I used to be quite good at cakes, then suddenly, like some sort of biblical curse, every cake I touched curdled.
I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t left staring at a big, grainy mess in the bowl in front of me. At first I thought it might be because my kitchen was so cold, but now I’ve moved back to my mum’s with her fancy show-off central heating and proper insulation and I’ve still got the same problem.
I know all the tricks, putting in a tablespoon of flour before you start mixing the wet ingredients, everything you’re cooking with being room temp, but no luck. The worst bit is I don’t even really know what curdling is, or why it matters. Everything seems to turn out all right in the end anyway. There’s probably a life lesson there, but who really cares?
- 2 unwaxed lemons
- 125g unsalted butter
- 175g caster sugar
- 2 medium eggs
- 175g self-raising flour
- Pinch of salt
- 4 tablespoons of milk
- Juice of 1 and a ½ lemons
- 100g icing sugar
- Juice of ½ a lemon
- 150g icing sugar
Grease and line a standard-size loaf tin or loose-bottom cake tin – I know this is a faff and boring and every time I see it in a recipe it makes me clench my fists and breathe really hard through my nose, but you’ll thank me later. Heat the oven to 180ºc/gas mark 4.
Cream together the butter and sugar until doubled in size and light and fluffy. Add the zest of one of the lemons, and the eggs. Gently whisk in.
Fold in the flour and salt, at which point it’ll all seem too thick and dry and you’ll start to get that hollow feeling of failure in your throat. Oh you. Stir in the milk and it’ll all be fine. If you’re me it will have curdled by now anyway. (I usually chuck a tablespoon of poppy seeds in with the flour, but had run out and am disorganised so… didn’t.)
Pour into your cake tin (if you’re feeling fancy you could put some lemon curd in the middle and leave off the syrup later) and pop it in the oven for around 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
Just before you take the cake out make the syrup by heating the sugar and lemon juice together until dissolved.
While the cake is still hot poke some holes into it and pour over the warm syrup. Leave to cool completely in the tin.
Make the icing by mixing together the icing sugar and lemon juice. That’s it. Don’t use all the juice at once, just get it to a thick consistency where it will pour off a spoon, but still set.