Sunday 24 June 2012

Lemon drizzle cake with sunken chocolate chunks

Summer is here.  Woo hoo, slap on the factor 50, light up the barbeque and let's get down to the beach!  Okay, so this is the UK, not Oz, and according to forecasters, this June could be one of the wettest for 100 years, so perhaps we shouldn't get too excited about topping up our tans.  Nonetheless, as I write this, it is actually a lovely, sunny Sunday afternoon.  As such, I have decided to make hay while the sun (quite literally) shines and bake something summery.

During my university days, I lived in Nice in the south of France for a year.  In the summer, I remember walking around the city, marvelling at how lucky people were to have lemon trees growing in their gardens, sprouting beautiful bright yellow citrus fruits which brightened up every garden they were in.  There are so many lemons grown in the region that there is even an annual lemon festival in the French Riviera, where lemons are used to make giant awe-inspiring sculptures of people, cars, dragons, castles, you name it.  Perhaps because of this time spent in the gloriously sunny Cote D’Azur, when it comes to food, for me lemons are synonymous with sunshine and summer, and so today is the perfect day for my lemon drizzle loaf cake.

Now, if you read this blog regularly, you will know that when baking with oranges or lemons, I find it hard to resist adding chocolate into the mix.  This cake is no exception.  I’m sorry, I can’t help myself, especially given the chunks all slowly sink to the bottom during baking, so that when you eat the cake, you get the lovely light lemony freshness at first, followed by the rich, deep semi-molten chocolateyness*! If you’re not quite as chocolate-obsessed as me (admittedly most people probably aren’t.  I pity the fools!), the chocolate chunks can easily be left out.

If you have the willpower, leave this cake to rest a day or two before eating to allow the drizzle to seep in fully and dampen every crumb - it will taste even yummier.

*If you do want to use chocolate, I implore you not to use the overly sweet chocolate chips you can buy in the baking section of supermarkets.  I know it’s more work to buy a good quality bar of chocolate and chop it into chunks, but trust me, the end result is worth it.  Besides, if you’re chopping the chocolate yourself, remember that you can make the chunks as large as you please!

Yields approximately 10 slices

For the cake:
  • 225g unsalted butter or Stork, softened to room temperature
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs, very lightly beaten in a bowl
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
  • 150g dark chocolate (around 40% cocoa.  I use Bourneville), chopped into chunks
For the drizzle:
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 85g caster sugar or golden granulated or icing sugar
Pre-heat oven to 180C (or 160C for a fan oven) and line a loaf tin (I use a 21 x 8cm tin) with greaseproof paper.

Vigorously beat together the butter and sugar until pale and creamy (use a K-beater if using a freestanding mixer), then add the lightly beaten eggs, slowly mixing through.
Sift the flour and baking powder together three times, before adding a third to the batter.  Once incorporated, add another third, slowly beat in again and then add the remaining third.

Once all the flour is incorporated, add the lemon zest and mix until well combined.  If using chocolate, add and stir through before spooning the mixture into your tin.  Level the top with a spoon or spatula.
Bake at 180C (160C fan) for 5 mins, then reduce temperature to 160C (140C fan) and bake for another 60-75 minutes until a thin skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

While the cake is cooling in its tin, mix together the lemon juice and sugar to make the drizzle.  If you don’t want the drizzle to be crunchy, gently heat it in a saucepan until the sugar has dissolved in the lemon juice.  Prick the warm cake all over with a skewer or fork, then pour over the drizzle - the juice will sink in and the sugar will form a lovely, crisp topping.
Leave in the tin until completely cool, then remove and serve.