Sometimes I ask what seems like a simple question to my friends and family on Facebook, which subsequently turns into 130 heated comments. Case in point: what’s your favourite British cake? The winner was lemon drizzle (more on that later), however this led to a debate about whether or not the British can actually make decent cake. My opinion on this matter is yes, they most certainly do make lovely cakes. In fact, I think desserts are one of the things the British do very, very well.
I think the difference is that many British baked goods contain about 10lbs less sugar than most of our North American fare. They do have their fair share of teeth-grittingly sweet desserts (sticky toffee pudding comes to mine) but on the most part, cakes are kept simple and not overly sweet.
For example, the classic Victoria sponge is simply a yellow cake with raspberry jam in the middle, dusted with a fine layer of caster or icing sugar. That’s it. No buttercream, no creamy middle, no sprinkles on top unless you’re being some sort of anarchist. It’s a traditional afternoon cake, best served with a good cuppa.
The winning cake, lemon drizzle, is also fairly simple. It’s one of my favourites; sunshiney lemon bursting through a crunchy layer of sugar. It’s light, moist, sticky, and I would happily eat it with a cup of tea or as a dessert (as there is usually a distinction between things you eat for afternoon tea versus after a meal. See, I told you the British know how to do baked goods.)
This week, I went on a baking spree in aid of Red Nose Day for Comic Relief (http://www.rednoseday.com/), a charity that raises funds for people in need both in the UK and in Africa. People all over the country will be doing various things to raise funds, from cake sales to comical stunts like sitting in a bathtub full of baked beans. Those wacky Brits! We’re having a cake and pizza sale at the office today, along with a “Wear a Hat to Work” day, which I will not do because I have an enormous head and look like an idiot in a hat. Plus, the only hat I own is an Olympic toque my mom sent me from the Vancouver games.
Most of my baking these days tends to be either for birthdays or fundraising, so I’m always on the lookout for yummy things that can be made in large batches. Lemon drizzle is usually made in a loaf pan, but I have a recipe from the wonderful Mary Berry that is made in a large tin (AKA a “tray bake”.) Mary Berry is like our cakey version of Julia Child. She’s been around for a million years and everyone loves her, and most importantly, you can always trust a recipe from good ol’ Mary.
Along with this cake, I’ve made 24 cinnamon rolls with little red Skittle noses on them. I’m all for raising money for a good cause, especially fundraisers that involve cake.
Lemon Drizzle Tray Bake
(Makes around 24, 2” square pieces of cake)
For the cake:
1 cup (225 grams) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (225 grams) caster sugar
1 1/4 cup (275 grams) self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
4 large eggs, at room temperature
4 Tbsp whole milk
2 unwaxed lemons, grated zest onl7
For the drizzle topping:
3/4 cup (175 grams) granulated sugar
2 lemons, juice only
Grease and line a 9”x11” pan and preheat the oven to 180 Celcius (160C fan assist.)/ 350 Farenheit
Now, this is the sort of thing I love: chuck all the cake ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix until well combined. No creaming of butter or any of that nonsense. Just bung it all in with wild abandon.
Pour the batter into the tin. You may need to even it out with a spatula as the mixture will be quite thick. Tap the tin on the counter to get rid of any air bubbles.
Bake for around 25-40 minutes, until the sides just begin to come away from the sides of the tin and the cake will spring back If you press it lightly.
Leave the cake to cool in the tin for around 5 minutes. Lift it carefully out of the tin, peel the paper away gently, and put the cake on a wire rack on top of a tray to catch any runaway drizzle. You want the cake to cool slightly, but still stay warm enough to soak up the lemon drizzle.
For the topping, mix the lemon juice and sugar until it’s runny. Poke holes all over the cake with a metal skewer and pour the drizzle on top evenly.
Let the cake cool completely. Cut into squares and store in a container for 2-3 days.