8 November 2012

Birthday Baking

So, my Father has been dreading today, as it is his birthday. He used some of his annual leave to take the day off, but not before his colleagues found out and redecorated his desk yesterday with banners and balloons. It also meant that I spent the afternoon fulfilling the ritual of baking a birthday cake. I had a little difficulty on the recipe as it was so hard to find a flavour that hadn’t been done before; both coffee and walnut cake, and carrot cake have been all but banned for my Dad’s autumnal birthday by my Mother because they’ve been used so often. Chocolate cake, or anything that requires lots of icing are too sweet and rich for Dad’s tastes too.

So I found myself, straight out of school without any recipes in the middle of Waitrose. I’d of liked to have baked a honey and nut cake, or Nigella’s Autumnal Birthday Cake, but due to the copious amounts of honey and maple syrup required in each cake respectively, I’d have found myself creating a very expensive bit of baking for just three people.
In the end, I went for a lemon and pistachio cake, which is possibly a little summery on hindsight, but it will make a light change to all the richer wintery food. 

At first I adapted a cupcake recipe that I’d written down, but it turned out rather stodgy, so I have listed my lemon sponge, which is a lovely, light cake. If you have time, beat the whites and the yolks of the eggs separately, but lightly, to bring more air into the mix. Avoid over-beating once the flour is added or the cake will become heavy.

Lemon and Pistachio Cake
  • 225g (8 oz) butter, softened
  • 225g (8 oz) caster sugar
  • Zest 2 lemons
  • 1-2 tsp lemon curd 
  • 4 large free-range/organic eggs
  • 225g (8 oz) S.R flour (OR: 200g flour with 25g cornflour)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp chopped pistachios
  • For the filling: either 4 tbsp lemon curd;
  • OR: lemon butter cream: 125g (8oz) butter, softened; 400g (14oz) icing sugar; juice of one lemon
  • Optional: another tbsp chopped pistachios

  • Basic lemon icing: juice of 1/2 lemon mixed with 100-150g icing sugar.
Firstly preheat the oven to 180 C, Gas mark 4.
Cream the butter and sugar together until pale in colour and fluffy. Add the lemon zest and lemon curd with one egg (or a little of the beaten white and yolk mix) at a time. Mix in a spoonful of flour between each egg addition to stabilize the egg so that the mix doesn't curdle.
Gently fold in the rest of the flour, the baking powder and the chopped pistachios. The mix should have a fairly soft dropping consistency; if it seems a little thick, fold in a tablespoon or two of milk.

 Pour evenly into two greased and lined cake tins. I brushed a little melted butter over my tins, and the cakes came out without any effort. Smooth out a little with a spatula, but avoid being over-zealous to keep the cake light and airy. Bake for around 25 minutes.
 After baking, allow the cakes to cool. If using lemon curd as a filling, warm the curd slightly in the microwave to loosen it before drizzling over the base sponge. Sprinkle over the chopped pistachios.
If using the lemon butter cream, beat together the butter in a bowl until creamy and fluffy. Gradually tip in the icing sugar, beating for a good 5 minutes to make it really light. Add in the lemon juice, continuing to beat the butter cream.
 For the topping whisk the lemon juice and icing together, using a non electric whisk -less mess! Add the icing slowly until you've got a thick liquid. Pour over the cake, and scatter over the pistachios.

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