You can find recipes for Lemon Drizzle Cake in many books; it is a mainstay of cafés and fetes. However, as so often, the quality of the ingredients is key to a beautiful loaf and the right balance of sweet and sharp in the lemon topping lifts it out of the ordinary. My version, which I have never come across anywhere else, avoids the usual sugary crunch delivering instead a luscious zesty syrup which permeates the whole cake, a light and buttery sponge.
When Lucy, our second daughter, was little she christened it Lemon Dribble Cake, one of her many contributions to ‘The Coxford English Dictionary’, which I hope she will publish one day, and so it has remained in our family lexicon.
Take 250g good butter (salted is fine, if not, add a pinch of salt to the mixture) and set it in a warm place – by the aga would be good. You can soften it in the microwave, too, but be careful and only use 10-second bursts! While the butter is softening assemble the rest of the sponge ingredients: 350g unrefined golden caster sugar, 4 free range eggs, the zest of two organic, unwaxed lemons, 350g self-raising flour (I never bother with self-raising, and instead use plain flour with the addition of four teaspoons of baking powder to every 250g) and four tablespoons organic semi-skimmed milk.
Now that the butter is soft you will easily be able to cream it together with the sugar and lemon zest either by hand or in a mixer. Once you have a smooth, consistent mixture, add all the rest of the ingredients and beat until well blended.
Divide between two loaf tins lined with parchment (unusually for me I do have a specific product for this task – ready made parchment loaf tin liners – this ensures that no precious syrup escapes from the cake) and bake for 45 minutes in the baking aga, gas 4, 180c. I find that this is a reliable time, but check with a skewer; if it comes out dry your cakes are cooked. Place them, still in the tins, on a cooling rack.
For the topping, put the juice of three organic lemons in a heat proof jug in the microwave for about 30 seconds on high. Then stir in 300g unrefined golden caster sugar and continue to heat for 30 seconds, stirring each time, until all the sugar is dissolved and you have a clear syrup. Pour this slowly over the cakes, ensuring that the whole surface is soaked. Leave them in the tins to cool as they are fragile.
One to serve now, one to freeze for another day.
See our excellent recipe for millionaire’s shortbread.