Nigella’s lemon polenta cake

I watched an old episode of some Nigella series the other day and happened to see when Nigella made her Lemon Polenta cake. The batter had a golden, deep yellow, sunny colour to it and there was just something about the way Nigella smoothed it into the baking tin that I knew I will have to make this cake. So yesterday afternoon I baked it. It looked exactly like on the picture in the recipe so I was very pleased with the outcome. What does it taste like? Well, lemony and very moist and it feels light and heavy at the same time. Light because of the polenta I think and heavy because of the ground almonds (or the other way around?) and the amount of lemon syrup that seeped into the cake. It’s also very buttery. Almost too much butter for my taste.

Will I make it again? Yes. With less butter and more zest and maybe less syrup.


Vitamin C cake

When I posted on Facebook that I baked a Vitamin C cake my sister asked if it tasted like those vitamin tablets that effervesce when you put them in water.  Of course not, I replied in a dismayed voice (only in my head though!), the C comes from citrus. And whenever I think of citrus fruits I also think of Vitamin C. There you go!

I had so many mandarins, lemons and limes that needed to go and was wondering what to do with them… jello sprang to mind but I didn’t have any good booze at home for proper jello shots so I thought why not use my lemon yogurt cake as a base and instead of lemons I use lemons and mandarins and limes?

I used the zest of two mandarins, two limes and a lemon in the cake and combined the juices of all the fruits. I didn’t change the quantity of any of the ingredients.

Once the cake came out of the oven I poked it all over with a spaghetti noodle (uncooked obviously) and then poured hot mandarin/lemon/lime syrup over it (same quantity of sugar as liquid. In this case I used a third of a cup of sugar and a third of a cup of liquid).

When the cake had completely cooled in its pan and soaked up all the syrup I took it out and iced it with icing sugar mixed with orange liquor and some mandarin juice.


Key lime cupcakes with lime buttercream frosting

I got hold of a batch of key limes (they are smaller than normal limes and more yellow) and used them to make cupcakes.

Here’s what you need:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
about 3 tbsp of lime zest

1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 and line your cupcake tray with paper cases.
I ususally start with putting all the dry ingredients into one bowl and giving it a quick stir.
In a bigger bowl I crack in the eggs and the rest of the wet ingredients. Whisk them until light and fluffy. Add the dry ingredients. Stir them in with a fork to make sure that they are just combined, don’t overmix the batter. Spoon into your cupcake cases and bake in the oven for about 15-20 minutes. My oven had been on all morning so they were ready in 15 minutes.
Let them cool entirely before you pipe on the buttercream frosting:

40g butter
250g icing sugar
1/2 tsp lemon extract
1 tbsp milk
2 tbsp lime zest

Beat the butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add about half of the icing sugar to it. Beat well. Slowly beat in the milk and the lemon extract. Then add the rest of the icing sugar and the zest. Add more sugar or milk if needed to make a good consistency.
Fill a piping bag, chose your favourite nozzle and decorate away. I grated some more lime zest over the cupcakes once I had finished with the rosettes.

4 layer lemon cake with lemon curd mascarpone cream

This was such an easy cake to make. I used my trusty lemon drizzle cake recipe as a base but used round cake tins instead of the loaf tin.
Below are the ingredients for one cake, but remember you need to make two of them!

1 ½ cups of flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 cup plain yoghurt
3 large eggs
zest of two lemons
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp lemon extract
½ cup of vegetable oil
1/3 cup of fresh lemon juice

Preheat your oven to 180°C, Gasmark 4.
Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in one bowl. In another bowl combine the lemon juice, yoghurt, eggs, lemon zest and vanilla and lemon extract.
Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Then fold in the vegetable oil. Pour the batter into your cake tin and bake for about 50 minutes or until golden brown and a wooden skewer comes out clean when you stick it into the thickest part of the cake.
Once I took the cakes out of the oven I spooned lemon syrup all over them (dissolve 1/3 cup of sugar in 1/3 cup of lemon juice until it’s clear but be careful, sugar syrup gets really hot and can give you nasty burns) and let them cool in the tins.
The next day I took them out and cut each of them in two layers (I use a strong thread, lined up on the edge of the cake and simply pull both ends towards me. It helps when you cut about an inch deep all the way around the cake beforehand).

For the filling I used

500g Mascarpone cheese
300ml freshly whipped cream
about 1/3 cup of lemon curd
1-2 tbsp of vanilla sugar

Mix the mascarpone cream with the sugar and lemon curd and then fold in the whipped cream. The amount of sugar really depends on how sweet you want your filling.
You will need more lemon curd for each cake layer, so best is really to buy a whole glass (or of course make it yourself but I found the work/taste ratio of homemade lemon curd vs. shop bought lemon curd doesn’t justify all the work just so you can say I used homemade lemon curd. I have too many other things to do. Sometimes shortcuts are totally worth it and shop bought lemon curd is one of them!)
To assemble the cake:
Thinly spread some lemon curd on the first layer. Then add a thick layer of mascarpone cream, top with another layer of cake and repeat until you put the final top layer of cake on it. Spread the entire cake with the mascarpone cream. Fill the rest of the cream into a piping bag and pipe rosettes all over the cake. Put the cake into the fridge for a few hours.
Before you serve the cake sprinkle some yellow sugar sand on the outer row of roses.

White chocolate and lime cupcakes

I came across this recipe a while ago and seeing that I love limes I thought I try it out. The original recipe was for 20-24 cupcakes which were too many for me, I just wanted 12 cupcakes! It took me quite some time to scale down the amounts (fractions were never my strong point) and I adjusted them again while baking the cupcakes.

Ingredients for 12 cupcakes:

100g white chocolate, chopped
zest of two limes
juice of 1 to 1 and ½ limes (depends on the size of your limes)
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
80g butter (room temperature)
½ cup of sugar
2 tbsp vanilla sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup of milk

Preheat your oven to Gas 3-4, 325°F or about 160°C

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Zest your limes and add the juice to the lime zest. Melt the chopped white chocolate in a bowl over hot water or in the microwave on high heat in 20-30 second intervals. If you use your microwave to melt the chocolate remember to stir the chocolate with a fork between the intervals. Once the chocolate is all melted and smooth and creamy set it aside to slightly cool down.
In a bowl mix the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, followed by the white chocolate and vanilla extract. Then add the lime zest and juice. Then add 1/3 of the flour mixture, followed by half of the milk, then repeat and finally add in the last third of the flour. Mix until everything is just combined.
Fill your cupcake cases (I used tulip wrappers) about half way up and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until ready. Check with a wooden skewer, if it comes out clean, take them out of the oven. Let them cool down completely before you frost them!

For the frosting:
100g of cream cheese, room temperature
30g unsalted butter, room temperature
100g of white chocolate, chopped
½ tsp vanilla extract
juice of 1 lime
zest of 3 limes
1 ½ cups icing sugar

Melt your white chocolate first and set aside. Whisk the cream cheese and the butter until light and fluffy, then beat in the melted chocolate, vanilla, lime zest and some of the lime juice. Slowly beat in the icing sugar until the frosting is smooth. If the frosting is too thick or not limey enough add more lime juice. If it’s too runny, add more icing sugar.
Fill a piping bag with the frosting and decorate your cupcakes. Lastly I sprinkled some fresh lime zest over them. The cupcakes turned out to be wonderfully moist and you could totally taste the white chocolate. And of course the lime!

Lemon, lemons, lemon cake

Last weekend I baked three lemon drizzle cakes. Ok, lemon yogurt cakes to be precise. But I drizzle a lot of lemony goodness on them so they are lemon drizzle cakes to me.
One was for a friend of mine who turned 40 over the weekend, so I thought I better spruce it up a bit, fit for the occasion. I baked the cake in a round tin and frosted it all over with this frosting:

100gr mascarpone
100gr cream cheese
2 and half cups of icing sugar
zest of two lemons
juice of one lemon
50gr of lemon curd
200gr fresh whipped cream

The measurements above are approximate. I didn’t weigh the ingredients, this is just to give you some kind of idea of quantities. You need to see how thick your frosting is for yourself and then either add more icing sugar or a few more squeezes of lemon juice.
I first whisked the mascarpone with the cream cheese and set aside. Then I whisked the icing sugar into the lemon juice, added the lemon zest and the lemon curd. Then I combined this with the mascarpone and cream cheese. Last I carefully folded in the whipped cream. I frosted the entire cake and made sure there was almost as much frosting on top of the cake as there was cake! Right at the end before we left for the party I sprinkled fresh lemon zest all over the cake. It looked really pretty. Too bad I forgot to take a picture of it but I’m sure it wasn’t the last time I transformed a simple lemon drizzle cake into a fancy lemon torte!

Pork Pies

I have been quite busy in the kitchen, so busy in fact that I neglected my blog here. I’ve been making pork pies for the first time ever in my life and they turned out surprisingly well. I was worried about the pastry and my oven with its temperature problem but apart from a longer baking time all went well.
Preheat oven to Gas Mark 7 or 200°C.
For 12 pork pies I used:
400g minced pork
100g minced pancetta
½ bunch of flat leaf parsley finely chopped
1 bunch of spring onions finely chopped
1 tsp dried chili flakes
1 tsp Worcester Sauce
1 tsp English mustard
½ freshly ground nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Put all ingredients into a bowl and mix well. Taste to see if you need more salt or pepper or any of the other spices. I used my food chopper for the herbs and the pancetta (I only had cubed pancetta). Best way to mix the meat etc. is by using your hands. Make 12 round balls.
For the pastry (which is called a hot water pastry) I used:
450g plain flour
200ml water
170g lard
1 free-range egg yolk, beaten
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sift the flour, salt and pepper into a bowl and set aside. In a pan, heat the water and lard together and gradually bring to a simmer, or until all the lard has melted. Bring the mixture up the boil and then pour this onto the flour mixture. Mix well with a wooden spoon to create a firm dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead the dough quickly for a few minutes. Roll the dough out flat, take one of the pie portions and place on the pastry. Cut around the portion leaving enough room for you to fold the pastry around the mix creating a parcel. Repeat this with the remaining portions.
Place the pork pies onto a tray, brush with beaten egg yolk, cut a small slit into each pie (on the top). Bake the pies in the centre of the oven for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to Gas Mark 4 or 180°C and cook for a further 35 minutes until golden brown. 

Let them cool and set overnight. They may not look the traditional way but they tasted very good!

Zesty lemon roses

It was my birthday recently and I got everything I wanted. I didn’t have a single present that I didn’t like or wondered on how earth I could make it disappear (break it, lose it, give it to someone else)!
My sister Christine gave me wonderful baking presents: a silikone mould with six roses, a silikone brush (I have a conventional that seems to have a tendency to lose its hairs in cakes and on roasts) and a decorating squeeze bottle. The silikone mould came with a small recipe booklet (three recipes in six different languages) and the first receipe I tried turned out to be such a success that I’ve made it countless times since. I used the recipe as a basis, it was too buttery for my taste, so here’s my version:

For a silicon mould with six roses you will need:

a small knob of butter
1/2 cup of vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 cup of icing sugar
1 cup of fine cake flour
1 pinch of salt
1 pinch of baking powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
zest of two lemons
squeeze of 1/2 lemon

Preheat your oven to 170C, Gasmark 4

Melt the small knob of butter in the microwave and brush your moulds with it so the cakes won’t stick to them later! Mix icing sugar with lemon zest, lemon juice and oil. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and whisk smooth. Slowly add the flour and mix thoroughly. Spoon the dough into the moulds (they should be about 2/3 full). Bake in the oven for about 25-30 minutes. Check that they are all baked through by inserting a toothpick into the cake(s). If there isn’t anything sticking to it then they are ready!
Let the cakes cool in the moulds for 10 minutes then take them out. You can then either
– Spoon lemon syrup over the roses
– Dust the lemon roses with some icing sugar
– Inject lemon syrup into the cakes by using a syringe
– Ice the cakes by mixing some lemon juice with icing sugar and spreading the icing evenly over the roses.
Lemon syrup is easily made by cooking the same amount of sugar with the same amount of lemon juice until the syrup is all clear. Careful when you take it off the stove, sugar syrup stays very very hot for a long time.

I don’t recommend the icing version actually because you can’t see the rose pattern otherwise, I simply piped lemon syrup around the rose pattern and about an hour later I dusted the cakes with icing sugar.

Rhubarb Lemon Muffins

Saturday’s shopping resulted in a bunch of rhubarb and a whole net of un-waxed lemons… so I immediately thought rhubarb and lemon muffins… I wonder if there’s a recipe out there. And voila, I found one at tasteofhome but since I didn’t have any buttermilk at home I had to change the recipe slightly. I had to use yoghurt (double the amount) instead, I also added vanilla extract and lemon essence to enhance the taste. I used soft brown sugar instead of white granulated sugar and furthermore I glazed them with lemon syrup.

Ingredients for 12 muffins:

2 cups flour

1 cup soft brown sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. good vanilla
½ tsp. lemon essence
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
2 eggs
1 cup of plain yoghurt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 cups diced rhubarb

Sift the flour into a large bowl. Add the sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix thoroughly. In another bowl mix the oil, eggs, vanilla, lemon essence, yoghurt and lemon zest together and then add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and stir. Fold in the rhubarb.
The dough was quite hard to mix, you needed a lot of elbow grease and it was almost not enough liquid. That’s when I added another half a cup of yoghurt to make it one full cup in the end.
Fill paper lined muffin cups to about two thirds full. Sprinkle tops with some granulated sugar. Bake at gas mark 5 for 25-30 minutes (depends on your oven).
Take them out of the oven and let the muffins cool down for about five minutes.

In the meantime I made a quick lemon syrup by dissolving 1/3 of sugar into 1/3 of water. Once the mixture is clear and has bubbled up turn the heat off. Then spoon the syrup over the muffins.

I thought the muffins were a bit stodgy, but all my friends loved the moistness of them and the taste. I think they taste even better with the addition of whipped cream 😉

Lemon Yoghurt Cake

I’ve been watching so much Barefoot Contessa recently that I found myself spending a lot more time in the kitchen. She made a lemon yoghurt cake the other day and it turned out to be so easy and the cake wonderfully moist and lemony.


 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
3 extra-large eggs
3 teaspoons grated lemon zest (about 3 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the syrup:

Same amount of sugar as lemon juice. I use 1/3 of a cup of each.

Preheat the oven to 160° Celsius.  Grease and flour a loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, 2/3 of the lemon zest, and vanilla. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula, fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it’s all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Meanwhile, cook the (1/3 cup) lemon juice and (1/3 cup) sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.

When the cake is done, take it out of the oven and poke it all over with either a wooden skewer or a spaghetti noodle.

Poor the the lemon syrup over the cake and allow it to soak in. Let it cool in the tin. Take it out and prepare the icing.

My icing contains icing sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest. And for extra crunch I sprinkle some normal sugar over the icing.