I went to London for a weekend a few weeks ago and you cannot go to London without going to the Waterstones bookstore near Piccadilly circus: it’s huge! You’ll easily spend a couple of hours there, trust me. In my case, I can’t enter a Waterstones without buying a cook book, so this time I went for Cake Days, the new book from the Hummingbird Bakery. Of course I had to try it straight away and I am a fan of all things lemony, so this seemed the perfect candidate! I adapted it slightly for more lemony sweetness mmmmm…
Preheat the oven to 150 C and grease a loaf tin with butter, then dust it with flour. Or, if you’re lazy like me, buy baking parchment paper cases that fit your loaf tin. I got mine from Lakeland. Cream together 190 g softened butter and 190 g caster sugar with a mixer. Add 3 eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. You can sift all the dry ingredients together in another bowl and then add them in 3 batches, or, if you’re lazy like me, you don’t bother with sifting and other bowls, and you just add 190 g flour in 3 batches. After the second batch, add 25 ml milk (the recipe calls for whole milk, but we only ever have semi-skimmed and that works just fine). With the final batch of flour, add 1 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp salt, 4 tbsp poppy seeds and the zest of 2 lemons with the final batch. I also added the juice of half a lemon for a bit more of a lemon taste (I really do love lemons). Increase the speed and keep mixing until the batter is smooth and even, then mix in 80 g ricotta cheese (this will keep the loaf moist and rich).
Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for 50-60 min until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack.
The recipe suggest topping the cake with a soaking syrup when still hot (made by boiling the juice of 1 lemon with 50 g of sugar and 100 ml water until reduced by half) but I find that way too sticky. You can go for a lemon glaze instead, just mixing the sugar with the lemon juice and spooning that over the still hot cake or you can do what I did and opt for a lemon icing instead. For that, first cool the cake, then mix half an egg white with the juice of half a lemon and lots of icing sugar (you really need lots of it, you want it to be quite thick and not very runny anymore) and spread it over the cake.
This is a basic icing recipe, I only increased the lemon juice for that lemony flavour. If you want regular icing, just mix an egg white with lots of icing sugar and only add a few drops of lemon juice (you need that to make sure it hardens, you can replace it with a few drops of vinegar as well). Enjoy!