Are you a fan of the Great British Baking Show? It’s a competition show, but not at all like the American baking shows, where the participants can be cutthroat and nasty. Instead, everyone is so supportive of the fellow bakers, and you feel genuinely sorry when someone gets eliminated. The show is my antidote to when the bad news cycle gets me down. It’s a feel-good show that always makes me want to rush to the kitchen and bake something.
Recently, I was searching for a recipe to use some of the lemons that had ripened on my indoor lemon tree. I almost hate picking them, but the one year I left them on the tree to admire them longer than I should have, they were dried out by the time I harvested them. So this year, I made haste to pick two lemons as soon as they turned completely yellow. They were bursting with juice and I was bursting with a desire to bake something with them.
I turned to a recipe from the “Classic” cookbook by Mary Berry, former host of The Great British Baking Show, and a noted British food writer. I was gifted the cookbook last year by my daughter’s boyfriend, when the two of them came from London for Christmas. The ingredients are posted in metric, and since I use a kitchen scale, it was easy to proceed as written. However, I made a few adjustments — substituting butter for the “cold baking spread” called for in the recipe, adding some limoncello to get more lemony flavor and a couple of other changes. While I was weighing the ingredients, I also measured them in cups, so I could write the recipe for American readers who might not use a kitchen scale. However if you don’t have a kitchen scale, I highly recommend you get one. They’re infinitely useful, and so much more accurate for baking than using measuring cups.
I also made twice the amount of icing and decorated with colorful pistachios I had stashed in the freezer from a trip to Sicily last year. Toasted slivered almonds would be great here too, or just use the lemon zest called for in the recipe. Either way, the cake is delicious with its strong lemony flavor and tender, delicate crumb. It also feeds a crowd, so keep that in mind next time you’re invited to bring something to an event.
Incidentally, the winner of the copper water pitcher giveaway (chosen by a random number computer-driven generator) is Karen, of Karen Cooks.
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- FOR THE CAKE:
- 225 grams (8 ounces) cold baking spread or 2 sticks butter plus more for greasing
- 225 grams (8 ounces) caster sugar - or 1¾ cups superfine sugar
- 275 grams (10 ounces) or 2 cups self-rising flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 4 eggs
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 2 tablespoons lemon curd
- 1 tablespoon limoncello
- finely grated zest of 2 lemons
- FOR THE ICING:
- 8 tablespoplons lemon juuice
- 2 tablespoons limoncello
- 4 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
- grated zest of 1 lemon OR chopped pistachios OR toasted, slivered almonds (to decorate)
- Line a 9 x 12 inch pan with parchment paper and grease well.
- The original recipe tells you to add all the ingredients, including "cold baking spread" together and beat well for two minutes.
- I was doubtful of this procedure, so I used room temperature butter and beat it together with the sugar until smooth and light.
- Add all the rest of the ingredients (except the decoration) and beat for about two minutes until well blended.
- Turn the mixture into the prepared baking pan and smooth out the top.
- Bake at 350 degrees about 30-35 minutes until the cake has shrunk a bit from the sides of the pan and springs back when pressed in the middle.
- Cool completely.
- Add the lemon juice and limoncello to the confectioner's sugar and mix until you get a thick, but somewhat runny consistency.
- Pour half of the icing on the cooled cake and place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the remaining icing (to avoid getting a "crust.")
- Let the icing on the cake harden somewhat for an hour or so, then spread the rest of the icing over the first layer, smoothing it out with a spatula.
- Sprinkle the top with the pistachios, or slivered toasted almonds, or just grated lemon peel.