Hooray! I’ve finally managed to cross off another recipe from the “To Make” list, approximately two and a half years after I first put it there. Even though there are several hundred things on there, it still feels good to cross something off. I’ve mentioned my list-making tendencies before, but these days I need lists to keep track of my lists, and I’d be absolutely lost without them. These days, I carry a notebook wherever I go, always on hand to scribble things down, and I must make the people sitting next to me on the train hungry while I brainstorm dessert ideas.
But back to the cake. I first saw this in a Jamie Oliver cookbook and fell in love with the photographs. He said this recipe belonged to his Nan, and it got me thinking about my grandmothers. From the way that my Nanna always had a tin of biscuits waiting for us when we would come over for our weekly piano lesson, and picking lemons, figs and pomegranates from her garden, or the way she would pipe icing onto my finger when she was decorating a cake.
Or how I would help my other Nan make self-saucing chocolate puddings, dipping my little fingers into the green bowl that now resides in my cupboard and makes me think of her every time I open it. Simple, comforting things and memories I’ll have forever, and for some reason it’s the memories of food that resonate most strongly. I hope that one day, my grandkids will form the same kind of memories too. Maybe I’ll even make them this cake.
Coming from Jamie, I knew this recipe would have a big lemony kick and it didn’t disappoint with the delicious lemon flavour coming through in all the different components – the cake itself, the syrup and the icing. The ground almonds were a really nice addition to the flavour and texture of the cake, and I really liked the slight crunch from the poppy seeds in every bite. It’s a great afternoon tea cake, so serve alongside a cup of your favourite tea.
Lemon & Poppy Seed Cake
Adapted from Jamie Oliver
• 115g unsalted butter, softened
• 115g caster sugar (I used leftover lemon sugar)
• 4 large eggs
• 180g ground almonds
• 30g poppy seeds
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• Zest and juice of 2 lemons
• 125g self-raising flour, sifted
• 100g caster sugar
• 90ml lemon juice
• 225g icing sugar
• Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Grease and line the bottom and sides of a 20cm springform cake with non-stick baking paper.
Using an electric whisk, beat the butter with the caster sugar until light and creamy. Add the eggs one by one, beating each in well. Fold in the ground almonds, poppy seeds, lemon zest and juice and the sifted flour. Transfer the mix into the prepared baking tin and bake for 40 minutes or until lightly golden and cooked through. Allow the cake to cool on a rack.
Make the lemon syrup by heating the sugar and lemon juice in a pan until the sugar has dissolved. While the cake is still warm, make lots of little holes in the top with a cocktail stick and pour your syrup over.
To make the icing, sift the icing sugar into a bowl and add the lemon zest and juice, stirring until smooth. When your cake is almost cool, put it on a serving plate and pour the icing carefully over the top. If you pour it onto the middle of the cake, then let gravity disperse the icing down the sides, you get the drizzle effect.