Friday, 22 April 2011

And all because... (lemon and poppy seed cake)

... I only had medium-sized eggs.

This was one of those recipes inspired by one random bit of potential food waste that I wanted to avoid. Approximately 63% of a lemon lingered in the fridge after yesterday's oven-baked cod fillets with lemon (duh) and parsley, and a bit of ferreting around in the cupboard unearthed a packet of poppy seeds, albeit with a palaeolithic Best Before date. Ha - we scoff at such trivialities. Lemon and poppy seed cake was on the cards.

I even delved into a new cook book. Life on the edge, I tell you. Just like mother used to make features the following recipe:

125g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
125g caster sugar
25g poppy seeds
zest of 1 lemon
pinch salt

2 large eggs, beaten
2 tbsp milk
dash vanilla essence

125g butter, melted

Combine the first five ingredients. Combine the last 3 ingredients. Add half of mix 2 to mix 1, plus half the butter. Mix well. Add the second half of mix 2 and the butter, and mix well again. Pour into a 20cm cake tin and bake at 180°C for an hour.
I found I only had medium eggs in the cupboard. I've been caught like this before so I used 2 whole eggs plus another yolk. I also decided to make a loaf cake, since lemon and poppy seed cake just should be a loaf in my book. Everything else went swimmingly. I decided to make a syrup from the otherwise-unneeded lemon juice and some more sugar, to top the cake off and make it into a lemon drizzle kind of thing.

Then I got carried away. I whisked up the leftover egg white, determined to make meringue. For some reason I chose to do this by hand. By the time I had got it to soft peak stage, the unwatched lemon syrup was lemon caramel. Rats. At this point, a quick check of the cake revealed it was a) volcanically uneven and b) somewhat toasty (ahem) at one end. And there were still 12 minutes left on the timer. An hour my arse. I dribbled the caramel on it anyway.

So, a nearly-but-not-quite burnt lemon and poppy seed loaf, with nearly-but-not-quite-burnt lemon caramel topping. Which sticks to your teeth. And is quite eye-wateringly lemony ("makes your tabs sing", I can hear mum saying) (tabs being ears, for the latitudinally challenged). It's edible, but domestic goddessicity is not at home today.

The meringues are still in the oven, but they'll have to go some to redeem the cake. [Edit: they were pretty good, but were fully crisp after 1h40 @ 125°C; glad I didn't do them at 140°C for 2h like the book gave in another recipe, and actually I would have preferred them a bit gooey in the middle...]

Note: making the mixture with melted butter made it relatively runny for cake batter. It pooled in the tin and levelled itself, when I think I could have done with making a hollow in the middle to even out the rise. Sorry, Tom Norrington-Davies, I don't know how your mother used to make cakes, but I'm not convinced this way is for me. I'm going back to Hannah Miles next time!

Note 2: while initially writing this post I constantly mistyped poppy as poopy. Says it all.