A lemon drizzle cake is more of a concept than an actual recipe. Although there is a time and a place for Madeira-type plain lemon sponge, sometimes just a bit more pizzazz and sugar is required. A drizzle cake is just a lemon sponge cake that's soaked while still warm with a glaze made of lemon juice and sugar, which adds a crisp crust as it cools.
While the British have enjoyed lemon cakes since time immemorial, I have been unable to track down lemon drizzle cake's origin story, despite much internet sleuthing and trawling through old cookbooks. But it has seemingly been a staple in the tearooms of the National Trust (the organization that looks after Britain's historic buildings) since the 1980s.
This cake is similar to a Victoria sponge, but substitutes almond flour for some of the all-purpose flour and gets a handful of poppy seeds. Rather than following the Victoria sponge creaming method, this simple cake is just whisked together. This makes for a sponge that is a little more dense and robust, and able to absorb the syrupy drizzle without disintegrating.
You will end up with a cake that is damp, sticky, lemony sweet, and pretty enough for a more formal tea table, but only needs about 10 minutes of active time to whip up, so it's the perfect cake to bake when unexpected guests are on their way.
When it comes to British baking, there's cake and everything else. From afternoon tea to an exuberant birthday cake to the classic Vicky sponge, baking cake is a national pastime. We teamed up with ex-pat Paola Thomas to bring you five favorite cakes that you can whip up in a jiffy.
Lemon Drizzle Cake
Serves 10 to 12
(8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
1 1/2 cups
all-purpose or cake flour
almond flour or all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons
Finely grated zest of 2 medium lemons
poppy seeds (optional)
powdered sugar, sifted and divided
Juice of 1 medium lemon
Optional garnishes: Lemon zest, toasted sliced almonds, and poppy seeds
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F. Coat an 8-inch round, 3-inch high springform pan with butter, then line the bottom with parchment paper; set aside.
Place the butter, flours, sugar, eggs, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until pale, fluffy, and mousse-like, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Stir in the lemon zest and poppy seeds until evenly distributed. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, and use a spatula to push it out to the sides and smooth over the top.
Bake the cake until golden-brown, firm, springy, and starting to pull away from the sides of the pan, 35 to 40 minutes. A skewer inserted into the center of the cake should come out clean. While the cake is baking, place the 1 cup of the powdered sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl and stir until you have a light, lemony smooth glaze.
Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Using a skewer, poke deep holes all over the cake. Spoon 1/2 of the lemon glaze over the cake, making sure it soaks into the holes. When the glaze has soaked in and set, remove the cake from the pan and set on the rack to cool completely.
Stir the remaining 1 cup powdered sugar into the remaining glaze until smooth, then pour this over the cooled cake. When the glaze is set, decorate the cake with lemon zest, toasted sliced almonds, and poppy seeds if desired.
Storage: Although best eaten as fresh as possible, this cake can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.