Monday, December 29, 2008

Lemon Syrup Cake

Thurs 18 Dec 2008

I've recently had some time off work (hooray for 'having to use up holidays') and took advantage of a lot of the time to do some cooking. At one stage I was faced with a glut of lemons. I've been using delicious for ages now and find it a brilliant way of keeping track of recipes. I no longer need to maintain a folder of scraps cut from the newspaper - I can keep my chaotic recipe hoarding on someone else's server. Excellent.

So - faced with lemons, it took me no time at all to track down a Nigel Slater lemon syrup cake, from January 2007. Being a huge fan of this man's cakes it didn't take long before I found myself in the kitchen.

And only slightly longer before I began adapting the recipe. Seriously - why does anyone put orange in anything ever?!

This is a great cake - quick to assemble (although the syrup takes a bit of faff) and the nuts and syrup ensure it stays moist long enough for a family of two to plough through it.

I began by taking 100g of roasted hazelnuts I already had in the cupboard and giving them a quick whizz in the Magimix. Grind them as finely or as coarsely as you like. I suspect Nigel Slater errs more coarsely than me. Set them to one side. Then, cream 210g of unsalted butter with 210g of caster sugar. Add three large eggs and mix until well combined. Next, add 125g of ground almonds and 150g of polenta. Finish with a teaspoon of baking powder, the hazelnuts and the juice and zest of a lemon. Don't be alarmed - it's quite a stiff cake mixture.

When it's all combined, tip into a greased, base lined 20-23cm springform tin and bake in an oven preheated to 180°C (160°C fan) for half an hour. Then, turn the oven down 20° and bake for a further half an hour or so. If your cake is beginning to colour too much, cover with foil. As always, cook until done. As you will be adding syrup I suspect slightly overdone is better than slightly underdone.

Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool a little while you make the syrup. Grate and zest two lemons into a measuring jug and then top up, with water, to 250mL. Pour this mixture into a saucepan with 100g of caster sugar and bring to the boil. The sugar will dissolve and the syrup will thicken and reduce. When reduced to about 3/4 of its original volume, remove from the heat and add 2 tablespoons of liqueur of your choice. In my case, it was rum.

Stab your cake (still in the tin) all over with a skewer and then pour over the syrup. Leave the cake to cool completely in the tin (it's likely to look a little saggy in the middle, but don't worry) before inverting on to a plate.

lemon syrup cake

You really don't need to ice this cake, but there's no harm in serving with cream or mascarpone.

The nuts and polenta alone would keep this cake moist - add the syrup and it keeps brilliantly. A trifle sticky perhaps, if it's spent the morning on your desk wrapped in tin foil, but a luscious addition to a supper for New Year's Eve!

So there's the sweet fix as promised! Tomorrow - I'll be showing you (quite literally) how to open a bottle of bubbly for New Year's Eve. Last time I did this was at a wine tasting and I ended up drenched ... does the same thing happen when I'm at home with a camera pointed at me?!
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