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

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.

Limoncello

Homemade Limoncello

It’s Christmas time! My second favourite time of the year to Chinese New Year mostly because of all the special food you get to make and eat. I’m about to churn out a lot of goodies for several parties and here’s just one thing on the menu which is dead easy to make in advance. What a beautiful alcoholic lemony snow globe.

Limoncello:
500 ml vodka
500 ml vanilla vodka
Zest of 6 unwaxed lemons
500 g caster sugar
200 ml water

Decant the vodka into a large container or bottle. Zest the lemons and mix the zest into the vodka.

Use a funnel and get the sugar into the vodka. Leave for a week while turning and mixing it up occasionally. After a week, sieve off the zest and decant your limoncello back into bottles. It’s at this point you can add the water if the mixture is too thick. Finally add a twirl of lemon zest as decoration. This will only get better with age and I’m meant to leave it for another week. But by golly it’s already so damn tasty, I don’t know how to resist!

Charred Aubergine with Tahini & Yogurt

Charred Aubergine Dip

I’ve just come back from Puglia in the south of Italy with a group of friends. It was a cycling trip where we essentially cycled our bikes, swam in the azure seas and cycled some more until we were hungry, then proceeded to eat and drink an awful lot. The food there is so earnest and simple. They have access to some of the most incredible ingredients in the world because of their amazing climate, so they’re only interested in basic cooking to elevate the natural flavours. I’m really in to that.

Back in London we are in the midsts of this weird Summer vibe where it seems that the general en-mass willing of summer not to be over *just* yet has resulted in some pretty warm october nights. This dip is something I prepared as part of a romantic picnic in the summer solstice, so it seems only fitting to revisit it again with the warm hazy glow of Puglia and my own Londonian attempts to squeeze the very last of summer out. It’s simple and delicious.

Charred Aubergine with Tahini & Yogurt (Serves 2-4):
1 large aubergine
70g tahini paste
60 ml water
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 generous squeeze of a lemon
1 garlic clove - crushed
3 mini cucumbers - diced
seeds from half a pomegranate
3 tbsp parsley - roughly chopped
2-3 generous dollops of greek yogurt
a drizzle of olive oil
1 tsp paprika
salt and pepper

On a gas hob, place the aubergine directly onto a medium flame and roast for 12-15 minutes, turning frequently. The flesh should end up soft and smoky with the skin burnt all over. Alternatively, if you haven’t got gas hobs, crank up that oven high, 200°C maybe, and whack your aubergine in and keep turning it in that heat. 20-40 minutes in, the skin should also char and the aubergine should sag telling you the flesh is all lovely and soft. On a similar warning to my last aubergine post: Poke a couple of holes near the stem part of the aubergine to stop it exploding in the oven.

Once your aubergine is done, transfer all that lovely soft flesh into a medium mixing bowl. To this add the tahini, molasses, water, lemon juice, garlic, cucumber, parsley, paprika, yogurt, half the pomegranate seeds and some salt and pepper. Adjust the seasoning to your liking. Drizzle with olive oil and the rest of the pomegranate seeds to finish. Eat!

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