Although I don't bake cakes very often - or even eat them much for that matter- I was inspired by a basket of beautiful looking lemons at the Addison Road Organic Market on the weekend. When I bought them I had planned to use them in a lemony, Greek style baked chicken dish, but as I wandered around the market, the delectable smell of Chai from the Chai seller made me think of tea. And the tea made me think of cake, particularly the delicious aromatic lemony tea cake that I remember from my childhood. So the chicken plan went out the window and I decided that today, baking would be in order.
My very favourite type of lemon cake is made with fresh lemons and beautiful thick natural yoghurt. The yoghurt and the lemon gives the cake a beautiful tangy character and stops it from being cloyingly sweet. I chose to make small individual cakes instead of one large one, but make whatever form takes your fancy. The amount of cooking required will of course depend on the size of the cakes - my 12 cupcakes took around 25 minutes to cook at 180C. A large cake may take up to 45minutes - just keep an eye on it and test it as you go.
After icing them, I decided to give my lemon cakes a touch of the middle east and a splash of vivid colour, by adding some finely chopped pistachio nuts. You could also top them with finely grated lemon or lime rind or almonds as an alternative. These cakes are very easy to make - even for a non cake maker like me. Just mix and bake. Using the yoghurt and vegetable oil instead of butter gives the crumb a super moist texture, which is lovely. These gorgeous cakes are so delicious, you may not even bother to wait for the kettle to boil before tucking in!
Little Lemon & Yoghurt Cakes
You will need: 1&3/4 cups sugar, 2 eggs, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 3 Teaspoons lemon juice, grated rind of 2 lemons, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 3/4 cup vegetable oil, 1 cup full cream natural yoghurt, 2 cups self raising flour.
For the topping: 300g finely chopped pistachio nuts, 3 cups icing sugar, juice of 1 lemon
Method: Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line cake tin or prepare patty pans (whatever you are using) Combine the sugar, salt, flour and lemon rind in a large bowl.
In a second bowl, combine the eggs, 3 teaspoons lemon juice, vegetable oil and yoghurt. Mix well.
Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture gradually, mixing as you go until it forms a cake batter. If it is too dry when you have used all the liquid, add a small abount of warm water until it reaches the right consistency.
Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin/patty pans. Bake for between 20- 40 minutes, deoending on the size of the tin you are using. The cake should not colour too much and remain quite pale. It is cooked when it springs back in the centre.
One cooked, transfer the cake/s to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before icing them.
To make the icing - mix together the icing sugar and small amounts of lemon juice to make a reasonably thick mixture that still allows you to spread it with a knife or spatula. Ice the cakes and then top with the chopped pistachios.
Makes 1 large cake or 12 cupcakes.