Thanks, mum

lemonsToday’s recipe is a little piece of my childhood, and it appears today in honour of family and very dear friends.

It’s quite old-fashioned. I thought about how, should I be called on to do so in the MasterChef kitchen, I would modernise it. And I decided I wouldn’t. I’m sure someone has already done that, and good luck to them.

This one is perfect just as it is, as far as I’m concerned.

It’s a lemon cake. It’s very simple, topped with a lemon/sugar sauce that leaves a bit of nice sweet-sour crust on top.

It’s one my mother made regularly for birthdays and celebrations (she wasn’t any kind of fancy baker), and I made it more than a few times when I was still a kid and living at home, and just old enough to be in charge of the cooking.

My original version of mum’s recipe, from decades ago. My tendency for minimalist detail is obviously not new.

As she (and we) got older, she’d usually arrive with a cake for our birthdays, and it was almost always this one. And I never stopped loving it, with that lovely lemon tang.

It came to mind today, for a couple of reasons. The lemons on my tree are just starting to come into ripeness, and this year there is a fine, full crop (the possums attacked the oranges instead). The rind is bursting with flavour, and there’s no chemicals, no wax, nothing to make me wonder if I should use the rind at all or how hard I should scrub it first.

I’m expecting a visit this afternoon from a dear friend who recently had her 60th. And tonight I’m meeting my niece to celebrate her recent birthday. So I’ve made two loaves, one for this afternoon and one to send home to my niece and nephews.

It’s been a few years since my mother last made birthday cakes, and it feels right to make this one today. For her, and for them.

Lemon cake

Mix well, until pale and fluffy:
300g butter
275g sugar

The lemon-sugar mix soaking into the hot cake.
The lemon-sugar mix soaking into the hot cake (loaf 1). The tin is one I inherited from my mother.

1 tsp vanilla (original: 1 packet vanilla sugar, which would have been the Dr Oetker brand)

Add (in order) and mix:
4 eggs at room temp, one by one
pinch salt
500g self-raising flour
125ml milk
grated rind of 2 lemons

Place mix in your form (I used loaf tins, though I have sometimes used one of those round ones with the hole in the middle). Cook at 180C for 45-50 mins


The tangy sugar crusting on top of the cooling cake.
The tangy sugar crusting on top of the cooling cake (loaf 2).

Mix the sieved juice of two lemons with 5-6 tablespoons of sugar.

Spoon this over the hot cake while it’s still in the tin. Leave for 5-10 mins and then take the cake out of the tins to cool.

Verdict: I love this cake.


Corinna Hente




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