John Redfearn, my old boss, mentor, friend and once owner of The Crow's Nest (a vegetarian cafe) in Gloucester, UK, was a big fan of my baking. He always encouraged me to be bolder with my flavours. "Not so delicate with your flavours, Firdaus," he would tell me, but he still wanted me to stick to classic, family baking favourites that our customers loved. This recipe is for John Redfearn. My lemony lemon cake infuses the delicately fragrant lemon thyme herb with zesty lemon. It's a teatime favourite; a classic, moist drizzle cake.
For the cake:
• 150g unsalted butter, softened
• 75g golden caster sugar
• 75g granulated sugar
• 3 large eggs
• 115g self-raising flour
• 1 tsp baking powder
• 55g ground almonds
• 1 ½ tbsp full fat milk
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• 2 tbsp fresh lemon thyme leaves, finely chopped
• Grated zest of 1 ½ unwaxed lemons
For first topping:
• 40g granulated sugar
• Juice of 1 ½ lemons, passed through strainer to remove bits
For second topping:
• Icing sugar & water
For decoration (optional):
• 25g granulated sugar
• 15ml water
• Peeled zest of 1 lemon (pith removed), sliced into 0.5cm thin strips
• Fresh lemon thyme leaves
1. Preheat your oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4. Grease and line the bottom and sides of a 20cm/8inch springform round cake tin with greaseproof paper.
2. Beat the butter and sugars together using an electric hand mixer until light and fluffy and pale in colour.
3. Continuously beating, add the eggs in one by one, incorporating them into the mixture. Be sure to scrape down the sides with a spatula to ensure it is thoroughly mixed.
4. Sieve the flour into a separate bowl, adding in the baking powder and ground almonds. Add this to the creamed mixture, followed by the milk, vanilla, lemon thyme leaves and lemon zest. Fold in gently until completely combined.
5. Pour the mixture into your prepared baking tin. Bake in your preheated oven for 25-30 minutes until well-risen, golden and springy to the touch. Check if it’s done by passing a cocktail stick through the centre of the cake. If it comes out clean, it’s ready, and if not, leave it to bake for a little longer.
6. Remove from the oven and allow the cake to cool in the tin for 5 minutes.
7. Prepare the first topping by mixing together the sugar and lemon juice. Use a cocktail stick to poke holes through the cake, and then pour over the topping, allowing it to be absorbed into the sponge.
8. Remove the cake from the tin and then allow to cool completely. Then make a simple water icing by combining sieved icing sugar with a little water at a time to make a thick, spoonable mixture. Drizzle this over the cake.
9. For the decoration, immerse the lemon zest strips into a pan of boiling water, and then let it come to the boil again. Strain, then repeat the process, and strain again. In a clean pan, heat the sugar and water, bringing to the boil and stirring well. Then add in the lemon peel, lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. The mixture will become a thicker syrup. Remove the lemon pieces and allow to cool and set on some greaseproof paper. Place the candied peel on top of the cake alongside some lemon thyme leaves. Serve and enjoy!