Sunday 10 June 2012

Going Native: Lemon Drizzle Cake

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There are some very American things I will never give up, no matter how long I live in England – peanut butter, Trader Joe's chocolate, and Peet's coffee, among others – but recently I've been forced to admit that, despite my best efforts, some English traditions have gotten under my skin.  For example, the BF and I spent the Jubilee weekend in Devon with his family, and after a long, cold, rainy wander through one of the nearby towns (gotta love that British summer), I crouched through the door of the little thatched cottage where we were staying and headed straight for the kettle, mumbling incoherently about how badly I needed a cup of tea.  Then, this morning, the BF made coffee in our stovetop espresso pot and I had one cup, relishing the flavor of Bay Area-roasted beans, and then made another cup of tea.  Yup, I'm totally addicted to a good old English brew.

I also use words like 'bin', 'lift', and 'post', and never ask where the bathroom is in a restaurant anymore, preferring the colloquial 'loo' (less graphic somehow than asking for the toilet!).  But if there's one area of life in which I staunchly support America's superiority, it's the kitchen.  Not that I can't appreciate a good Sunday roast or a nice slice of banoffi pie, but given the choice I'd always rather stick with a US favorite, like lasagne or pumpkin pie or brownies or banana bread... the list goes on. 

BUT (you had to know there was one of those coming, right?), a few weeks ago I found myself facing a slight crisis of loyalty.  The BF had requested something lemony, and I wanted to make something new (so lemon ricotta muffins, lemon cream pie, lemon quickbread, and lemon drop cookies were all out), and for some reason I really felt like glazing something... so I suggested lemon drizzle cake, and before I could take back the offer to make a UK favorite, the BF's eyes lit up and I was stuck.  So I resigned myself to my culinary betrayal and looked up a recipe on the BBC.

Now, in fairness, I'm pretty sure we make this cake, or at least something very similar, in America as well.  But I think of it as a British institution because it's nearly always on offer at coffee shops and tea houses and cafes over here, and the name is so much more adorably English than 'glazed lemon cake' or 'lemon pound cake'.  And I have to admit, this recipe was pretty great – easy and quick and delicious (even more so because I upped the lemon, as usual).

So, Brittania, I suppose I'll let you rule this one.  But when it comes to chocolate things and non-meat-stuffed pies, I'm afraid the yanks still have it!

Lemon Drizzle Cake
     slightly adapted from BBC Good Food 

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C and butter a 9x5 loaf pan.

Zest and juice and set aside:
     3-4 lemons, depending on how lemony you like your cake (I used 4 lemons)

With an electric mixer (or with a wooden spoon and lots of elbow grease), beat until pale and creamy:
     1c (225g) butter, room temp
     1c sugar with the lemon zest rubbed in with your fingers (you can set some zest aside for decoration if you like)

Beat in, one at a time (don't worry if the batter curdles):
     4 eggs

In a separate bowl, whisk together, then fold into batter with a spatula:
     1 1/2 c flour
     4 tsp baking powder

Fold in:
     1/2 c ground almonds   
     most of the lemon juice, reserving about 1/4 of it for the glaze

Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean (mine took about an hour, so check on it often).

Let the cake cool for 10 minutes, while you mix together the lemon juice with enough powdered sugar to make a runny icing.  Drizzle the glaze over the cake and let it cool another 30 minutes before removing from the pan.  Cool completely before serving (the cake will hold together much better once it's cool, although it is delicious warm – I know you didn't think I waited to try it!).


    1. I'm an American living in The Netherlands and there are alot of american things I miss..The Dutch do not bake like we do and finding baking ingredients can be tricky and more often then not, I have to pop over into Germany to hunt around aswell..( never EVER thought I would freely say that I pop over into Germany to get the items I need):) we do have something similar to this in the U.S. A lemon loaf cake and it's delicious. Im bookmarking this one to try aswell! I visited London 5 years ago and fell in love with it. I want to go back to shop for baking items..and cookbooks :)

      1. Hi Sonya,
        I know how you feel (well, sounds like you have it worse, but I can imagine) – every time I come back from the States half my suitcase is full of chocolate chips and canned pumpkin and chopped pecans!
        I hope you do try the recipe and like it, and I hope you get a chance to visit London again too! There's a great store in Notting Hill called Books for Cooks, where they sell all the latest and/or greatest cookbooks, as well as running cooking classes out of a teeny kitchen in the back – you should check it out next time you're in town!

      2. Chocolate chips are completely subjective, and what you have been used to from the past usually for which product. Source: American, Australian, Canadian, South African and English friends. I also never tasted peanut butter as addictive as Whole Earth brand in England.

    2. Yummy, my favorite...Thanks for sharing this recipe.



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