If I had to choose only one culinary ingredient to take on a desert island, it would be lemons. I unashamedly crave its zesty freshness & bright fragrance. For the cake, I drew Tudor inspiration by adding a bit of depth and complexity with the subtle notes of cardamon and rosewater. If lemon was the lead violin in this cake, then adding the spice and rose element is like bringing in the rest of the string section.
For the curd, I covet a really old recipe written on s scrap of paper, found in an old kitchen drawer, from my grandma. Its really easy to make & adds a delicious clarity of lemon tang when generously dolloped onto the cake.
For the cake:
200g softened butter
200g caster sugar
200g ground almonds
10ml ground cardamom
7.5ml baking powder
3 large eggs
Zest of 2 large lemons, save the juice for the syrup
Line and butter a loose bottomed 23cm tin
Set the oven to 180C/160C fan/ gas mk4/375F
Beat the sugar and butter until pale and fluffy. Add the rosewater and whisk again. Mix the polenta, ground almond, baking powder and ground cardamom in a bowl. Add the lemon zest to the butter/sugar mixture. Break one egg into the sugar and butter, followed by roughly a third of the dry ingredients, mix well. Repeat twice more until you’ve added the other two eggs and all the dry ingredients. Spoon into the tin, level and place on the middle shelf of the oven. Bake for 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool.
For the lemon syrup:
Place 125g of icing sugar in a saucepan with the juice from the two zested lemons. Stir to dissolve the sugar & then bring to the boil. Boil for around two minutes. Prick the cold cake all over and pour on the hot syrup.
For that extra burst of citrus, do serve with Lemon Curd.
For the Lemon curd:
2 large eggs, beaten
200g granulated sugar
118ml lemon juice
1 tbsp lemon zest
2 tbsp butter
Place a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water and add the eggs and sugar. Whisk til smooth and then stir in the lemon juice, zest and butter. Cook for 10-12 minutes or until the sauce coats the back of the spoon. Pour over the cake or any other cake that would enjoy a lemony, buttery boost.
Our Tudor inspiration:
My Lady Middlesex’ Syllabub*
From The Closet of the Eminently Learned Sir Kenelme Digbie Kt Opened 1669t
My Lady Middlesex makes Syllabubs for little Glasses with spouts, thus. Take 3 pints of sweet Cream, one of quick white wine and a good wine glassful (better the 1/4 of a pint) of Sack; mingle with them about three quarters of a pound of fine sugar in Powder. Beat all these together with a whisk, till all appeareth into froth. Then pour it into little Syllabub-glasses and let them stand all night. The next day the Curd will be thick and firm above and the drink clear under it. I conceive it may do well to put into each glass (when you pour the drink into it) a little Limon peel or some such thing to quicken the taste.
*Syllabub is a sweet dish of Cornish origin, made by curdling sweet cream or milk with an acid like wine or cider. It was popular from the 16th to 19th centuries. We have swapped the acid to the citric acid found in lemon.