And so, Lent has begun. This year I lengthily considered my options – previously I have given up junk food but, on reflection, I don’t eat junk food so it’s not that great a sacrifice. Crisps and fizzy drinks never strike my fancy… whereas sugar on the other hand… So, naturally, I came to the conclusion I should probably remove sugar from my diet for the next forty days. I then pictured myself kicking and screaming, gagged and bound as fresh cakes and pastries flaunt themselves at me. Therefore, of course, there’s a loophole. Which explains the photos of cake. I will give up sugar and any product that contains it in unhealthy quantities, so no juice, Ketchup (sob), or coffee shop brownies, but I can have all these foods only if I make them from scratch myself. Thus, no ban, no restrictions that make me shake my fist at these remaining thirty-five days, or break my diet within a matter of hours, just a little extra legwork to get what I really want.
Understandably, I’ve been craving sugar all week. Finally I baked a cake – well, first I baked a soufflé which was a catastrophic disaster, mmm delicious dense and crumbly chocolate soufflé – so I baked lemon cake to restore my confidence. Inspired by Honey & Co’s lemon and elderflower cake I tweaked a few of the ingredients – elderflower seeming too summery as flurries of snow drifted down over Manchester the other day, and I bundled myself against the vicious hail hammering my face and arms. Although, the swirls of mascarpone look like miniature molten snowballs so it all ties together rather neatly.
Lemon drizzle cake is a national favourite so why desecrate something sacred with mascarpone? This mild soft cheese, which Rachel Roddy refers to as ‘dairy velvet’, is an ideal topping for a tender carrot cake, swirled with cream and orange zest, as it simply needs a citrus tang to bring its sour savouriness to the fore. I’ve discovered it perfectly complements the fresh lemony flavour of this sponge, and softens those bites of sharp juiciness from the drizzle. And, somehow, the cake seems even lighter with its thick velvety splodges adorning it’s head, like a crown of spiky hair. Each bite has the texture of marshmallow, the moussey icing mirroring the moist tender crumb. The flakes of toasted almond are required simply to give you something to chew.
I ate a slice, then I needed to go back and tidy the edges a little. Lent will prove to be a very happy time, I think. After all, the coffee shop brownies can wait, I have lemon drizzle cake and fluffy mascarpone. I love loopholes.
Lemon and almond drizzle cake with mascarpone
Adapted from Fay Ripley’s recipe
200g softened butter
200g caster sugar
50g plain flour
125g ground almonds
Zest of 2 lemons
70g caster sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
4 tbsp icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Toasted flaked almonds
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line the base of a round 20cm cake tin with baking parchment and grease the sides with butter.
- Tip your softened butter and the sugar into a mixing bowl and beat together with an electric whisk until soft, pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated.
- Add the flour, ground almonds and lemon zest and gently fold together. Tip into the prepared tin and bake for 30-40 minutes.
- Meanwhile make the drizzle by mixing together the lemon juice and sugar.
- Once the cake is golden brown, springy in the centre and a skewer inserted into the sponge comes away clean it is ready. While it is hot, pierce the sponge all over its surface with a skewer or fork and spoon over the drizzle, spreading it all over the cake. Leave to cool in the tin.
- Remove from the tin once cold. In a bowl beat together the icing ingredients until smooth then either spread or pipe splodges over the cake. Garnish with some toasted flaked almonds. Dig in.