Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Lemon Butter Cake

Anyone out there who was also sucked into the craze that is colouring books for grown ups? Well, I for one was, when I first discovered them about two years back from an article in the New York Times about this new activity that had everyone hooked. For someone, who had spent many of her childhood summer afternoons with a colouring book, it was a chance to be a child all over again. And of course, I might as well admit that it also gave me the stationary addict an excuse to indulge in a brand new set of 24 colour pencils. Oh, don't roll your eyes, I nearly bought the 96 pencil set if you must know! 

As with all things that are a craze, the experts are not too far behind with their analysis. Turns out, our lives have become so simplified with technology that our hands have not much to do and our heads are too crammed with social media feeds. So, there is an increasing demand for activities where you need to work with your hands while your mind tunes out the world. So, it's not just colouring books that have taken off, but there's been increased interest in hobbies that would have been considered old-fashioned or even too slow a few years back like pottery, calligraphy, macrame and even Grandma's favourite past-time, knitting. As the headline runs, 'Pottery is the new Pilates and Macrame takes away the crazy'. I must admit I do agree with the reasoning and I can see the appeal because those pottery classes are really calling out to me.

We are now discovering, our grandparents had life more sorted out on a lot of issues with a lot less fuss. No wonder, we are also being told we should also eat and cook like the way grandma did. So, I took that advice seriously and over the weekend I baked an old fashioned lemon butter cake whose recipe a sister-in-law had got from her friend, Helen, who probably got it from her mother or even grand mother. 

It all started with me making a batch of lemon curd from the orange lime tree outside our home. The identity of those orange limes have been much debated but on last count, we have decided these as Rangpur limes. Well, we don't know what all we can use them for as they are quite sour but they are excellent to make a fragrant lemon curd, or should I say lime curd. And to use up the curd, I turned to this simple recipe that my sister had raved about. 

It's a simple enough butter cake that has a layer of lemon curd sandwiched in the middle of the batter. While piling on the batter into the tin, after three-fourths of the batter has been put in, layer it with lemon curd that you then top off with rest of the batter. So, the outside bakes into a lovely, golden brown crust with this lemony, moist, fragrant inside. I had topped it off with flaked almonds because I had a lot to finish off but it is entirely optional and a sprinkling of sugar will do just fine instead. 

This is a good, solid, homey cake that sings of all things lemony. The fragrant lemon quotient completely envelops and infuses your palate with all its delights and there is nothing subtle about it. Needless to say, you must enjoy the twang of citrus if you bake this cake. 

While I look around for pottery classes, has anybody picked up knitting needles lately?! As for the aforementioned Helen whose recipe it is, I am told it's her birthday today. We've never met but Happy Birthday Helen and here's to a beautiful year ahead!

Lemon Butter Cake

Recipe courtesy : Helen Cogger

Serves 4-6. This recipe is easily doubled, in which case one should use a 8-inch spring form tin and it would serve 6-8 persons. 

  • 1 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup castor sugar
  • 50 gms butter, chopped 
  • 1 eggs
  • 3/4 cup lemon curd (Recipe given below)
  • approx 1/2 cup flaked almonds to sprinkle on top (optional)
  • Pre-heat the oven to 180 deg C/ 350 deg F. Butter and line a 6-inch spring-form cake tin.
  • In a medium bowl, sieve the baking powder and flour together.
  • Add the sugar and butter and mix till it resembles fine bread crumbs.
  • Beat the egg and pour into the mixture and mix till soft dough.
  • Press 3/4 of the dough into the cake tin.
  • Spread the lemon curd over the dough and crumble the remaining mix on top.
  • Sprinkle the flaked almonds on top. If not using flaked almonds, sprinkle some sugar on top. 
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes until golden brown. If your almonds are browning too fast, simply cover the tin with some aluminium foil loosely, until you are ready to remove from the oven.
  • Cool in the tin before turning out. Dust with icing sugar if you like. 

Lemon Curd 

Recipe courtesy : Ina Garten

  • 2 lemons
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (juice of 2-3 lemons)
  • pinch of salt
  • Using a carrot peeler, remove the zest of 2 lemons, being careful to avoid the white pith. Put the zest in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the sugar and pulse until the zest is very finely minced into the sugar.
  • Cream the butter and beat in the sugar mixture. 
  • Add the egg, and then add the lemon juice and salt. Mix until combined. At this point, the mixture will look curdled. But don't worry it will sort itself out when you cook it.
  • Pour the mixture into a saucepan and cook over low heat until thickened (about 10 minutes), stirring constantly. The lemon curd will thicken at just below simmer. Remove from the heat and cool or refrigerate.

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