There were no doughnuts here on Thursday, but I used the feast day as an excuse to try out an idea I’ve had for a while. I’ve been craving lemon pound cake since my trip to London, but the recipes for those are exceptionally heavy on animal products. While substitutions for dairy are easy-peasy, the eggs can be more problematic. I’ve spent an evening or two reading The Science of Cooking, trying to figure out a way around the problem, eventually learning that protein is the key to successful cake structure. An hour of additional research later, I had a recipe that, thanks to all the effort, evolved into a cake worthy of an occasion to celebrate it with.
The final result is a fragrant, soft, sweet and tart cake that I was happy with enough to actually bring some for my friends to try. There is a generous spreading of lemon curd between two layers of the sponge, and a sugary drizzle on the outside serving as a balance for the intense flavor of lemons. The layers are entirely optional and make for more festive of a cake, but the curd could be just as easily served as a topping to put on each slice. The ingredients yield for a massive cake that would probably feed over a dozen of people, so adjust to your needs, the recipe is easily dividable, just bake for 25 minutes instead of the suggested time.
Another important note: the whole thing was easier to make than most of the regular cakes I’ve tried making. No weird bubbles ruining the top of the cake. No over rising only to fall in the middle once cooled. No worrying about bringing everything to room temperature because the eggs aren’t even there to separate, and the butter isn’t there to not come together with the rest of the ingredients. A perfect recipe to try for a novel baker.
Lemon sponge cake with lemon curd filling
(heavily adapted from Oh Lady Cakes)
(makes for a two-layer, 28cm cake)
1½ cup soy milk (non-negotiable, soy milk is the only milk with a high enough percentage of protein)
1 tbsp apple vinegar
juice of 2 lemons
zest of 4 lemons (grate the yellow part of the lemon peel)
1¼ cup fine sugar
6 tbsp sunflower oil
½ cup natural soy yogurt (I used one Alpro yogurt)
3 cup flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
½ cup lemon juice (3 lemons)
½ cup fine sugar
2 tbsp coconut milk
2 tbsp potato starch
pinch turmeric (for color, optional)
½ cup icing sugar
1 tbsp hot water
Preheat the oven to 175°C. Line a 28cm cake tin with baking paper.
Mix soy milk with vinegar and lemon juice, set aside for 10 minutes. With your fingers, mix the lemon zest with sugar until fragrant. In a medium bowl, sift the flour with remaining dry ingredients.
In a big bowl, mix oil with yogurt and add the sugar. You can even use a spoon here. Add ½ of the flour, ½ soy milk (which should by this time look more like buttermilk), whisk, add the rest of the flour, whisk gently to get rid of all lumps, add the final part of buttermilk.
Transfer batter to the prepared tin, bake for 45 minutes. Test for doneness with a toothpick, if it comes out clean, the cake is ready. Now, this part is fun. In baker’s gloves, take the cake in your hands, lower it to 50cm above the floor, and throw it on the ground, making sure it lands flatly. This “throws” gas particles out of the cake, ensuring a flat surface after cooling.
To make the lemon curd, mix lemon juice with sugar in a small pot, heat over medium to dissolve. In a glass, mix coconut milk with potato starch, salt and turmeric. Add that to the pot when the lemon juice begins to boil. Stir to avoid the curd from sticking to the pot, turn off the heat as soon as mixture thickens enough to cover the back of your spoon. It will become thicker as it cools off.
If the cake is cool to touch, cut it in the middle with a long knife, like here. Spread the lemon curd, cover with the top layer.
Mix the icing sugar with water. Drizzle the cake, allowing the glaze to drip on the sides. The cake was delicious fresh, but even better the second day.