Lemon Drizzle Poppy-Seed Cake

Lemon drizzle wedding cake I can only apologise for being so bad at updating my little blog, it gives me great pleasure to see that it’s been ticking away in the background when so much of life happened! In short. I fell in love, got married and took an amazing honeymoon! How exciting. But I’m back now and I promise to update more frequently! So the wedding was wonderful and what made it more lovely was that all the little personal touches. One of which was that all the mums made a variety of wedding cakes for the reception. It was a moving gesture and it meant we could get all the tasty cakes (cheesecake, brownies and lemon drizzle!)! My own mother contributed this lemon drizzle cake as it’s one of my favourites. We went through some taste testing with the bridesmaids (or ‘sisters’ as is the Chinese call them) over a boozy afternoon tea and the consensus was clear: this one was the better of the two. The fine flour, super orange yolked eggs, golden sugar and the poppy-seed mix are all chosen to create the most yellow cake. We made two of these the day before and they were beautifully textured the next day. I would even go as far to say that the cake is better the next day.

Lemon Sponge:
343 g (2 and 3/4 cups) self-raising fine sponge flour
30 g (1/4 cup) cornstarch
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
40 g poppy seeds, equal mix of white and black seeds
230 g (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
400 g (2 cups) golden caster sugar
4 large Burford Brown eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
zest of 4 large lemons
juice of 2 large lemons
240 ml (1 cup) buttermilk


Lemon Drizzle:
100 g (1/2 cup) golden caster sugar
juice of 2 large lemons


Lemon Icing:
120 g (1 cup) icing sugar, or more depending on the lemon juice
juice of 1/2 a large lemon

Oven to 175°C (350°F). Put an oven rack to the lowest position.

Grease your cake tin, a large bundt tin works well, we did two deep square cakes at around 25cm x 15cm deep.

Sponge time. Sift the flour and corn starch into a large bowl. Add to this the salt, baking powder, baking soda and poppy seeds. Mix together with a whisk and set aside.

Fit a stand mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld) and beat the butter on high speed for about 1 minute until smooth and creamy. Add the sugar and beat for a further 2 minutes on high speed until creamed together. *Scrape* *scrape* scrape* with a rubber spatular, making sure the base of the bowl is scraped through. Now add your eggs and vanilla. *Scrape* *scrape* scrape* with a rubber spatular. Finally add the lemon zest and juice on medium speed. It will look like it’s splitting, don’t panic! Put the mixer on low and and slowly add a third of the dry ingredients you’ve set aside, now 1 third buttermilk, 1 third dry, 1 third buttermilk…and so on until just incorporated. Do not over mix!

Pour the thick batter carefully into your cake tin and bake for 40-60 minutes. Until a skewer comes out clean. It’s all dependant on your oven so if you think it needs more time but the top is getting too brown, carefully put a sheet of foil on top of your cake tin. Leave the cake in for at least 40 minutes though, opening the oven mid-bake will make it sink. Once done, remove and set aside in its cake tin for 10 minutes.

While the cake is baking. Make the drizzle syrup. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and lemon juice and stir until the sugar has fully dissolved.

Transfer your cake onto a serving plate. Using a skewer, poke a series of holes uniformly into the surface of the cake. Then with a pastry brush, carefully paint and drizzle the syrup all over. The more evenly you distribute the syrup the better. I like to do half of the syrup first, then wait and go again for maximum saturation. Now leave the cake to fully cool.

When you’re ready make the lemon icing. Carefully whisk the icing sugar and lemon juice until you get a thick but still pipe-able icing. You’ll want to adjust the juice and sugar accordingly. Whack it all in a piping bag and pipe away! This cake was such a success that quite a few of my guests asked for the recipe, so here it is, I’m so sorry it’s so late! Mum also recreated this cake for my family back home in Hong Kong who weren’t able to attend the London wedding. Lemon love!

lemon poppyseed drizzle cake

Healthy Pancakes

healthy pancakes I’m not even going to try and convince you why these are healthy. They just are. And they’re delicious. It’s a recipe I’ve found through almost a year of experimenting with “The Healthy Pancake” which is more or less the holy grail of indulgent breakfast desires. But these *are* significantly healthier than your regular pancakes. This combo is a riff off the popular “Two Ingredients Pancake” with the addition of baking flour and a pinch of salt. Which still makes these babies: gluten, wheat, and dairy free. The following makes enough for 8 small pancakes.

Healthy Pancakes:
1 large banana, ripe
2 eggs
1 tsp baking flour
1 pinch of sea salt flakes
Some rapeseed oil

What I’ve found in the past is an issue with flipping these, or even sizing. So I’ve developed a bit of a work around to this which you may or may not want to follow, but I use two pans. One normal non stick frying pan and an egg frying pan to control the size. Because. Well I’m a designer by trade. Anyway, get these both on the hobs at low-medium heat. Add a tiny bit of the oil (not butter as it burns) and with a paper kitchen towel lightly coat each pan with the oil. You’ll need to do this every time you cook a new batch.

In a blender break your banana roughly into 3 segments, add the rest of your ingredients. Pulse until the banana is *just* mixed, I use 4-5 pulses and there are still maybe little bits of banana, this is okay as it helps with the rise of the batter. When your pans are at heat, pour the batter into small rounds, wait a few minutes until bubbles start to form. Use a palette knife to loosen the bases (if not following my slightly anal technique, flip now). Place the other pan on top and flip over! Easy, now let the other side cook for a few minutes while you re-oil and cook the rest. Repeat as necessary.

That’s it! Cook as you may really but this is how I do them. When it comes to serving I smear a bit of almond butter between each layer and top with berries and maple syrup. Maybe a sprinkling of cinnamon…and some butter…Hey! I’m not insane, I said the pancakes themselves were healthy! Didn’t say they had to be tasteless!

Now, what do I categorise these under? I’m going for “eggs” & “cakes”…

Gluten Free Banana Bread

Gluten Free Banana Bread

Success! After about two failed loafs I have now cracked a gluten-free recipe for some tasty banana bread. I’ve been experimenting with my own mixture of cornmeal, rice flour and almond flour but the results were too firm and too dry. So I caved and bought some Dove Farm white flour and tweaked my recipe accordingly. I’ve definitely just eaten a slice and it’s really yummy! So I can finally post it up.

To make things even better, in my supreme efficiency (or let’s be honest: laziness) it’s all just 1 pot and so fast to knock up! So if you have a stand mixer, don’t even bother mashing the bananas, if you’ve only got a hand-held one, maybe mash them up a bit with a fork.

Gluten Free Banana Bread:
2 cups gluten-free plain flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 a block of butter softened (125 g)
3/4 cup light soft brown sugar (150 g)
2 eggs
6 ripe bananas (one set aside for decorating)
3 tbsp soft dark sugar
1-2 tbsp hot water

Oven onto 170°C. In your mixing bowl put the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in. Stir these dry ingredients up a bit. Then add the vanilla essence, butter, light brown sugar, eggs and 5 bananas (remember to set one of the 6 aside).

Now turn the mixer on low to medium speed and prep your bread pan.

Butter the pan thoroughly and place a greaseproof sheet at the bottom. The mixing should be done now so pour in your batter. Slice lengthways your banana for decorating and place on top.

In a small bowl mix the 2 tbsp of dark soft sugar with just enough hot water to dissolve it all. With a pastry brush, carefully  wash the top of the raw batter mixture and banana with 2/3 of the sugar mix. While this bakes it should turn into a crunchy caramel topping.

Bake for 60-65 mins, or until a skewer comes out clean. In the final 5 minutes use the remaining sugar wash. Leave the banana bread in the pan for another 10-15 minutes before removing and it should come out really easily after you go round the edges with a knife.

I couldn’t help but try a still warm piece straight away! Honestly, fastest bake to blog post ever.

Baked Cheesecake

baked cheesecakeIt’s well into February now, are we over the New Year detox yet? This was meant to be a Polish Cheesecake that I made over Christmas for my family in Hong Kong. I have no idea what makes this a Polish cheesecake but there were a couple of baked cheesecakes in my mum’s old recipe book and this is my riff on one of them. Maybe I’ll try the German one next time I’m back and I can tell you which one is better. The reason why this is a riff on the recipe is because of instead of buying normal cottage cheese, I bought one with sliced gherkins mixed in. Don’t worry! This isn’t some crazy cream cheese and pickle cake (although I imagine that to be weirdly nice). I had some cream cheese and milk in the fridge so I used that instead.

Baked Cheese Cake (meant to be Polish):
6-7 tbs crushed digestive or tea biscuits
750 g cream cheese
The zest and juice of 1 lemon
180 g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 tbsp corn flour
150 ml milk
3 eggs separated
170 ml double cream

Oven at 160°C. Grease 20 cm loose bottomed baking tin. Add those crushed biscuits to the bottom, add more if you want a thicker base.

In a large bowl, beat cheese with lemon juice and rind until smooth. To this add the sugar, vanilla, cornflour, milk and egg yolks. In a separate bowl beat the egg whites with an electric beater until stiff. Then in another bowl beat cream until thick. With a spatula you now want to alternatively fold the egg whites and cream into the cheese mixture. When combined pour into the prepared cake tin.

Bake for 45 minutes in the centre of the oven. Then turn the heat off and leave the cake in the oven for a further 30 minutes with the oven door slightly ajar (ram a heat-proof glove in the crack). Take the cake out and leave to cool before removing from the tin.

Xavi’s Cookie Monster Cake

My fellow Eurasian friend Xavier is leaving the UK to try out Hong Kong for a bit. As I grew up in Hong Kong and chose to come over to Blighty, it’s the inverse move I made – so all in all: Exciting times for Xavi. When I offered to make a cake for his leaving do held at one of my fav Vietnamese places on Kingsland Road,  Song Que, I got this response:

“I don’t care what flavour cake you make… …So long as it looks like Cookie Monster”

Interesting brief.

I’ve never made a novelty cake before. I knew I’d have to make an awful lot of icing to make that furry looking decoration. I was initially contemplating colouring desiccated coconut blue and slathering it on a pre-iced blue cake. But the thought of how much desiccated coconut I would need or how I would even get the two blue elements the same shade was driving me a bit potty so I opted for the icing technique – because no one needs a blue cakey melt down. I didn’t want to send all the guests into an instantaneous diabetic coma so I went for a more neutrally flavoured cake of banana, pineapple with walnuts and cashews. The following will make a 3 layered sponge cake with 20cm cake tins and a shed load of frosting.

Ingredients for Cookie Monster Cake:
300 g caster sugar
3 eggs
300 ml sunflower oil
270 g banana peeled, roughly chopped
1 tsp cinnamon
300 g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp teaspoon vanilla extract
100 g tinned pineapple, chopped into small pieces
100 g walnuts and cashews - I went with a 70:30 split

Oven to 170°C. Roughly chop the nuts and pineapple, set aside. With your electric or stand mixer: incorporate the sugar, eggs, oil, banana, vanilla and cinnamon at medium speed.

In a separate bowl, mix the flour and bi-carb. Add this to your wet mixture bit by bit until even. Finally stir in the pineapple and nuts with a wooden spoon.

Smear your cake tins with butter and line the bottom with parchment. Evenly pour in your mixture between the three tins and bake for 20-30 minutes. Mine took a bit longer so check with a skewer when they are looking golden brown on the top. Once the skewer comes out clean, take them out and leave them to cool in their pans while you sort out the icing.

Icing & Decoration:
900 g icing sugar
375 g cream cheese
150 g unsalted butter
1 bottle of blue food colouring
Black food colouring
A couple of chocolate chip cookies

You’re meant to mix the butter and icing sugar first before you add the cream cheese, then mix it all at medium to high speed for 5 minutes. I just whacked all three into my stand mixer and it turned out okay. But I really must recommend you roughly make a teepee with a tea towel because icing sugar really goes everywhere, especially at these huge quantities.

Before you add your food colouring prepare your cake. Slice the rounded top off your base layer (keep these tops for later). Blob a bit of icing onto your plate or whatever you’ll be serving the cake on. Stick base layer on said blob. Get your palette knife and spread some of your plain cream cheese frosting on top of your base layer. Cut the dome off your middle layer. Place on your base layer. Frost top. Place your final cake layer on top, I didn’t slice the top off this as I thought the rounded dome helped with the face shape.

Remove 2-3 tablespoons of the frosting and mix in some black colouring for the mouth. Using a mixer again, you can now add the blue colouring to the rest of your frosting to make your desired blue colour.

Googly Eyes:
Some of your cut off cake tops
Tennis ball sized amount of natural marzipan
2 large chocolate buttons
2 tsp Black food colouring

Make those eyes! With the cut off sponge tops, use a small cup or egg cup to trace around and cut a couple of circular pieces of sponge with a knife. Roll out your marzipan to 5mm, cut two large circles out and wrap each round a sponge disk. Coat the tops of  your chocolate buttons with black food colouring. Let these dry before fixing them on to the marzipan with a bit of frosting (I didn’t let them dry enough as I was running a bit late – error).

Use a palette knife and spread a thin but even coat of blue frosting around your whole cake. Affix those big marzipan eyes onto the top of the cake. Pipe out your black mouth shape. Fit a clean piping bag with a star nozzle, fill it with the blue icing. Pipe. Pipe. Pipe. Furry muppet monster! Shove the cookies into his mouth. You’re ready to go.

By the time it came to eat and cut the cake, Cookie Monster’s eyes were melting…causing him to cry black deathly tears as I ruthless carved into his face with a novelty cake knife that serenaded out tinny versions of Happy Birthday and the Wedding March. Outstanding.

Bon Voyage, Xavi. I hope you fall in love with Hong Kong, 一路順風!

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