As you may have gathered from the name of this blog, I am very partial to lemons. The most useful of kitchen staples, they can be used in either sweet or savory foods. They can add a subtle sparkle to the background of almost any dish, or hold their own as the starring flavor. I may not go so far as my friend SC, whom I have witnessed eating whole lemon slices from her drink, peel and all, but short of such demonstrations of unconditional love I am among the lemon’s greatest admirers, and aim always to have some on hand.
Unfortunately, my housemates do not share my adoration of all things lemon. Miss B, despite her love of pickles and salty things, has not (yet) embraced the full spectrum of the sour palate, while DP thinks we’re both nuts and sits firmly in the sweet tooth camp. So when I recently developed a craving for lemon poppyseed cake, I knew I’d have to get creative about finding someone to share it with me, or else end up eating the whole thing myself. I took the advice of another cake-baking friend, and carted it off to my weekly parents’ coffee morning. A genius suggestion—I got enough to satisfy my own cravings, and had the added satisfaction of making a host of other lemon- (or just cake-) lovers happy. There was even enough left to take home for a photo shoot, which I had forgotten to do beforehand. Win-win-win.
(Bonus comment: “Isn’t it unusual for Americans to bake?”)
NL's Mother-in-Law’s Madeira Cake
Aka Cookbook Challenge Recipe #3. This is a variation on the very first recipe in HtbaDG, described as “baking at its simplest and most elegant….[O]ne of those plain cakes you think you can’t see the point of, until you start slicing and eating it.” It is delicious as is (although not quite up to the standard of the Ukrainian Poppyseed Cake in the Moosewood Cookbook), and would also make a great dessert topped with fresh berries and whipped cream.
240g/10oz unsalted butter at room temperature
200g/8oz caster/granulated sugar, plus extra for topping
zest of 1 and juice of 1.5 lemons
210g/8oz self-raising flour*
90g/4oz plain flour
2 Tbsp poppyseeds
Preheat the oven to 170C/350F. Grease a loaf pan and line with baking parchment.
Cream the butter and sugar. Chop the lemon zest very finely and add. Mix the eggs in one at a time, adding a tablespoon of flour each time. Mix in the remainder of the flour, followed by the lemon juice and poppyseeds. Spread in baking pan and sprinkle extra sugar over. Bake for 50-60 minutes; let cool in the tin.
* I didn’t have self-raising flour, so I used all plain flour and added two teaspoons of baking powder.