, often getting too hot, or not quite getting up to temperature. Sigh. So I used foil (I usually don’t need it) and my cake also split slightly on top. Was that a drama? NO! It’s cake, people. It still looked lovely and tasted absolutely delicious. :)
You can leave the cake in the pan if you are not serving it immediately. If you wish to serve while warm, wait ten minutes for cake to cool slightly and then remove from pan and place on serving plate.
Once the cake is out of the oven, make your syrup. Place the lemon juice, lemon zest and sugar in a pan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar melts. (Note: Don’t boil the syrup or it will end up tasting like marmalade and will loose its lovely zestiness!)
Use a fine skewer and pierce holes all over the cake.
Then pour at least half of the hot syrup over your still hot cake. I generally use all of it because I love syrupy cakes, but some of my friends prefer to keep some syrup aside in a little jug so that it can be poured onto the individual slices at serving time.
Serve the cake in small slices, with a little cream, ice-cream or yoghurt on the side.
At the writers retreat we ate our cake with vanilla yoghurt, good coffee and lots of words.
Here’s a piece of cake that I carried out under the wisteria in order to get a photo with natural light. I couldn’t help myself and ate some before I could even get a good shot!
The wind blew a couple of little flowers down onto my plate. I’d love to take credit for being so artful, but actually, it was nature, just doing its thing.