Friday, 13 June 2008

Lemon summer solstice cake

I am already distracted while writing this post because I'm worrying about a new food experiment I've tried out tonight: making marshmallows. The recipes I've read on the internet make it sound variously completely foolproof and delicious, or liable to complete disaster. I have a nasty feeling that my experience is falling into the latter camp. I currently have a tray of what can only be described as dark syrup cooling in the kitchen, and unless a lot more cooling magic happens than I'm aware is possible, they are neither fluffy nor white. Sigh. Was it the veggie gelatin, the golden syrup, using the whisk attachment in the food processor, or just general incompetence on my part? I will update next time.

The business of this post is a blog event run by Another Outspoken Female, of Confessions of a Food Nazi. I visited her blog after Johanna of Gourmet Green Giraffe said she'd met her in Melbourne, and was tickled to discover that she is hosting a solstice cake event. I was tickled because as a household with a leaning towards old English traditions rather than practising (rather than cooking for) organised religion, I always call our winter fruit cake a solstice cake. I was tempted to reproduce one of our several favourites for this event, but couldn't quite bear to associate the wonder of our European summer solstice with a wintry cake.

Instead, I read up about foods which are associated with the summer solstice, and found that, unsurprisingly, they are about renewal and lightness. Oranges and lemons seem to feature in particular, as do mead-like herbs and spices (mmmn, mead, it's a long time since we've had any of that...). The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea of making a light cake - light in both texture and colour, to celebrate the light evenings and summer renewal we've got (sporadically) going on at the moment. I'd promised The Scientist a lemon drizzle cake to take to his next role-playing session, so with an occasion presenting itself this weekend, I turned to a long-bookmarked recipe from Nigella's How to be a Domestic Goddess.

The cake was a cinch to make, and is gloriously lemony. It only had one lemon in it, but both cake and syrup bring a real tang to the party. It was beautifully fluffy, too, though I will have to await a full tasting report from The Scientist's gaming buddies (who are rubbish test tasters, actually, as they like everything, which I suppose brings its own catering advantages). I had planned to decorate the cake with some dried pineapple to symbolise more roundness and renewal, but I just couldn't manage to get a good photo of the whole cake. So that's how I ended up with pieces accompanied with pineapple rather than integrating it. Unfortunately that means I have completely failed to fulfil AOF's cake requirements which were that it include dried fruits and spices (can I count lemon as a spice?). I'm sending it over anyway in the hope that she'll make allowances for those of us living in the northern hemisphere, who have clearly had their talent for following instructions addled by the long hours of daylight (see comments on marshmallow disaster above for further proof)

Lemon solstice cake 2008, aka Nigella's Lemon-Syrup Loaf Cake (from How to be a domestic goddess)


125g unsalted butter
175g caster sugar
2 large eggs
zest of 1 lemon
175g self-raising flour
pinch of salt
4 tbsp milk


juice of 1 and 1/2 lemons (about 4 tbsps)

100g icing sugar

23 x 13 x 7 cm loaf tin, buttered and lined, preheat the oven to 180 degrees or gas mark 4.


Cream the butter and sugar. Add eggs and lemon zest, beat in well. Add the sieved flour and salt, folding in gently but thoroughly. Add the milk, mix in

Spoon into loaf tin and put cake in oven for 45 mins, or until golden and a cake tester comes out clean

While it's cooking, dissolve the sugar in the lemon juice, over a low heat

As soon as you take the cake out, puncture holes all over the top and pour the syrup on to let it soak in. Make sure there are lots of holes in the top so it doesn't all go down the sides. Wait until it's completely cold to take it out of the tin.


Johanna said...

This is great! It is interesting to see what you would come up with for a summer solstice cake - and this looks light and bright just like one should be.

Good luck with the marshmallow - have never tried the stuff but have a favourite marshmallow slice that I have wondered about doing with veg marshmallow so would be interested to see how you go

Lysy said...

Glad you liked the cake! It's not looking good on the marshmallow front - I'm giving the second attempt a while to cool and will report back. All a learning experience, I suppose.

Holler said...

I am scared of making marshmallows, although I would love to have vegan ones. Let us see how they turned out :)

gay said...

Hi Lysy! We're partners in Taste and Create this month :) See `yah!

Lysy said...

Sigh - I've let you both down :(

I'm not suprised you're scared of marshmallows, Holler! I'm determined not to be put off though (rashly...?!)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link to our collection of recipe links. This lemon cake looks really luscious I may have to give it a try.


Another Outspoken Female said...

You are in and the full round up is now on line :)

docwitch said...

This looks delish! I'll have to give it a go when our southern summer rolls around. What a wonderful and appropriate entry for AOF's Solstice Cake event. I adore lemon cake.

Nora B. said...

This is a fantastic "summer-solstice" cake. I know that the names doesn't make sense, but you know what I mean. I love that dried pineapple, even if it didn't quite make it into the cake.


Lucy said...

Lysy, this is such a lovely, sunny cake - perfect for the summer solstice.

Am bookmarking right now so that, come December, I can make a far more appropriate cake to celebrate the season!