Lemony Birthday Cake Treat

What better treat can a girl have for her birthday than a home made lemon cake? I did consider making a chocolate one just for a minute, but decided it was far too hot, but a nice tangy lemon cake would but just perfect.
You wold think that it would be easy enough to find a recipe for a Lemon cake, but I checked all the usuals – Marry Berry, Delia, Paul Hollywood, even Gordon Ramsey, but they were all either too bland or too fancy (three guesses who was the fancy one J)

So I went with my all-time favourite – Hummingbird Bakery cookbook. This is a book I keep coming back over and over, it has such a good collection of recipes, something for every mood and occasion, and the recipes are very easy to follow. I do play with the recipes, of course, as I find Hummingbird US recipes way too sweet, and I have had a couple of duds from the book, but its all part of a learning baking cycle.

Lemon and Poppyseed Cake
Adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

100g unsalted butter, softened
200g caster sugar
Grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
50g poppy seeds
170g milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
240g flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
3 egg whites
Lemon syrup
Juice of 1 lemon
50g caster sugar
Lemon glaze (optional)
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
200g icing sugar

Pre-heat the oven to 160C (fan  oven)

Place butter, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and poppyseeds in a large bowl and beat is all together using a handheld electric whisk, until the mixture looks light and fluffy.

Add milk and vanilla essence and carry on beating - if the mixture is looking a bit curdled, that means you are doing it right – it’s the lemon juice reacting with the butter, keep at it.

Sift in flour – straight into the same bowl, add baking powder and salt. Beat for a couple of minutes until the flour is all mixed in.

In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites to hard peaks and add them to the cake mixture. Mix in the egg whites using a spoon – DO NOT use a whisk, you want to retain as many of the lovely egg white bubbles as possible. I find the best way of mixing egg whites in cake batter is by drawing a figure of “8” in the batter, turning the spoon over and rotating the bowl as you go. If this doesn’t make sense, just try to mix distribute the egg whites through the batter, disturbing as little of egg white bubbles as you can.

The book recommends you bake the cake in a ring mould. I did have one in the kitchen that I haven’t used yet, but I think it would work just as well as a regular cake shape. Line the mould with baking paper and pour in cake batter. My batter was quite thick, and I decided to stick with that consistency, as all the butter and egg whites would release additional liquids later.

Bake for 20 minutes, turn the heat up to 180C and bake for further 10-15 minutes, until the cake is starting to brown on top and feels spongy to touch.

While the cake is baking, start on the syrup – place 100ml of water, juice and sugar in a small pot, bring it to boil and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the liquid has reduced by half. No need to stir it, just give the pot a little shake once in a while.

Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, turn it out on a wire rack placed over a baking tray (to catch any syrup drops), remove all baking paper.

Pour hot syrup all over the cake and leave to soak in. I normally bake this cake in the evening, and then leave it to soak overnight, to absorb all the lemony goodness.   

Next morning whisk lemon juice, lemon zest and icing sugar together to make lemon glaze – if you decide to make it. Pour the glaze over the cake, leave for about an hour to set.
Personally I am not 100% sold on the glaze – it does add a bit of extra lemon tang to the cake, but also gives is some extra sweetness I am not all that keen on.

I must say, I did wonder what a cake without egg yolks would be like – a first for me – but I must say,  I am super pleased with it. It’s a wonderfully fluffy and moist at the same time with a great crumb. It also keeps exceptionally well – I made it on Sunday evening and tonight, Thursday night, its still moist and tasty. Although I am a bit worried about the state of our household, that any cake can survive at our house for so long J
I didn't have the time to get a shot of the cake in its full glory, so just posting a photo from the book. Just a quick note, I reduced the amount of icing sugar in my recipe, so my glaze was more transparent than in the picture below


  1. This looks delicious! I love poppy seed cake, so will have to give this one a try. I always try to reduce the amount of sugar in recipes also. Love your cake plate!


  2. YUM :))) I love lemon cake... I'll just pretend it's someone's birthday and stuff the whole thing in my face... that's fine right? :) x


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