Luscious, fragrant lemon and coconut bliss…
A lemon cake wouldn’t be my first choice of bake; if I’m out and having cake, I’m having big cake with big flavours – chocolate, carrot or coffee – something that could win a fight if it picked one. I guess this demonstrates my lack of subtlety in life; nevertheless I do look at the pretty lemon drizzles or Victoria sponges and tell myself I’ll try them another day. This recipe wasn’t on my initial list to try from At My Table, but, faced with a drizzly morning and my mother-in-law coming over to mind the boys later, it felt like a baking day and I found myself looking around the kitchen for inspiration. Two lemons and a can of coconut milk later and lemon tendercake it was. I liked the sound of this cake as verging on dessert; I take issue with cake masquerading as dessert; to me unless it’s not a pudding unless it’s warm or has some kind of sauce or custard. I will, however, accept a slice of cake about an hour after dessert – I’m gracious that way.
So far most recipes I’ve cooked from this book have been fuss-free, which is refreshing and to me, speaks volumes about the authenticity of the At My Table theme. With little people around and time more precious than ever, my tolerance for slaving in the kitchen rather than pottering or unwinding with some low maintenance cooking is long gone. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to make an effort; I just want more time for other things and recipes that work for me instead of me for them.
This recipe is no departure from the cosy, calming kitchen activity I’ve enjoyed with At My Table so far. Weigh out some wet ingredients, some dry, zest two lemons and combine. The most effort you will expend is greasing and lining the springform tin. With the sponge in the oven (yes, it was that easy), I tumble some blueberries into a small pan with sugar, lemon juice and water and let them bubble while I wash up the bowls. The trickiest part of the whole lemon tendercake escapade for me was slaking the cornflour in water to add to the blueberry compote.
I’m not quite sure where it went wrong, but my slake was quite sticky and when I added it to the fruit a few white lumps formed, which I picked out at the end. The yoghurt in our fridge looked a little too *ahem* cultured, so once the golden sponge was out of the oven I nipped out for a replacement. I could only find vanilla yoghurt, so my topping was slightly freestyled – instead of coconut yoghurt with vanilla and icing sugar added it was the reverse – vanilla yoghurt with some coconut cream added. As I wasn’t planning to eat the whole cake the same day, I decided not to top it straight away and instead keep it plain and unadorned, but serve it with the yoghurt and compote instead.
This cake definitely lives up to its name with no disappointment. While reading the recipe before I started (learning as I get older), I wondered how the lack of eggs would affect the texture of the sponge and worried it might be a bit claggy or heavy. I needn’t have – the crumb is delicate and the lemon and coconut combination produces a beautifully subtle cake. It is light but with a creamy feel which is just lovely. What takes it to another level is the addition of the yoghurt and compote. The tangy sweetness of the blueberries is sliced in two by the cold topping which is fresh but not overpowering at all. I had a little trouble coaxing the sponge out of the tin, which made for a few tense moments where I thought it might break in two so I would say to be generous when you oil it. This is an unassuming bake, but a simple, impressive and elegant one. In a bid to absolve myself of guilt for doing lemon cakes the world over a disservice, I went into the china cabinet and served it to myself in a little ceremony on a tea set my grandmother gave me when I got married, albeit with coffee in my teacup. I feel she would have liked a lot of things about it; not least the child with a Duplo box on his head saying, “Robot, robot, robot,” doing laps of the kitchen in the background of my refined moment.