lemon and poppy seed cake
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My little nephew sings while eating. Well – he doesn’t actually sing with open mouth and all, he’s a very well brought up lad – but he hums softly. It’s quite cute, him sitting there, happily noshing the food he’s clearly enjoying, and making little hum-hum-tiddly-poms under his breath. Of course it doesn’t happen when boiled carrots or soggy rice pudding are placed in front of him because his humming is the sound of food making him happy.
This is exactly the kind of cake that can make you hum when eating it. It’s the one-slice-is-never-enough cake. It’s the how-come-there’s-none-left? kind of cake. And it’s easy, easy-peasy, even my nephew could whip it up, given the permission to later hum to it.
The amount of lemon zest might scare the fainter-hearted but trust me – that’s what it needs. Too often lemon cake recipes result in nary a whiff of the citrus. Lemon cake must be gutsy, very moist and in addition have that little je ne sais quois to stop it from being boring – this one has a crunch of poppy seeds and slightly chewy texture from the oatmeal. Courtesy of Dan Lepard (‘Short and Sweet’).
lemon and poppy seed cakeServings: 16Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
- 225g (1 cup) caster sugar
- 125g (1 stick and 1 tbsp.) butter, softened
- 100ml (95g or scant 1/2 cup) vegetable oil
- zest grated from 3 lemons
- 4 medium eggs
- 50ml (scant 1/4 cup) hot water
- 250g (2 cups) plain flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 75g (3/4 cup) fine or medium oatmeal or rolled oats ground in a blender
- 30g (4 tbsp) poppy seeds
- For the syrup:
- 150g (2/3 cup) caster sugar
- 100ml (1 large lemon) lemon juice
Prepare a tin – 20cm (8in) square or 23cm (9in) round – by lining it with parchment – if it’s one of those tins with detachable bottom, or springform, make sure the parchment sticks out above the rim. When you pour the syrup over the cake, you don’t want it leaking through the bottom of the tin.
Beat the butter, oil, sugar and lemon zest together until pale and creamy. Add the eggs one by one, then the hot water, beating continuously. Mix the flour with the baking powder, oatmeal and poppy seeds and add that to the cake mix, beat it in well.
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Pour the batter into the tin and bake for 40-45 minutes until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Let the cake cool down for 10 minutes while you prepare the syrup – no need to reduce it, just heat up the lemon juice with sugar until it dissolves. Jab the cake with a skewer all over, the more holes the moister it will be, then spoon the syrup over the surface. Let it cool completely in the tin, then remove and sieve a bit of caster sugar over it.