A bright, zesty Lemon Syrup Cake to help ease the quarantine blues ❤
A few months into the COVID-19 pandemic and I’m struggling to stay positive. Fear, worry and anxiety have made space within me, and it makes me sad to think that, even so, that we are still safe and sound makes us better off than millions of people around the world. The uncertainty is such a heavy burden and it sits, smack in the middle of every room and every conversation. I have to admit, I can’t quite remember what it was like to not have to worry about the most mundane things, like my husband going off to work five days a week, or who I’m going to come in contact with at the grocery store!
Being an introvert, staying home has not been a problem. In my cocoon with the husband, it’s been a series of slow days spent reading, writing and watching TV. But every two weeks, when the need for a grocery run rolls in, I find myself equal parts excited and concerned. Excited because I can feel the sun on my skin and the humidity prickle my hairline (a feeling I must say I have never appreciated before). But then we get to the store, and as if wound tight like a winding toy, I find myself rushing through the aisles trying to fill my cart up in record time. I used to LOVE grocery shopping, but I just can’t seem to enjoy it anymore.
Yesterday after three months confined to our side of the city, we were able to cross over to the other side, where we once used to dine and meet friends and go to the cinema – all very bougie, I know. It looked like a different world, the roads were mostly empty, most shutters were pulled down, the mall has more lights turned off than on, and all restaurant windows showcased overturned furniture. I don’t really miss doing those things, but it does strike me that while our favourite restaurants and cafes, malls and cinemas have been grappling to stay afloat during these few months, in the near future, when they do open to business, it just might be that patrons aren’t able to spend the extra buck on these services, owing to job losses and pay cuts. The situation in most homes is very very bleak, and it all comes down to pinching every penny and laying off every indulgence.
If, like me, you’re feeling anxious and worried, for yourself, the people around you and at large, (and the 24-hour news cycle does not make things easier), I’ve got a simple cheer-upper for you – this Lemon Syrup Cake. No frills, no fancy ingredients and no drama. This straightforward recipe, adapted from the baking goddess Nigella Lawson, is a hit, and though it won’t wipe away all you worries (not even close!), it will definitely bring a splash of sunshine to your home…
Here’s what you need:
- Unsalted Butter – 125 g, at room temperature
- Caster Sugar – 175 g
- Zest of 1 large Lemon
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- Eggs – 2
- All Purpose Flour – 175 g
- Baking Powder – 2 tsp
- A pinch of salt
- Whole Milk – 4 tbsp
- Icing Sugar – 100 g
- Juice of 1.5 Lemons, freshly squeezed
Here’s how you make this zesty Lemon Syrup Cake:
- Prep: Preheat the oven to 180ºC / 356ºF. Grease and line a loaf tin with parchment paper and set aside.
- The Batter: Cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, about two minutes. Add in the lemon zest and juice of 1/2 lemon, then tip in an egg at a time, beating well in between additions. Sift in the flour, salt and baking powder and beat until just incorporated. Pour in the milk and mix; you can add more milk, a tablespoon at a time, if you feel the batter is still too dense and thick.
- Bake: Pop the cake into the oven and bake it for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the top is beautifully bronzed and cracks and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out with few moist crumbs attached. If you find that you need to bake the cake for longer, place a sheet of parchment over the cake to stop the top from browning further and bake for 5-10 minutes, or until cooked through.
- Lemon Sugar Syrup: While the cake bakes, dissolve the icing sugar in remaining lemon juice and heat on low flame till the syrup is clear and starts to turn colour ever so slightly. Take it off the heat immediately.
- Soak: Once the cake is baked, let it sit out for 10 minutes; then, using a skewer, poke holes all over the cake’s surface and pour half of the warm syrup over it. You can reserve the rest of the syrup for serving. Let the cake cool completely, then slice carefully with a sharp knife and serve.
Please Note: I baked this cake in a standard size loaf tin for 45 minutes and it was perfect. There is a chance that while you bake, it could take a slightly shorter or longer while, depending on your oven, the size of the loaf tin and the wetness of the batter. It is best to watch your cake as it bakes (and knowing your oven and baking equipment definitely helps!), and check it at the 40 minute mark. I follow a simple rule when I bake, if it’s not ready, it keeps baking for additional 5-8 minute bursts until it’s cooked through.
I have a recipe for Lemon Cake that has been my go-to for the longest time. A family favourite, I don’t quite think I would replace it with this one, but that’s not because this cake is not good. Because guys… This cake is very very GOOD! It’s just that they are SO different. You’re probably wondering, if they’re lemon cakes, how different can they be? Please find below my reasons…
- This cake is sweet, seriously sweet. While that’s probably because I could not stop myself from brushing more and more syrup on (practise restrain, unlike me!), this cake is sweeter than most cakes I bake – more of a dessert cake as opposed to a tea-time treat.
- This cake is intensely lemon-y, also owing to the syrup. Which is great if, like me, you love a lemon dessert!
- This recipe makes for a richer crumb that falls apart beautifully and melts in the mouth.
- This recipe is special because it is a Nigella Lawson recipe. She is incredible!
- This cake is just the right amount of sweet, especially if you have family who need to lay off excess sugar. It is almost like a hint of underlying sweetness that is just enough to pick up your spirits, but will still retain that airy, light, refreshing quality that we all love about citrus.
- Again, the lemon flavour in this cake is more of a light kiss or whisper, as opposed to a full-blown smooch or scream.
- The crumb on this cake is simpler, soft, fluffy and moist – absolutely delectable.
- But this is much more special, because it is my mom’s favourite cake that I have standing instructions to bake every year for her birthday!
Reading the above, I’m sure it is evident that BOTH cakes are wonderful and perfectly lemon-y, zesty and tangy. And so, if the sound of a refreshing, tangy Lemon Cake soaked in a Lemon Sugar Syrup gets your mouth watering, you absolutely should give this recipe a try! And if you’re wondering just why Mom loves my Lemon Cake as much as she does, go try that too. If you want to take things up a notch and mix in some incredible flavours, don’t miss out on this Ultimate Lemon Blueberry Coconut Cake! And if you’re thinking of a fancy lemon dessert for date night at home, may I suggest these Lemon Lava Cakes? 😛 (Okay, I’m done.)
Dear Reader, I hope you and your family are in good health and though circumstances are tough, I hope you are hanging in there. While I love for this blog to be all lively and perky, today I just didn’t feel like that I could muster up the same joy I generally feel and hope to bring to you. Today it’s about fear, a loss of normalcy, the weight of uncertainty and worry for our fellow humans. And since we’re surrounded by all of this, I hope you will understand, and accept this Lemon Syrup Cake recipe as the tiniest spark of light that might just put a small smile on your face, if only for a minute or two. Much love to you ❤