The scent of a basketful of freshly picked lemons is a far cry from their over-treated, supermarket-bought cousins. Their aroma fills my kitchen and prompt me to use them.
I admit to being partial to cooking with lemons and I am not alone; the cuisine of the Levant in general, uses various souring agents in its food. Sumac, verjus, pomegranate molasses and even green plums are added to raw or cooked vegetables, and to meaty stews and stuffings. Save for a few drops of lemon juice in syrup, to stop the sugar from crystalizing, puddings and desserts are however simply sweet.
At home, we always bake a cake at the week-end and my daughter who is currently visiting loves a good lemon cake. In this version of an old classic, I used olive oil and ricotta for a lighter taste, and a mixture of flours for a fluffy texture.
Zesty and aromatic, the cake is sunshine on a winter’s day.
- 75ml olive oil
- 75 g ground almonds
- 100 g semolina
- 100 g plain flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- The zest of two lemons, and a bit more for the garnish
- 2 teaspoons orrange blossom water
- 75 ml lemon juice
- 2 eggs
- 130 g sugar
- 225 g ricotta
For the syrup:
- 50 ml lemon juice
- 50 ml water
- 4 tablespoons sugar
For the cream:
- 220ml double cream
- 4 tablepoons icing sugar
- 1 teaspoon orange blossom water
- Beat the eggs with sugar until creamy and white.
- Incorporate the lemon zest, orange blossom water and olive oil.
- Gradually beat in the semolina, ground almonds, flour and baking powder.
- Add lemon juice to the ricotta and stir to combine before mixing it into the batter.
- Grease a 20cm round cake tin and line the bottom with baking paper; spoon the mixture into the tin and bake in a pre-heated oven at 180°C for 25 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
- To make the syrup: dilute the sugar with the lemon and water mixture in placed in pan over low heat. Stir until not sugar granules remain. Increase the heat and allow the syrup to boil until it just starts to thicken, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Spoon the mixture on the hot cake until it is fully absorbed. This will make the cake moist and tender.
- If you can wait, leave the cake to cool overnight, it will settle and become less crumbly.
- Whisk the cream thick, add the sugar and orange blossom water and whisk until it forms soft peak.
- Spread the cream over the surface of the cake and garnish with grated zest.