Whilst desserts and afternoon bakes come to my mind endlessly, it’s not long before I have to rack my brain to think of an inspiring savoury course for dinner. When I work as a private chef, my menus are always based around the dessert course. They are what come to me first and are always the longest section of my ‘menu ideas’ list that I send to clients. Alongside a pavlova and crème brulees, this dish is one of my go-to desserts when I am on a private cooking job. I have cooked a lemon and almond cake in Norfolk, Wales, the South of France and the Scilly Isles. Always for very different people, but it always goes down well. It also often appeals to people without too much of a sweet tooth (my fear) but still feels like enough of a treat for sugar addicts like me.
I’ve made this in so many places because it is so versatile. Not only can you mix up the fruit depending where and when you are baking – berries in an English summer, stewed apricots in Avignon – but the cake is also tough enough to survive all manner of tin shapes and ovens. I have served this straight out of terracotta dishes like a pudding, cut into squat slices from a loaf tin for picnics or elegantly plated up with quenelles of the crème fraiche for stylish desserts. If you can resist, it also keeps well and will happily sit in a tin for a few days with the ground almonds keeping it moist.
Lemon and almond cake
- 200g soft butter
- 200g golden caster sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 50g plain flour
- 125g ground almonds
- zest of 2 lemons
Preheat the oven to 180’C. Line a 20-22cm round cake tin, or a 22cm square tin with baking parchment.
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy using an electric hand whisk or wooden spoon. Slowly beat in the eggs, one at a time. When the eggs are fully incorporated, fold in the flour, then the almonds and lemon zest.
Scrape the mixture into the tin and tap the sides to release any air bubbles. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the sponge is lightly golden-brown, coming away from the sides of the tin and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.