Saturday, March 26, 2011

the particular happiness of eating lemon cake

Apart from new titles from favourite authors, the appeal of a book to you may be in its cover.  Or perhaps a good review finds you searching out a particular title.  Or a recommendation from a friend.

Lately, I’ve noticed a tendency for quirky book titles.  Titles that make you stop and think I wonder what that is about?  Or perhaps, how on earth did they come by that title?  Something unusual enough to make you pick up the book and leaf through it.

I’m thinking…


A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian
The Unbearable Lightness of Scones
The Elegance of the Hedgehog
Started Early, took my Dog

But I’m totally smitten by the title The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, written by Aimee Bender. 

I wonder what could possibly be sad about a lemon cake?  Nothing that a good slice of it with a dollop of Greek yogurt (oh, a marriage made in heaven!) couldn’t cure, I’m sure.  Which brings me to this lovely, luscious lemon cake.  Given to me by a former work colleague, the recipe is originally from someone known only as Ann and featured in the Waikato Times.  Well Ann, thank you.  I have been making this cake since I got the recipe – I think it’s the only lemon cake that I have made in all those years. 
Words of advice from the Waikato Times “don’t mess with the tried and true”.  In other words, follow the recipe as stated – it is a particularly perfect lemon cake.
Some days, I can’t bear to hear the noise of my cake mixer in the kitchen (I suspect there are much quieter ones out there (Kitchen Aid anyone?), but mine has been around a while, and in the quiet stillness of a Saturday morning with all its anticipation of the weekend ahead, I choose to beat the mixture by hand.  If I had to really cream it, you would find me reaching for the cake mixer but it only requires beating the butter and sugar until well combined.  And, if you find the odd male wandering into the kitchen by chance, then handing them the bowl and wooden spoon for a particular male spin on it makes the job a little easier for you.
As for the book, I’m so intrigued I have placed an advance order for the paperback.  I only hope the book is as good as the lemon cake.  If anyone out there has read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it (but no plot spoilers for me, please!).

lemon cake
Grated rind of 2 medium to large lemons
140g butter, softened, but not melted
3 eggs (size 7 stated but I use what’s on hand)
1 ½ cups caster sugar
¾ cup self-raising flour
¾ cup plain flour
1/3 cup trim milk
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup extra caster sugar
¼ cup lemon juice extra

Pre-heat oven to 190ºC fan-bake.

Lightly grease or spray a 20cm round cake tin and line the bottom with baking paper.

Beat softened butter, caster sugar and rind together by hand in a large bowl with a wooden spoon.  The mixture does not have to be thoroughly creamed, just beaten until very well combined. 

Whisk the eggs together in a bowl, then stir into the mixture.

Sift the self-raising flour and plain flour together and fold in to the mixture.

Blend together the milk and first measure of lemon juice and fold in to combine.

Transfer the mixture to the prepared tin and bake for about 50 minutes until cake is golden and a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.  If the cake is browning too much on top during cooking time, place some tin foil loosely over the top.

While the cake is baking, combine the extra measures of caster sugar and lemon juice.  As soon as the cake is ready and comes out of the oven, pour the extra sugar and lemon juice mixture spoonful by spoonful over the hot cake and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes in the tin.  (You might just want to place a tray or plate under this in case your tin leaks.)

Place on a cake rack to cool completely.

Serve with Greek yogurt or a dollop of cream.


  1. The cake sounds delicious! And I've been wanting to read that book for a while.

  2. What an intriguing title! I adore lemons and will eat or read anything with lemon in the title, so I know for sure I would like both the cake and the book! Your cake looks scrumptious!

  3. An interesting sounding book. Gorgeous lemon cake. I make a similar one by David Herbert. I love the crunchy topping.