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Luscious Lemon Cake

We celebrated Charles’ 29th birthday at the beginning of this month, so I made him this luscious lemon cake.  Of course, it was pretty difficult to keep it as a surprise with him popping in and out of the kitchen every now and then, and he had already spotted the homemade lemon curd in the fridge, even although I took a jar to his Mum to disguise the true reason for whipping up a batch a couple of days previously.  Not to worry – he knew there would be a cake of sorts so the fact that he knew it was a lemon cake was neither here nor there.  Besides, he had asked for a ‘healthy’ cake after we had spent the previous week working our way through his Dad’s ridiculously chocolatey birthday cake.

Anyway, it was a success all round after a few hairy moments during the decoration stage when the hot, muggy day combined with the heat of the dishwasher drying caused the icing to become a bit too slidey on occasion!  I decided to decorate it with loads of pick’n’mix jelly sweets and Haribo because jelly sweets are just about the only treat Charles has been allowing himself (apart from birthday cake, of course) since we both started eating a bit more healthily in preparation for our wedding (and in preparation for being super old).  I thought his Dad would think it was all a bit childish, but it raised a few laughs and smiles, after all, you can’t have a sweetie birthday cake once you’re in your thirties now can you?  This cake would still be great for general eating, and doesn’t really need any decoration, so you could leave off the sweeties and instead get creative with piping, texturising your icing or perhaps adding some candied lemon peel or edible flowers to make it a little prettier.  It’s effectively a moist lemon drizzle cake sandwiched with lemon curd and lemon curd buttercream, and decorated with the same lemon buttercream.  Delicious.  And perfect for summer.

Luscious Lemon Cake

Luscious Lemon Cake


    For the sponge:
  • 250g butter
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 tbsp double cream or milk, or 2 tbsp crème fraîche or sour cream
  • 4 eggs
  • zest of two lemons
  • For the syrup:
  • 4 tbsp caster sugar
  • 4 tbsp water
  • juice of 2 lemons (so two whole lemons for the whole recipe in addition to the lemon curd!)
  • For the lemon curd buttercream:
  • 150g salted butter at room temperature
  • 4 tbsp double cream or half as much of your substitute
  • 300g icing sugar
  • Around half a jar of fresh lemon curd, although it's easy to get carried away!


  1. Start off by preheating an oven to 160c fan or 170c non-fan assisted, and line yourself a couple of sandwich tins. Grab a large mixing bowl and a digital scale and that's you ready to go.
  2. Weigh out the butter and give it a good mix for a couple of minutes with an electric hand mixer to start it off on the road to becoming creamy and fluffy.
  3. Add the sugar and repeat the mixing process, continuing for a good 3-5 minutes on high power until the mixture is really creamy and fluffy and full of air. This is such an important step if you want a light and fluffy cake.
  4. Next, add the eggs, and repeat the process with the hand mixer. The introduction of the eggs should give you another chance to introduce some serious air, and you should only stop once it's pale coloured and almost frothy in texture.
  5. Add the vanilla and lemon zest, and quickly whisk in.
  6. The last stage in making your sponge batter is to weigh in the flour and measure out the cream or crème fraîche and add these to the mixture.
  7. This time, however, you want to introduce your electric whisk relatively gently and for as little time as possible, as this stage is just to combine the flour and moisture - overworking the batter will develop the gluten in the flour and give you a tough, heavy sponge, undoing all the good work you did with the butter, sugar and eggs. Whisk until just combined (although don't stop before it is combined or you might end up with pockets of flour in the finished cake).
  8. Your cake batter is ready for the oven! Divide it as evenly as possible between your greased and lined cake pans - I find a silicone spatula to be really helpful to scrape out the batter relatively efficiently making sure you don't waste too much to the washing up bowl. Even out the surfaces, but don't move it around too much or you could overwork the batter.
  9. Slide the cake pans into the oven and cook for around 20 minutes or until golden on the outside, starting to shrink from the sides of the pans and just springy when lightly pressed on top. Try not to open the oven until they look done as you could risk the sponges collapsing if the middles are still quite liquid.
  10. While your sponges are baking, you can get the syrup ready, as this needs to be poured over the sponges while they're still warm.
  11. Cut the lemons in half and thoroughly juice them, discarding any seeds.
  12. Grab a small saucepan and weigh out the sugar and water then add the lemon juice and stir it all together over a low heat on the hob. Once the sugar has dissolved, turn the heat up and allow the mixture to boil and reduce down for a few minutes. You want a syrupy consistency, so don't be scared to keep it simmering if you think it's too thin - it's going to be poured over the sponge so you want it to catch and seep through, not soak immediately through the cake.
  13. When the syrup and sponges are both ready, leaving the sponges in the cake pans, carefully divide the syrup between the two sponges, pouring it slowly over the surface of both sponges, being careful not to over-saturate any one are of the sponge. Now leave them alone until completely cool.
  14. In a clean bowl, weigh out the butter for the lemon curd buttercream and give it a whizz up with the whisk. Add the cream and whisk again. The wetter and creamier you can get it the easier (and less messy!) it will be to add in the icing sugar.
  15. Now add the icing sugar and beat this in well, trying not to cover everything in a cloud of icing sugar dust!
  16. Add the lemon curd and mix again, and that's the buttercream ready for the cake.
  17. When the sponges are nice and cold, turn them out onto a plate or cake board, turning the first sponge upside down and centring it on whatever you're serving the finished cake up on. Peel off the greaseproof paper circle and check it's fully cool underneath before proceeding.
  18. Spread a layer of buttercream onto the bottom sponge, a few mm thick.
  19. Then add a layer of lemon curd, bearing in mind that if this is too thick the weight of the top sponge might squeeze it out.
  20. Now repeat the turning out process with the other sponge, placing it upside down on top of the first sponge. Using a pallette knife, ice the cake all over, as evenly as you can manage.
  21. And that's you ready to decorate!
  22. As I mentioned earlier, I decorated Charles' cake with lots of jelly sweets....
  23. ...and some birthday candles.
  24. But it will be delicious either way!
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Nigel Slater’s Lemon Curd

This isn’t just lemon curd.  This isn’t even our lemon curd – it’s Nigel Slater’s Lemon Curd.  This post is a bit of a departure from our usual style. Whilst we have a couple of recipes waiting in the wings, we have to be honest and admit that when it comes to the classics, we do like to turn to the tried and tested recipes penned by those old enough to know better from time to time. Whilst I would normally skip over these episodes of unworthy of original blog content, Charles suggested that some of the classics by the biggest names in UK cookery were actually worth of review and I think he might be onto something.

lemon curd
Lemon curd seemed like a good place to start. It’s something we’ve both made a number of times, and it in fact featured in a poem which was read at our wedding. We’ve both tried various recipes, including Delia’s, but I was intrigued when I read Nigel Slater’s lemon curd recipe given he uses a whisk to get it all mixed up – a bit of a departure from the usual wooden spoon or silicone spatula and decided that this was worthy of comment!

To make Nigel’s lemon curd, you will need:

4 unwaxed lemons (if you can’t get unwaxed you can scrub waxed ones – B of B’s edit, not Nigel’s)

200g sugar (I used caster, but Nigel doesn’t specify)

100g butter

3 eggs and 1 egg yolk

how to make lemon curd
To make it, I found it easiest to get all the ingredients ready first, starting with finding a Pyrex bowl and small saucepan which would allow the bowl to balance comfortably with space below it for some simmering water, then adding a few inches of water to the saucepan and putting it on a medium heat hob.

lemon zest
Next, zest the lemons into the Pyrex bowl and then juice them and add the juice to the bowl, removing any pips. I find this to be the most time-consuming part and it’s unavoidable, but Nigel rather glosses over the time you need for this stage by stating that they should be zested and juiced in his ingredients list.

lemon squeezer
Stir in the sugar, and cut the butter into cubes.

cubed butter
Place over the simmering water (try not to be tempted to use a very hot hob as boiling the water will tempt the water to overboil and potentially jump into the curd, or boil dry, or cook the curd so hot that it scrambles, which is the elephant in the room in terms of curd failure or success.

nigel slater's lemon curd recipe
Stir until the sugar has dissolved then add the cubes of butter.

Meanwhile, crack 3 of the eggs into a bowl and separate the fourth, adding only its yolk to the bowl. Whisk together with a fork.

Stir the lemon, sugar and butter mixture until the butter has all melted. Now, Nige doesn’t mention it, but you should really consider the temperature of the bowl and mixture st this stage because you’re about to add the eggs. If you’ve ever made custard, you’ll be familiar with the danger of scrambling the eggs if you add the cream or milk when it’s too hot. Likewise, with lemon curd, it’s worth taking a few extra minutes to cool the melted mixture (even though you are going to have to heat it again) to be sure you aren’t going to scramble the eggs and waste all the time you didn’t zesting and juicing all those lemons. The simplest way is just to take it off the heat and give it a stir for a minute or two. Next, pour in the eggs, being ready with your whisk to stir it all together to even out the temperature of the two bowls before there are any disasters.

making lemon curd
This takes a bit of muscle, but it does mean the curd is immediately much thicker than it would be by any other method. Now, get whisking! I used the whisk to sort of stir it around most of the time, whisking it up properly as it thickened, as it’s actually pretty difficult to whisk a hot liquid in a steaming bowl which moves around all the time!

When it’s well on its way to being done, the texture will become more consistent and small frothy bubbles will start to form on the surface. If it’s taking too long , you may be tempted to turn the heat up, and you can do, just be careful of monitoring it and consider turning it back down if the water underneath the bowl is boiling too hard – the point at which your curd is ready versus when it can turn bad is pretty precise so a more controlled temperature is a more cautious approach. It’s really important too that you stir constantly, even if it does take 10 or 15 minutes to get to the correct consistency. Your curd will be worth it!

lemon curd
Checking it’s ready was pretty difficult with the whisk. Nigel says it should “feel heavy on the whisk” but Charles’ whisk is pretty heavy anyway so my wrist was too tired to tell the difference. As I had experience of making lemon curd, however, I could tell that the thick custardy texture was nearly ready so I grabbed a silicone spatula to dunk into the mixture. The curd coated it, and the costing remained separated after I ran my finger through it, so it was ready to be poured into sterilised jars to set and later refrigerate.

lemon curd
Overall, the result was a decently balanced fresh lemon curd, thick, zesty and tart, but sweet and creamy enough to make it as moreish as fresh lemon curd tends to be. Whilst it was a little odd getting used to the whisk, and required more concentration that the endless stirring I’ve encountered in the past, it made for a much, much quicker way of producing three small jars of curd. And that makes it a winner in my book!

Blueberry Bakewells

These are a nice little treat and a great way to use up blueberries as you only need 125g. Try as I might, raw blueberries really don’t do anything for me, but in muffins or a pie they come to life. I made these yesterday to fulfil a colleague’s request, as he asked for blueberry muffins or cherry bakewells so I thought these felt like a good compromise. They do take a bit of time to make though as you’ll need to put the pastry in the fridge to chill at various points in the process but it’s a great recipe to fit in around other Sunday cooking. 

For the pastry, you will need: 

100g, chilled salted butter,cubed

200g plain flour

40g icing sugar

1 egg

For the blueberry filling:

125g blueberries

1 tbsp caster sugar

Squeeze of lemon juice

For the frangipane:

55g salted butter, softened to room temperature

55g caster sugar

40g ground almonds

15g plain flour

1 large egg

1. Rub the butter into the dry ingredients for the pastry until they resemble even crumbs. 

2. Beat the egg then mix into the crumbed mixture. Gently knead into a dough but don’t overwork it to keep the pastry nice and short. Then wrap in cling film and put in the fridge to rest for at least 30 minutes. 

3. In the mean time, put the blueberries, sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan and set on a gentle heat, stirring every now and then. 

4. Once the blueberries have started to produce juice, you might want to help the berries to pop by pushing down on them with a spoon. Keep cooking until the mixture resembles a jam, thick and shiny.

5. Allow to cool and then push through a sieve. This may take some time if you want to get as much juice out as possible whilst keeping the skins separate. Then set aside. 

6. Roll it the chilled pastry as thin as you dare – the thinner the better. If it’s a warm day, you may want to fold up the rolled out pastry and put it back in the fridge before cutting out circles. If you do refrigerate it, roll it out again once you take it out to smooth out any creases.

7. Grease a 12-well muffin tin. Use a round cutter or large glass if you’re struggling, to cut out 12 rounds to form the bases of the pastry cases. You may need to gather the remnants together and re-roll to get the full 12. You may also need to re hill the dough if it becomes unworkable. Place these into the base of each well. 

8. Cut inch-wide strips from the remaining pastry to form the sides of the cases, merging it carefully with the edges of the bases and at the join.

9. Gently prick the bases with a fork then put back in the fridge to chill for half an hour. 

10. Just before you take the cases back out of the fridge, preheat the oven to 160C fan and then make your frangipane. Do this by creaming together the butter and sugar, mixing in the egg and folding in the flour and ground almonds.

11. Remove the pastry cases from the fridge and spoon the blueberry filling into the base of each case, dividing as evenly as possible. 

12. Do the same with the frangipane, being careful not to mix this into the blueberry too much, but it is difficult and requires patience!

  13. Bake in the oven for around 20 minutes or until the pastry and topping are golden. 

  Carefully remove from the tin (a sharp knife may help) and sprinkle with icing sugar.

Enjoy with a cup of tea!