When life gives you lemons…

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It’s Tuesday, it’s late February and Ocado is clean out of lemons. This can mean only one thing…it’s pancake day. Presuming you don’t need me to tell you how to make pancakes (what’s that?…a recipe?…of course, here you go: 110g flour, 1 egg, 1 yolk, 300ml milk, pinch salt, butter for frying, you’re welcome), I thought instead I would offer a suggestion for what to do with all those leftover lemons should your family be anything like mine and eschew this old school topping for something more fancy (ham and gruyere (the husband), salted caramel hazelnut chocolate spread (the teen), squirty cream, although as a weapon rather than a foodstuff (the 10yo).

You could of course make lemonade, or a classic lemon drizzle cake, but if you have a glut of lemons to use up, I urge you to try this which I made for the teen’s birthday last week, essentially a mash up between an Italian lemon polenta cake and the aforementioned drizzle. Its use of ground almonds instead of flour makes it incredibly rich, moist, moreish and, well yes, calorific (but highly nutritious, no?) and means it will keep for up to a week in an airtight container. Except it will never last that long.

Lemon polenta drizzle cake

This recipe is based on one from the original River Cafe Cookbook by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers, but their recipe makes enough to feed a small army, so I have reduced the quantities and finished the cake off with a good dousing of lemony syrup. Serve as is, or with some creme fraiche or natural yogurt, sweetened with a little icing sugar and a drop of vanilla bean paste or extract, and an artful scattering of berries.

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Makes one 20cm diameter cake (10-12 portions)

  • 300g unsalted butter, softened
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 300g ground almonds
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • zest of 2 1/2 lemons
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 150g polenta (I used the quick cook stuff and it worked just fine)
  • 1 tsp baking powder (use gluten free and the whole cake will be)
  • 1/4 tsp salt

For the drizzle

  • 100g caster sugar
  • juice of 1 lemon
  1. Preheat the oven to 150°C (fan), butter a 20cm cake tin and line the base with baking parchment.
  2. Beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy then stir in the almonds and vanilla.
  3. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then fold in the lemon zest and juice, the polenta, baking powder and salt.
  4. Spoon into tin, smooth over the top and bake in the oven for about 50 mins until the cake is set (ie. no wobble) and rich golden brown in colour. Leave in tin to cool.
  5. To make the syrup, heat the sugar and lemon juice in a pan over a medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Simmer briefly until the syrup thickens a little, but do not boil.
  6. Prick the top of the cake all over with a skewer or fork and drizzle the syrup all over its surface. Remove from tin and enjoy.

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