Sunday, 11 April 2010

Lemon and lavender drizzle cake

One day my Ukranian friend Natalia, with whom I share culinary (and especially baking!) passions, told me excitedly about an amazing cake she had during the weekend. An acquaintance of ours was invited for dinner at her place and brought with her this amazing cake, which – of all things – contained no butter, but vegetables instead. After she was wowed she looked up the book that the recipe came from, and before she had the time to order it, the cake-bearing friend had bought her a copy as a present!

Now my personal worldview is that the more cookbooks I own, the less I cook from them (come on, don't tell me that you don't own endless amounts of cookbooks which you excitedly bought, looked at once, made maybe 1 or 2 recipes from and then shelved for life!) so I try to avoid buying any, thus saving money and space. However, when Natalia brought the book with her to work, I couldn't resist the temptation and I copied the most yummy-sounding recipes from it.

Of course those in the know will have already figured out I'm talking about Red Velvet Chocolate Heartache, a cookbook that has elicited hundreds of raving reviews online, and has converted many to its butterless (and sometimes flourless) delights. As I happened to come across it at a time that my boyfriend has been trying to eat more healthily (without giving up his beloved cake though!) I thought I would give it a try, and being a "there can be no cake without butter" die-hard, I was pleasantly surprised.

One of the first cakes to draw my attention was the Lemon and lavender drizzle cake, which was accompanied by a perfect picture of Victorian indulgence. So, after a quick lunchtime stop at the Borough market to pick up some lavender from a French food stall and some swede from Turnips, I decided to try it out on one of the few recent sunny days.

Lemon and lavender drizzle cake
Source: Red Velvet Chocolate Heartache

  • 200g swede, peeled and diced into 2cm cubes
  • 120g clear honey
  • 2 medium eggs
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 heaped tbsp dried lavender flowers
  • 60g white rice flour (I substituted with normal flour)
  • 60g ground almonds
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt

For the drizzle
  • 3 tbsp golden granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 100ml lemon juice (approx. the juice of 1 lemon)

For the top
  • 1 tbsp golden granulated sugar
  • a few lavender flowers

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line the base of a 1.7 litre (19cm x 12cm x 8 cm) loaf tin with baking parchment and lightly brush the parchment and the sides of the tin with a little vegetable oil, then set aside.

Place the diced swede in a heatproof bowl with a splash of water and cover with cling film. Cook in the microwave on high for 7 minutes, until soft to the touch. Once cooked through, drain off the excess water and blend to a fine purée.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the honey and eggs for 2 minutes, until bubbly. Add the lemon zest, lavender flowers, flour, ground almonds, baking powder and salt, and whisk again for 20 seconds. Once all the ingredients are fully incorporated, whisk in the swede purée to combine.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and put in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes. While the cake is cooking, prepare the drizzle. Dissolve the sugar in the water by heating slowly in a small pan. As soon as the sugar has dissolved, take off the heat and set aside. Add the lemon juice when the sugar syrup is cool.

Remove the cake from the oven, leave it in the tin and prick it right through to the bottom with a skewer so that it is covered in little holes (and we're talking about a LOT of holes, Eastwood recommends around 50). Drizzle the lemon syrup over the cake. Do this while the cake is still hot and at its most absorbent. Finish off by sprinkling with the remaining sugar and some lavender flowers.


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