Lemon Drizzle Birthday Cake

Lemon drizzle birthday cake

This is a bit of a mash-up of recipes for lemon drizzle cake and a Swiss buttercream icing recipe from Smitten Kitchen that makes a wonderfully decadent layered birthday cake. The cake is intensely tangy and lemony, and the icing is rich and creamy without being overly sweet (and pipes on beautifully if you’re going for more decorative icing).

This is baked in two 20cm/8 inch square tins, but the same amount of batter will make one larger tray cake in a 30 x 23cm pan – just bake for an extra 5-10 minutes, and forget the icing for more of an afternoon tea style cake.


for the cake –
225g (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
225g (1 cup) caster sugar
4 eggs
zest of 2 lemons
225g (1 1/2 cups) self-raising flour (or 225g plain flour plus 3tsp baking powder)

for the drizzle –
juice of 2 lemons
75g (1/3 cup) caster sugar

for filling and Swiss buttercream icing –
jar of good lemon curd
170g (3/4 cup) caster sugar
3 large egg whites
275g (approx 1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 160C/140C fan forced. Grease and line two 20cm/8 inch square tins.

Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time until well incorporated, then add the lemon zest. With a spatula, fold in the flour. Split the mixture evenly between the two tins – it should be just over 2 cups of batter for each tin. Smooth the surface and bake for 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean and the edges are just coming away from the side. Leave to cool in the tins for a few minutes, then turn onto a cooling rack.

When you’ve put the cakes in the oven, mix together the lemon juice and sugar for the drizzle in a small bowl. Stir well a few times while the cakes are cooking. When the cakes are cooked, the sugar should have dissolved into the lemon juice.

When the cakes have cooled a little but are still warm, gradually spoon the lemon juice mixture evenly over the tops of the cakes. If the drizzle runs through the cakes, wait for them to cool a bit more before trying again. When the drizzle has been completely spooned on, leave the cakes to cool completely.

When you’re ready to fill and ice the cake, make the buttercream. Put some water into a small saucepan to simmer. Whisk the egg whites and sugar together into a big metal bowl over the saucepan of water. and place the bowl over a small saucepan of simmering water. Whisk until the sugar has completely dissolved – test by rubbing a little of the mixture between your fingers to see if you can feel sugar granules.

Using hand beaters (or having transferred the mixture to the bowl of a mixer), beat or whip until it turns white and approximately doubles in size. Add the vanilla essence. Add the butter a large chunk at a time, beating continuously as you do so. When you’ve finished adding the butter, continue beating until the icing is a thick, smooth, pipeable consistency.

Spread a thick layer of lemon curd on one of the cakes, then cover with a thick layer of buttercream. Place the other cake on top, then ice the whole cake with the remaining buttercream. If you want a precise finish, it may be easier to do a thin crumb layer, then refrigerate the cake for half an hour before covering it with a final layer of icing and any piping.

Brown Sugar Chocolate Cake

Brown Sugar Chocolate Cake

This recipe is from Dan Lepard’s Short & Sweet, and makes a wonderfully unassuming loaf cake with a rich chocolate flavour and molasses-like sweetness from the brown sugar. He notes that cakes with a high proportion of fat and sugar to flour are susceptible to sinking, which as you can see mine did. Lepard’s suggestions for avoiding this are to add a little more flour, or an extra tablespoon of egg white to the batter.

I was not particularly inclined to locate glycerine for one recipe, and instead replaced it with a mixture of oil and glucose syrup. I’m not sure if this was particularly effective or whether I could have just left it out – it didn’t seem to be a disastrous decision is all I can really say about it.


50ml cold water
25g cocoa
100ml boiling water
50g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
100g butter, softened
175g muscovado sugar (I used dark brown sugar)
125g condensed milk
2 medium eggs
2 teaspoons glycerine
200g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder


Line a large loaf tin with baking paper, and pre-heat your oven to 180C (or 160C fan-forced).

Mix the cocoa with cold water to make a paste, then stir through the boiling water. Add the chocolate and bicarb soda, and wait for the chocolate to melt.

While you’re waiting, in another bowl beat the butter, sugar, and condensed milk together until smooth, then beat in the eggs and glycerine (or freakish mixture of glucose and oil). Lepard suggests mixing together the flour and baking powder in a separate bowl, but I always ignore those instructions because having three bowls to wash up after making a cake seems excessive. Beat in half the flour mixture (or if you’re me, half the flour and all the baking powder) into the sugar mixture, followed by the chocolate mix, and then the remaining flour, until well beaten together.

Scrape the mixture into the loaf tin, and bake for around 45 minutes, until a skewer comes out mostly clean (“with only a few crumbs sticking to it”). If your cake has sunk, comfort yourself with the thought of the exciting pocket of icing the middle slices will contain. Leave to cool in the tin and peel off the baking paper when cold. I mean, if you’re incredibly cautious and don’t feel like eating cake right away. It’s not that delicate, and it survived being de-tinned after 20 minutes or so in my kitchen.

Lepard suggests a Treacle Chocolate Fudge Frosting, which you can find a recipe for here. I just made a plain chocolate butter icing, and the cake is wonderful enough to stand perfectly well on its own without icing should you be so inclined.

Recent baking

I was moved to another area at work occupied by rather more people than the previous area I was in (I do refer to it as Cubicle Death Farm, but only in my head and mostly in an affectionate tone), which has given me a chance to try some new cake recipes and leave cakes in the kitchen for general consumption. Occasionally with apologetic post-it notes about burned bits, raw bits, and lumps. Sifting is so dull.

1. Gingerbread snacking cake from Smitten Kitchen (pictured above) is delightful – a really easy recipe that you can put together in one saucepan and bakes in half an hour. Lovely combination of spices, and you can easily halve the sugar. I used treacle instead of molasses, and it still has a nice depth.

2. Chocolate banana bread from Smitten Kitchen – this isn’t overly sweet, just nice and darkly chocolatey. I like banana bread, but I think it is only improved with the addition of chocolate. As are so many things!

3. Ginger & parsnip cake from Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet – rather like a carrot cake, in that it uses grated raw parsnip, and a wonderfully spicy gingeriness. I’d like to try the alternate versions with turnips and swedes.

Spiced Apple Sauce Cake

I made this for my 31st birthday this year, because I had plenty of apple sauce, and I love cream cheese icing. You can tell two things about my baking methods from this photo -I can rarely be bothered sifting icing sugar, and I’m lazy about cutting lining paper for cake tins (so I just smoosh a sheet of paper in there without making corners, and it creates creases in the cake). This is a wonderfully moist and gently spiced cake – it lasts well, but should be kept in the fridge because of the icing.

(adapted from a Smitten Kitchen recipe)

cake ingredients:

2 cups plain flour
2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves
110 grams unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups unsweetened apple sauce

icing ingredients:
140 grams cream cheese, room temperature
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces or 42 grams) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup (4 ounces or 120 grams) confectioners sugar
1/2 (1 teaspoon) teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 180C. Butter and line a 9-inch square cake tin (carelessly or carefully, however you prefer).

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, bicarb soda, salt and spices until well combined. In a larger bowl, use electric beaters and mix the butter, brown sugar and vanilla until smooth and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each, then beat in the apple sauce. Using a low speed, beat in the flour until just combined.

Pour the mixture evenly into your cake tin, and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a skewer comes out cleanly. Cook the cake completely before icing.

While the cake is cooling, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla essence with electric beaters until fluffy. Beat in the sugar and cinnamon, and then spread your amazingly smooth (cough cough) icing over the cake. This amount of icing makes an American style thick icing layer, but the cake is quite solid and I think it goes well with a decent amount of icing. This could be my sweet tooth talking, of course.

Apple Afternoon Tea Cake

We’ve been getting lots of apples and pears in our box of local fruit and vegies from Food Connect, and I used some of the older ones to make this apple cake, which I adapted from a Smitten Kitchen recipe (yes, my favourite source of cake recipes online). I’ve halved the sugar in the original recipe, as two cups in a cake with fruit in it is just too sweet for me. The apples cook beautifully in the cake, covered in a cinnamon and sugar mixture, and this is a lovely moist cake perfect for afternoon tea.

6 apples, or a mixture of apples and pears
1 tablespoon cinnamon
5 tablespoons brown sugar
2 3/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil (I used rice bran oil)
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 180C, and lightly grease a springform pan. Chop the apples into chunks, and stir in a bowl with the cinnamon and sugar.

Stir together the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the oil, orange juice, sugar and vanilla. Stir the wet ingredients into the flour mixture. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing together well. Presumably there’s some reason for doing this, but I’m not sure what – it would be simpler to just whisk them into the wet ingredients.

Pour half the mixture into the springform pan, and spread it evenly. Gently spread half the apples over the cake mixture, and spoon the remaining mixture over the apples. Arrange the remaining apples across the top. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a skewer comes out clean. The cooked apples do make the inside of the cake a bit smoodgy, so keep that in mind when you’re testing.

Sour cream and chocolate chip cake

This is a lovely tea cake from Smitten Kitchen – I made it to celebrate our ukulele club’s first birthday. As you’ll see the batter has quite a bit of sugar, and is a nice light cake with a crunchy outing – a lovely cake to serve in squares for afternoon tea.

1/2 cup (113 grams) at room temperature
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
3 large eggs, separated
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups (approx 500 grams) sour cream
3 cups plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsps baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
2 cups dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking tin, and line the bottom with baking paper. Preheat the oven to 175C.

Separate the eggs. Beat the egg whites in a small bowl until stiff, and set aside. Put the butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat together until creamy. Beat in the egg yolks and vanilla.

If your name is Celia and you’re lazy, you dump in bits of the flour and sour cream alternately and stir the mixture all together until combined and quite stiff. If you’re a proper baker, sift the flour, baking powder and baking soda together in a small bowl, and then add it alternately to the creamed butter mixture along with the sour cream. And you’ll probably spill far less flour on the counter than I did. After the sour cream and flour is all stirred in, fold the stiff egg whites into the batter. Well, “fold” – it’s more a firm stirring, because the batter is quite stiff.

Mix together the cinnamon and additional sugar in a small bowl. Spread half the batter mixture into the baking pan – it’s easier if you blog it in in spoonfuls and then smooth it out. Sprinkle the batter with half the choc chips and half the cinnamon and sugar mixture. Spoon in the rest of the mixture and gently smooth over with a spatula. Sprinkle over the remaining cinnamon and sugar, and then the last of the chocolate chips. Gently press the chocolate chips a little into the batter to keep them in place.

Bake for about 45 -50 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean. Cut into chunks and enjoy – it’s gorgeous while still a little warm, with the melted chocolate layer in the middle.

Strawberry Cake

Strawberries are cheap and plentiful at the moment, and I loved the look of the Strawberry Summer Cake on Smitten Kitchen, with the juicy caramelised strawberries on top dribbling through the cake. I actually used a sugar substitute that my sister-in-law had given me (decanted into a container, so I have no idea what it was), with a couple of spoonfuls of the blue gum honey that Naomi bought us from Mapleton, because I wanted to get some of its beautifully caramel flavour in the cake. The original recipe sprinkles sugar over the strawberries before baking, but I drizzled some of the honey over them instead.

You’ve got to really cram the strawberries on top of the cake, even if it feels like there’s too many. They basically turn into jam – soft and gooey and melting into the cake. It’s delicious eaten while warm, and pretty easy to put together for morning or afternoon tea.

6 tblsp butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 punnets of strawberries, cut in half
2 tbsps of honey or sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 180C, and grease a fairly deep pie dish or cake tin. I used a square pyrex dish.

If you’re not lazy, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. (If you’re me, you’ll dump them separately into the wet mix at the end). In a large bowl, use electric beaters to beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Mix in the egg, milk and vanilla until just combined, then gradually do the same with the dry mixture (or the flour, baking powder and salt) until it’s just mixed.

Pour the mixture into the pie dish. Arrange the strawberries on the top of the cake, pushing them a little into the mixture and cramming them closely together. Sprinkle them with sugar, or drizzle with honey.

Bake the cake for 10 minutes, and then reduce the temperature to 160C and bake for about an hour, until a skewer comes out clean (of the cake mixture, not the gooey strawberries).

Raisin and Banana Bread

This recipe is adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Jacked-Up Banana Bread, with the addition of some rum-soaked raisins. I had a heap of bananas that were going nice and speckledly (perfect for banana bread), and I wanted to try something different to my usual Nigella Lawson recipe. But I love the addition of dried fruit cooked with rum to my usual recipe, so decided to include it here. It’s such an easy recipe to whip up, and makes a beautifully moist banana bread. It’s a little intense with the rum soaked raisins – I think the amount of sugar and the rum as well is a bit much, and I will probably reduce the sugar next time.

4 ripe bananas, mashed
90 grams melted butter
3/4 to 1 cup brown sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
1 1/2 cup of flour
1 cup raisins
Slosh of rum or bourbon

Preheat the oven to 175C. Put the raisins in a small saucepan, and slosh in a bit of rum. Heat up until the rum is bubbling and mostly absorbed by the raisins. Set aside.

Mix together the melted butter and mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the sugar, egg and vanilla, and then the spices. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt and stir into the mixture. Finally, stir in the flour, and then the raisin and rum mixture, until well blended.

Pour the mixture into a greased loaf tin, and bake for about 50 – 60 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean. Cool and serve in generous slices.

On an island

A few weeks ago, we went boating for my sister in law’s birthday – putting down the Pumicestone Passage and anchoring (ie. beaching the boats, and hurling the anchors onto the sand – does that count as anchoring?) on a little beach on Bribie Island.

There was fishing:

And a grand total catch of one flathead, which was promptly barbecued and eaten. I also made a birthday cake – a Chai Cake with Honey & Ginger Cream. A three layer cake, as ever since making the wedding cake I can’t seem to move away from triple layer cakes for celebrations. It was a nice cake, but it didn’t blow my mind – I thought the honey flavour in the icing was a little strong, and the cake itself was the teensiest bit dry. The chai spices are gorgeous though, and it held up well, despite being transported on a boat and cut on a beach.

The excitement of boating and birthday cake was topped off by the discovery of a horse skeleton.

Isn’t that the most picturesque horse skeleton you ever saw? I presume that there are some wild horses roaming over Bribie Island. It seems more likely than someone galloping romantically down to the shore, having their horse expire under them, and shrugging to themselves, “Oh well – guess I’ll have to walk home.” But I suppose anything’s possible.

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Cake

A slightly altered version of Smitten Kitchen’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake, for Kirsty’s birthday.

I cooked it in three 8-inch square pans, rather than 8-inch rounds (because I’m always happy to find new uses for the wedding cake pans.) It is a very soft cake and definitely requires freezing before constructing and icing, but I didn’t have any problems with it breaking or sinking.

As I was taking the cake to work, I decided the chocoate peanut-butter glaze was too difficult. Instead, I iced the cake with the peanut butter frosting (a gloriously rich concotion of cream cheese, butter, icing sugar and peanut butter), and decorated it with chocolate buttons. Incredibly rich, but a beautiful combination of flavours (unless you’re strongly opposed to the idea of chocolate and peanut butter). It didn’t suffer from the absence of the chocolate glaze – in fact, the cake is so rich I think the addition of another layer of chocolate would have been a bit too much.