Lemon Cake

Here’s another easy one since it’s hard to muster up the energy for anything difficult in the kitchen when you have 18 hours of daylight at your disposal every day. This time of year in Scotland is just my favourite, but it does mean I’m subsisting on little-to-no sleep because who wants to go to bed when it’s still light outside… even if it stays light until 11 and gets light again at 4am?

I was holding out high hopes for this cake because it’s a typed-up recipe card with the title ‘LEMON CAKE (Hunsinger) Good’, so I really thought that it would be, you know, tasty. I made this assumption for two reasons: 1) Eleanor’s opinions haven’t generally let me down and 2) the cakes involving fruit that I’ve made so far have always been ace (see banana, date, coconut and… are we counting pumpkins and carrots as fruit?). Also, I am pretty sure I’ve heard family stories about Mrs. Hunsinger and her baked goods, so I assume this recipe came from her and was hoping for great things.

But I was disappointed. It could definitely be user error, but I felt the cake lacked flavour and the glaze was too thick and sickly-sweet to properly match the soft and fluffy sponge. The glaze was much brighter and zingier than the cake itself, which was also really distracting. I think part of the problem could be that lemon drizzle cake is practically an institution in the UK, so I’ve tried a lot of really good lemon drizzles since moving here and this one just didn’t measure up. I’d hazard an educated guess that part of the problem is probably the fact that it has no syrup poured over it to moisten the otherwise-fluffy-but-dry cake. Further, it’s not a recipe problem so much as a personal opinion that the other issue is that it contains peach juice (I’ve never been able to find apricot nectar in Edinburgh, so we’re condemned to peach nectar over here in the Recipe Box Kitchen)but no discernible reason for this- it doesn’t change the colour of the cake, the flavour, or add any much-needed moisture. Finally, my cake was made from scratch (partly because that’s how I roll and partly because my grocery store doesn’t sell lemon cake mix), so it’s also possible that 1960s lemon cake mix would have been moist and perfectly lemony and I just don’t have the necessary time machine to make that happen, but homemade is always better, so I kind of doubt it.

All of the above notwithstanding, I took this cake into work and got loads of compliments on it, so maybe my standards are a bit high (or maybe my coworkers are just going easy on my ego).

The verdict:

2 spoons out of five. It wasn’t awful, but it sure wasn’t awesome. But it deserves some credit for being hella easy and pretty adorable.


Two years ago: Self-Frosting Chocolate Cake

The recipe:

Lemon Cake

The directions:

Preheat oven to 160C/325F and line the bottom of a tube pan with parchment.
Lightly oil sides and stem of the pan.
Mix flour, caster sugar, butter, baking powder, zest of one lemon, lemon extract, oil, and nectar.
Beat in eggs, one at a time, until mixture is smooth.
Bake 25-30 minutes until light golden and a wooden pick inserted in the centre comes out barely sticky.
While cake is baking, make the glaze: beat together powdered sugar, juice from 1 lemon and remaining zest until mixture is thick but pourable (add additional lemon juice, a few drops at a time, or powdered sugar one spoonful at a time if mixture is too thick or too thin).
Remove cake from oven and allow to cool for ten minutes in the pan on a cooling rack.
Remove cake from pan and spoon or pour glaze over the finished cake while still warm.

The ingredients:

¾ c flour
¾ c caster sugar
¾ c butter, softened
1 tsp baking powder
Zest of two lemons, divided
1 tsp lemon extract
¾ c vegetable oil
¾ c peach or apricot nectar
4 eggs
1 ½ c powdered sugar
Juice of one lemon (zest it first)