Now there’s no doubt that Nigella’s How to be a Domestic Goddess is full of good stuff. Somehow I find that her recipes here are more refined than those in her other books. To be honest I cannot pin point exactly why; to me they just are. Just try the next recipe, and you’ll see what I mean. It’s one of my favourites: Damp Lemon and Almond Cake. It’s not a flourless cake; you still need some plain flour for this, but if you like almonds like me, you will be completely smitten by this beauty.
If you want to learn from my mistake, I’ll tell you that it is essential that you use baking paper for greasing your cake tin. I didn’t and you can see that mine got a little burnt at the edges. (You will need a 21-23 cm springform tin.) What I can assure you though is this: it was delicious, especially with real vanilla ice-cream! You could serve it alone of course, or with some sort of lemon ice-cream or sorbet, but for me that would be a tad too much. You still don’t know which cake I like best…Let’s start:
- 225g unsalted butter, softened
- 225g caster sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 50g plain flour, or rice flour for a GF version
- 225g ground almonds
- ½ teaspoon almond essence
- juice and zest of 2 lemons
Preheat your oven to 180ºC/Gas Mark 4. Cream the butter and sugar together well. Then beat in the eggs, one at a time, adding a quarter of the flour after each egg.
When these have been well combined, gently add the ground almonds, almond essence, lemon zest and juice.
Pour into a very well greased and lined round cake tin and bake for around 1 hour. Mine was done after 55 minutes so every so often please take a look at your cake without opening the oven too much. After 30 minutes cover it with a piece of foil to stop the surface from burning.
After the cake is done remove from the oven and let it cool for around 10 minutes in its tin. Then turn it out slowly onto a rack.
A couple of months ago I completed my Nigella recipe book collection by purchasing How to be a Domestic Goddess. When flipping through the pages I found two cakes I wanted to try immediately – two lemon cakes found on pages 12 and 13. I made them both to see which one we liked the most. I will announce the winner a little later.
Here’s the recipe for her Lemon-Syrup Loaf Cake. The only thing I left out is the salt. I try to avoid salt as much as possible. Many chefs tell you that salt brings out flavour. I totally get this but when I first tried adding salt to sweet lemon recipes the taste was too strong for me. I will give the recipe as is in Nigella’s book – salt and all. But that is totally optional. I like to call this cake Gill’s Favourite Lemon Cake, in honour of my friend Gill 🙂
For the cake you need:
- 125g unsalted butter
- 175g caster sugar
- 2 large eggs
- zest of a lemon
- 175g self-raising flour
- pinch of salt (optional)
- 4 tablespoons milk
For the syrup:
- around 4 tablespoons lemon juice
- 100g icing sugar
Equipment: 23 x 13 x 7cm loaf tin (or similar), properly greased and lined
Preheat your oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4. When you line your tin with baking paper make sure it comes up to around 1cm or a bit more to the sides (see photo). This will make unmoulding much easier.
In a large bowl whisk together the butter and sugar, then add the eggs and lemon zest and beat well. Fold in the flour and salt (you can leave the salt out), and add the milk. Pour the batter into the loaf tin and place it in the oven. In the meantime prepare the syrup (see method below). Bake for around 45 minutes, or until golden and check with a skewer or knife to make sure it’s done.
Prepare the syrup by placing the lemon juice and icing sugar in a small pot over the heat and stir gently until the sugar dissolves. Puncture tiny holes with a cake tester or skewer in the cake and pour the syrup over the cake while it is still in the tin. Make sure the middle part absorbes as much liquid as the sides.
When the cake is completely cold, lift it out from the tin. If the cake is still warm it might crumble.
This cake is so easy and so yummy that it will become a regular treat – you’ll see! Check out the next post for the second recipe.
I couldn’t quite choose what to write about today. However, just now a friend of mine tweeted about chocolate cake and birthdays. Don’t you just love Twitter? I do. It’s nice to be a child: you go to some friends’ birthday parties, and sometimes you get to invite them to yours. And the grown-ups do all the work for you. Smashing. I always say that children have the best social lives. The highlight of a birthday party is of course the cake, even though one might argue that it’s actually the presents! So let’s say that they are equally important. And let’s also say that every excuse is a good excuse for chocolate cake. I tried this recipe quite a while ago; I definitely didn’t wait for my birthday to bake it.
In my view, Nigella’s book Feast is one of the books to go for if you want something special for a party. As with many of her books, it’s like an encyclopaedia, and there’s a whole section on chocolate and chocolate cakes. The cakes here can also be quite rich, but is that really a bad thing? Let’s face it, you won’t make it or eat it that often, and what’s a birthday celebration without a smooth chocolate-melt-in-the-mouth cake?
You need sour cream for this. I had a tub of the stuff just sitting in the fridge doing nothing. Classic: you buy one ingredient for a particular recipe, then you almost always end up with extra which ultimately goes bad. What a waste. So I flipped frantically through the books till I came across Nigella’s Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake. Don’t be fooled by the length of the method. It’s really easy to make. This is totally her recipe.
Some notes before you start: Firstly, this is a sandwich cake, so you need two sandwich tins (with or without a removable bases – mine aren’t). Secondly, I had a lot of leftover icing, a lot more than I really needed. Instead of scaling the amount down I chose to make some quick and easy cupcakes (which I will include very soon) and spooned whatever remained over them. In my experience you will have enough to top another cake if you like. Also Nigella suggests that all your ingredients should be at room temperature.
For the cake you will need:
- 200g plain flour
- 200g caster sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 40g cocoa powder
- 175g soft unsalted butter
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 150ml sour cream
For the American-style icing (or frosting) you need:
- 75g unsalted butter
- 175g dark chocolate, broken into small cubes
- 300g icing sugar
- 1 tablespoon golden syrup
- 125ml sour cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat your oven to 180ºC/Gas Mark 4. Line and grease well two sandwich tins.
- In a large bowl mix the the flour, sugar, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda and beat in the butter till you have a soft and creamy mixture. In another bowl whisk the cocoa, sour cream, vanilla extract and eggs together (you can do this by hand), and beat this with the other mixture in the large bowl.
- Divide the cake batter into your two tins and bake for about 50 minutes. Every oven is different so start checking your cakes after around 30 minutes with a skewer or knife. When completely baked, remove the cakes from the oven and put them on a rack to cool for about 10 minutes in their tins. When they are cool enough for you to handle turn them out completely and onto the rack again. Any cracks will be covered by the icing later.
- Now for the icing. Melt the chocolate together with the butter in a bowl over a pot of simmering water. (This way is better than melting in the microwave because it is much easier to control and there’s a lesser chance of burning.) When completely melted remove it from over the water and leave to cool. In the meantime, sieve the icing sugar into another bowl.
- Add the golden syrup into your melted chocolate mixture which has now cooled. Then add the sour cream, vanilla and the sieved icing sugar. Whisk the lot. Depending on how you want the icing consistency to be, you can now add around a tablespoon of boiling water (for a thinner icing) or some more icing sugar (for a thicker cream). Your icing should be easily spreadable onto the cake so you don’t want it too runny.
- Place a piece of baking paper to cover the base of a plate or cake stand (for any access icing that will surely drip) and start assembling your cake: first one cake, then a layer of icing in the middle, then the other cake on top and finally cover with some more icing.
You can either leave the icing as is, or top with some decorations, especially if it’s for a birthday party. Be as creative as you want. I topped mine with colourful decorative sprinkles. I have to remind myself to buy some white sugar daisies next time.
A few weeks ago I bought a packet of dried apricots for a lamb tagine recipe I wanted to try. I never got round to it, no matter how many times I included it in my New Year resolutions (which proved to me that these don’t work). Since I did not want the apricots to remain in my pantry forever I preferred to use them in another recipe rather than letting them go bad or worse – eating them as is! So without further rambling (as is often the case with me) here is a really yummy cake for you to try. This makes 1 loaf.
- 150g plain flour
- 70g wholemeal flour
- 85g light brown sugar (you can use granulated white if you like)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- the zest of 1 orange
- 65g dried apricots, chopped
- 50g dried pitted dates, chopped
- 175ml milk
- 1 large egg
- 30g butter, melted
Place a rack in the centre of the oven and preheat at 190°C (375 F). Grease a loaf tin with butter and some flour or use baking paper.
In a large bowl combine plain and wholemeal flours, baking powder, orange zest and the dried fruits.
In a smaller bowl beat the milk with the eggs and the melted butter. Pour this over mixture of dry ingredients and mix everything together until just moistened.
Place batter into your greased loaf tin for around 40 mins. (Always test by inserting a knife or a skewer. If this comes out clean then your cake is done.) Leave to cool for 10 mins and remove the cake from the tin.