So, when I instituted Monday Cake Day, I wasn’t thinking about the fact that sometimes, I wouldn’t want to come home on a Monday and make a cake. I mean, yes, baking a cake can be an incredibly cathartic experience, and eating a cake can be a ridiculously delicious experience, but… sometimes a Monday is a Monday is a Monday. A Monday where it takes all you’ve got just to get some form of dinner on the table, whatever that might be.
Wait, now, just wait. You didn’t think I was going to back out, did you? No way! If I say Monday is going to be Cake Day around here, you can safely bet that there will be cake in the house. It might not be a fancy cake, or an ooey-gooey-caramelly cake, but there will be cake. I turned to this Madeira Cake because I remember it as being so exceptionally simple that the outstanding finished product was surprising. Perfect for this lazy girl, right?
Turns out I didn’t remember this recipe quite right. Because I had forgotten something crucial- this cake recipe calls for my most hated baking ingredient (dun, dun, dun)… self-rising flour. Even I, who have more ridiculously obscure ingredients in my cupboards than I care to count, think that self-rising flour is the most insanely stupid ingredient you can keep around the house. Newsflash: it’s flour with baking soda and salt in it. Pointless. To make matters worse, this recipe called for both self-rising flour and all-purpose flour. Gahhhhh!!! Needless to say, what I had envisioned as the most laid-back, simplest cake making experience ever, turned into a mental tirade against the absurdities of pointless ingredients and needlessly complicated recipes. In my indignant, self-righteous state, I was good for nothing. Nothing except muttering under my breath, re-writing this recipe, and carrying on.
Well, I’m happy to tell you that my pain is your gain. The changes I made to the recipe left the final product completely intact, as wonderfully perfect in its simplicity as I remember it. It yields a big, beautiful loaf of cake, all yellow with bits of lemon zest and crusty and crumbly with sugar on top. This is not a lemon cake, really, the lemon just lends a beautiful light balance to the rich, buttery crumb. The whole thing comes out of the oven so beautifully golden that it took all of my will power to let it cool even slightly before cutting in to this. And the best part is, now that the recipe has been rid of all mention of self-rising flour, I can, in good conscience, share it with you. I hope you’re as glad as I am.
Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess
Hubby ate his with blackberries and vanilla ice cream. It was good, but I think I prefer it all on its own, still warm.
1 cup softened unsalted butter
¾ cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling on top
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 large eggs
1 ¾ cup flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9×5 loaf pan, or spray with cooking spray.
Cream the butter and ¾ cup of sugar until lighter in color and fluffy. Add the lemon zest. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. (If your batter looks like it’s breaking, you can add one tablespoon of the flour along with each egg, and that should help.) Gently mix in flour, then the lemon juice. Pour/spread batter into the prepared pan. The batter will be pretty thick, so use the back of a spoon or spatula to even out the top. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of sugar before putting the pan in the oven.
Bake for 55 minutes to 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack before turning it out. If you can possibly wait that long. I know I couldn’t.