Saturday, January 12, 2008

Lemon & Poppy Seed Cake

Like another cake-loving friend of mine, I have, over the years, learned to appreciate the joys of the lemon. In fact, until several years ago, you would have been hard-pressed to get me to choose anything lemony when it came to dessert. For me, it had always been chocolate or bust.

I can't tell you exactly when I came to see (or taste) lemon in a different light. Perhaps it was in the curds I discovered when Marmalade Pantry first introduced the Harvey Nics range in what must have been around the year 2000. Whatever the case, I've since come to love a good lemony cake, cookie, tart or slice.

This Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake satisfies both C and I in the sense that he likes cakes at their plainest while I like them with a bit of variety and lots of dressing up. From The Cake Book, the secret to this tender, buttery, moist cake is in creaming the butter and sugar for four minutes, until it becomes a pale, fluffy shade of marigold. Brushing a lemon syrup over the cake as it cools also adds to its wonderful moistness and lemony-ness.

This is a great tea cake, which C can enjoy with his post-meal coffee. I, on the other hand, need a bit more than that, so to up the lusciousness and lemony-ness, I eat it with with a healthy spoonful of lemon curd on the side. For a more "complex" dessert, I turned to some leftover buttermilk ice cream which I had made a week ago, which also made for a lovely complement with its tangy and delicate taste.

Lemon & Poppy Seed Cake
(Adapted from The Cake Book by Tish Boyle)

200g sifted cake flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp poppy seeds
227g unsalted butter, softened
240g granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tbsp lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3cup heavy cream

For the syrup:
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 150 degrees C. Grease the bottom and sides of a loaf tin and dust with flour.
2. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Add the poppy seeds and whisk to combine.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter with a paddle attachment till it is very creamy, about 2 mins.
4. Add the sugar and beat at medium-high speed until very light, about 4 mins.
5. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
6. Beat in the lemon zest and vanilla extract.
7. Add the flour at low speed in three additions, alternating it with the cream in two additions. Mix only until the flour is incorporated.
8. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
9. Bake for about an hour or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
10. Remove the pan from the oven and let it cool on a wire rack for 10 mins.
11. While the cake is cooling, make the syrup.
12. Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat till the sugar dissolves.
13. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice.
14. Poke the cake all over at 1-inch intervals with a bamboo skewer and then brush it with half the lemon syrup.
15. Let the cake stand for 5 mins, then invert the cake onto the wire rack and poke the bottom all over with the skewer.
16. Brush the bottom and sides of the cake with the remaining syrup.
17. Turn the cake upright on the rack and let cool completely.

Friday, January 04, 2008

A Madcap Round-up of the Last Two Months

Ok, so that didn't really happen. But it is a pretty apt depiction of how many oysters went down at Christmastime. (The above is part of a lovely comic strip that C put together for me)

And—better late than never—compliments of the season and a very happy New Year to you all. It's been a whirlwind the last two months — between my ailing father and the year-end workload, we also moved house...all at the same time. It's amazing I'm still sane.

Somewhere in the middle of it all, I even managed to bake two cakes for my friend's gorgeous little girl who turned one. And what a lucky little lady she was — she had not one, but two parties, which of course entailed two cakes. And she didn't get to bed till the wee hours of the morning. Talk about party animal in training.

In late-November last year, this little crazy-looking bundle of blue eyes and way-too-big ears appeared at C's family's doorstep. Of course he took it back to our little apartment and after several arguments over whether to keep him (he'll grow too big! we already have a dog. We have two cats too!), we decided to keep him.

Fast forward 10 months later and little Ralphie is now not so little — and our apartment was still the same size. So we decided it was time for a move to a bigger place with some semblance of a garden — not just so Ralphie and Oxford would have more space to run about, but also for my sanity.

I am pleased to report that everyone survived the move. The cats are happier, the dogs (well, not so much since they are no longer allowed near our bedroom), and the humans don't have to worry about rushing home to ensure the dogs get let out to have a tinkle in the bushes.

So from our family to yours, Happy New Year. We hope yours is filled with blessings, peace and joy. And yes, part of this year's resolution is to post on this blog more regularly.