I began writing this post on the aeroplane home from Dublin, in the vein hope of both writing a blog post and practising my shorthand. I’ve come to transcribe it back now into typed format and realise it probably wasn’t such a wise move. There is a post written, of musings that came to me as I made my way through the heavens above the Irish Sea, but alas, that now lives between the lines of my indecipherable shorthand notes.
It was the shortest plane ride I think I’ve ever been on; barely three-quarters of an hour to make the hop over the Irish Sea- it takes longer for me to get to Uni some days. (As you can imagine, I didn’t get much written anyway.) Ireland was an unusual experience and perhaps one day I’ll write something insightful into it, but I’m not a travel blogger so for the meantime we’ll summarise my trip as thus: Dublin smells of wee, lots of building work, traffic is terrible, but they ply you with enough free Guinness and free Jameson’s that you forget all about that.
The ending of my last post had the somewhat poetic hope that June would brighten up. Whilst we were on holiday, my dad received some sad news that two of his friends had been killed in a light aircraft crash (to add to all the sad news we seem to have been receiving throughout 2016 so far. ‘When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions’– Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 5.) Although we’re just three days into June, it seems unlikely to brighten up.
When something shocking happens, it’s always strange to see the world is continuing as if nothing has happened, and this feeling was even more pronounced when we returned from Ireland. The windows of the shops are still the same, the posters around town are still there, the drunks are still outside the pubs. The small field where my dad’s friends flew from, for which they never thought would be their final time, is still the same.
If I am to bake anything next week (because this cake was made before I went on holiday) it will be this: a classic, unchanging, nostalgic lemon cake. When I was younger, I was a huge lemon cake fan. My nan and my mum’s aunty would bake this for me, and at one point, there was a very steady stream of lemon cake deliveries due to the fact I didn’t let on to either of them that the other was baking me cakes, too. As they both got older, their baking tendencies fell to the side, and as such, it’s been years since I’ve had one. I’ve taken up the mantle but I just cannot seem to perfect it: my nan had a knack of getting the middle just slightly undercooked that it was soggy, my mum’s aunty had perfected that crunchy sugar top.
But either way, it’s still delicious. Lemon is such a classic flavouring and it’s so easy to have it overpower the cake, but this gets it just right, and the crunchy lemon sugar topping adds a hint of sweetness. It isn’t a fancy lemon drizzle, or a suave lemon curd sandwich- it’s a simple, comforting, and easy cake. Perfect for when you need cheering up.
- FOR THE CAKE
- 175g unsalted butter, softened
- 175g golden caster sugar
- 3 medium free-range eggs
- 175g self-raising flour
- Zest of 1 lemon
- FOR THE TOPPING
- 2tbsp golden caster sugar
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Begin by pre-heating the oven to 180°c/350°f/gas mark 4. Prepare a loaf baking tin by greasing the sides and bottom with butter and greaseproof paper, or use a loaf tin liner.
- In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy and it doesn’t look grainy, using an electric hand whisk. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl, then add in a little bit at a time, whisking between each addition.
- Sieve in the self-raising flour and add the lemon zest. Use a large metal spoon to stir in, cutting through the mixture with large figure of eight motions. Once all combined, pour into the loaf tin. Bake for about 35-40 minutes in the pre-heated oven, or until golden brown, springy to the touch, and cooked through. You can test this by inserting a cocktail stick into the centre, it should come out clean.
- To make the topping, add the caster sugar into a small bowl and pour the lemon juice over it, but don’t stir it. Whilst the cake is still warm, use a cocktail stick to stab holes all over the top, then take spoonfuls of the sugar and juice mix and spread over the top of the cake to create a crunchy sugar topping. ▪