Lemon Cake, while lemon is not people’s first thought when it comes to flavouring cakes, do give this a try, you will be so glad you did. In Mrs. Beeton’s book she includes a lot of lemon dishes, they were obviously a great Victorian favourite in the warmer months, the lemons imparting a wonderful tangy freshness, and today the smell and taste of this lemon cake recipe evokes that taking tea in summer feeling … she gives recipes for the following lemon inspired dishes: lemon biscuits, lemon blancmange, lemon brandy, lemon cake, etc.
Mrs. Beeton tells us the lemon comes with the recommendations of the classical world, as an antidote to poison, she also informs her readers that modern sailors use them to cure scurvy – and, in terms of buying lemons, she ‘esteems’ the one’s from Spain, as being the best to use in recipes. This is the recipe we have chosen from her ‘lemon range’ as we fully feel it is worth baking, and if you happen to eat it with a cup of tea, sitting outside in the garden, watching the world go by, we will not blame you …
Note: You can fully eat the lemon cake as it is, however, Mrs. Beeton ends her recipe for Lemon Cake by suggesting that a little creamed butter would improve the cake, this is true, and you can do so, but we also feel that her Lemon Brandy is also a wonderful addition, with it fully enhancing the cake (she recommends this brandy as a flavouring); pour it over the lemon cake to soak in when the cake has cooled a little from cooking.
Mrs. Beeton’s Original 1861 Recipes
1764. INGREDIENTS – 10 eggs, 3 tablespoonfuls of orange-flower water, 3/4 lb. of pounded loaf sugar, 1 lemon, 3/4 lb. of flour
Mode.—Separate the whites from the yolks of the eggs whisk the former to a stiff froth; add the orange-flower water, the sugar, grated lemon-rind, and mix these ingredients well together. Then beat the yolks of the eggs, and add them, with the lemon-juice, to the whites, &c.; dredge in the flour gradually; keep beating the mixture well; put it into a buttered mould, and bake the cake about an hour, or rather longer. The addition of a little butter, beaten to a cream, we think, would improve this cake.
460. INGREDIENTS – 1 pint of brandy, the rind of two small lemons, 2 oz. of loaf-sugar, 1/4 pint of water.
Mode.—Peel the lemons rather thin, taking care to have none of the white pith. Put the rinds into a bottle with the brandy, and let them infuse for 24 hours, when they should be strained. Now boil the sugar with the water for a few minutes, skim it, and, when cold, add it to the brandy. A dessertspoonful of this will be found an excellent flavouring for boiled custards.
Lemon Cake Recipe
- 10 eggs, separated
- 3 tbsp orange-flower water (good stockists still sell it)
- 340g sugar
- 1 large un-waxed lemon, juiced and zested
- 340g plain flour
Preheat an oven to 190C
In two bowls separate the egg whites (larger bowl) and yolk (small bowl). Whisk the egg whites into peaks, then mix in the orange-flower water, sugar, and lemon zest. Beat the egg yolks and add them, along with the lemon juice, to the whites. Fold in the flour, beating well. Spread the batter into a deep greased baking tin and bake for just over an hour or so. Push a metal skewer into the heart of the lemon cake and pull it out, if it is clean and hot then the cake is ready. If the top of the lemon cake begins to brown too quickly then cover with foil for the remaining baking time. You want it a deep golden brown.
Optional: You can now take Mrs. Beeton’s advice and enhance the lemon cake by creaming a little butter, with icing sugar, and a little lemon juice to a firm, but spreadable paste, and spread it over the top of the cake when cooled and decorate with some lemon zest sprinkled over the top … or pour over some of her lemon brandy to soak in to the cake when it has cooled but is still warm (see recipe below).
Mrs. Beeton’s Lemon Brandy Recipe:
- 1 small Lemon: zest and Juice (un-waxed Lemon)
- 50ml of Brandy
- 150 ml of water
- 150g of sugar
First combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and add the zest and juice of the lemon. Cook until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes, take off the heat and add in the brandy, stirring let it cool until just warm. You will not need all of it, and the syrup will keep for up to 2 weeks if refrigerated in an airtight container. Pour the lemon brandy over the lemon cake once both are cooled, but still warm, and let it soak in.