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Intensely lemon cake

Intensely lemon cake

This cake is an adaptation of Claudia Roden’s Orange and almond cake. I was asked if I could bake a lemon drizzle cake that was lemony and not too sweet for an upcoming course.   I have been meaning to try Roden’s recipe with lemons instead of the oranges ever since I first made the orange version years ago. This was my opportunity.

It certainly lives up to its intensely lemon moniker.  It is like eating a bit of (tart!) sunshine. The colour of this cake is also intensely yellow, although I think that is due to the eggs being laid by our own chickens who generally roam free and eat a diet of maize, oats, sunflower seeds, anything they might find on the ground and vegetable kitchen scraps (and bread, lots of bread – they now look at me in disgust “What, bread again?”).

It is gluten-free if you make sure you get the GF baking powder. I suggest that you buy the whole, blanched almonds and grind them up in a food processor if you have one. This means that you get some superfine crumbs of almond, like flour in texture, along with some knobbly bits. This adds a wonderful texture to the cake that is more interesting to eat. The almonds also taste fresher when freshly ground.

I added a drizzle to the cake as soon as it came out of the oven to add another level of zinginess but if you want a more toned down lemonyness then feel free to  ignore this last step.

The top of this cake is a tad overcooked, I wasn’t being diligent enough and had gone off to so something else whilst it baked, but actually the contrast is rather stunning both visually and in taste.

If you like your lemon cakes to have a punch to them then I urge you to try this recipe, with the drizzle. Let me know what you think.

2 lemons
6 eggs
200g caster sugar
250g ground almonds (grind whole blanched almonds yourself if you can)
1 tsp baking powder

For the drizzle
Juice of 1 lemon (you can add the zest too if you like)
50g caster sugar

Method
Place the lemons in a small pan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer until tender and soft (can take two hours). I pop mine in the simmering oven of the Aga. Drain and leave the lemons until cool enough to handle.

Preheat your oven to 180°c, gas mark 4 or use the lowest shelf in the baking oven of the four-oven Aga. Line a 23cm round spring-form cake tin.

Take off any green end bits off the lemons (no idea what they are called), cut in half and take out any seeds. Place in a food processor and whizz until finely pureed. If you don’t have a food processor then chop away until the lemon is finely minced, catching any juices.

Whisk the eggs until slightly thickened and then add the sugar gradually whisking all the time and continue to whisk until the mixture is light and mousse-like. Fold in the almonds, baking powder and lemons. Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes until it starts to shrink slightly away from the sides.

Just before the cake is cooked mix the sugar with the lemon juice. As soon as the cake comes out of the oven make holes all over the cake with a skewer and spoon the sugar and lemon mixture all over the surface of the cake. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 20 minutes and then finish cooling on a wire rack.

This cake keeps for several days,  if it isn’t eaten in one sitting.

Spelt, almond and chocolate biscuits

These little beauties are not radically different from my Chunky Chocolate Biscuits that I posted about last July.  This, I think, goes to show that whilst some say baking is an exact science, you can play around with the ingredients and still produce something good.  The important thing is to get the balance of wet ingredients to dry ingredients right.  It also has to be said that biscuits are more forgiving than cake.  Take the basic recipe and play around with it. If you don’t have spelt flour, use wholemeal flour, or oatmeal, or plain flour.  You can replace the almonds with oats.  The texture will be different but the biscuits will still be good.

This time instead of adding chopped chocolate to the biscuit mixture I decided to coat the biscuits with melted chocolate as soon as they were cool and it turns out this is a good plan because every bite is guaranteed to have some chocolate in it – always a bonus.

Some more advice is that if you are on a New Year’s diet (although why would you be?) try not to eat three with your coffee like I just have.

100g (4oz) softened butter
100g (4oz) light brown soft sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g (4oz) spelt flour
100g (4oz)  ground almonds
25g (1oz) cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder

100g (4oz) good quality chocolate, melted

Method

Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy.  Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until well combined.   Add the spelt, almonds, cocoa and baking powder and fold in until the mixture forms a stiff dough.

Shape dessertspoonfuls into walnut-sized balls and place onto a baking tray.  Leave plenty of room for each biscuit to spread.  Flatten each biscuit slightly with the tines of a fork.

Bake in a preheated oven at 180°c, gas mark 4 or the middle shelf of the baking oven of the four-oven Aga for 12-15 minutes until firm to the touch.  Leave to cool on the trays for five minutes and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Melt the chocolate and spoon on top of each biscuit.

Marzipan chocolates

It’s the time of year when Christmas cakes need to be marzipanned.  If you are marzipanning a cake then I definitely recommend making extra marzipan so that you can make a few of these.  I won’t be marzipanning a cake because my mum is in charge of Christmas cake baking but I couldn’t resist making some of these anyway because I love marzipan and I love chocolate therefore I adore marzipan chocolates.  You can make them into any shape and if you are more talented than me then maybe try making them into marzipan fruits.  My talents certainly don’t stretch that far.

Making your own marzipan is easy and much more satisfying and much tastier than the shop bought version.  It does contain raw eggs though so don’t make these for young children, pregnant women or the elderly or anyone else that has vulnerable health because of the risk of salmonella with raw eggs.

This is the recipe my mum always uses for her Christmas cakes and it works beautifully.

250g (8oz) ground almonds
125g (4oz) caster sugar
125g (4oz) icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp lemon juice
few drops of almond extract
1 free range egg, lightly beaten

50g 70% cocoa chocolate, melted

Method

Stir the almonds, the caster sugar and the icing sugar together in a large bowl until well combined. Add the lemon juice, almond extract and most of the egg and mix to a fairly firm dough (you may need all of the egg or you may not, so add it gradually).  Take the dough out of the bowl and knead on a surface dusted with icing sugar until smooth.  I then wrapped it in clingfilm and placed in the fridge for an hour or so to firm up a bit more before making into the sweets.

To make the sweets as pictured above I took small balls of dough and rolled until smooth then pressed down with the tines of a fork to flatten. I then dipped them in the melted chocolate and placed them onto greaseproof paper to set.

You could roll out the dough and use cookie cutters to make shapes. You could leave the chocolate out of it and simply enjoy the marzipan all on its own.

These eaten whilst enjoying a glass of Amaretto would send me to marzipan heaven.

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