Lemonade, Limoncello, Lemon cake
“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”
I have the feeling that this is one of the most popular sayings. But lemonade, really, that’s all? I mean, absolutely nothing against a glass of lemonade on a hot day, it can be very refreshing. But there is so much more you can do with lemons. Now I have to admit that lemon is one of my favourite flavours, from pasta with lemon sauce to lemon ice cream. For me it is one of the most versatile flavours, both for savoury and for sweet purposes.
When thinking of a lemon based drink, instead of lemonade it is limoncello that pops up in my mind first. Limoncello is an Italian liquor that is basically made out of lemon zest, water, an alcohol like grappa or vodka, and sugar. Quite a long time ago I was with my parents and my sister in Italy, visiting the famous Cinque Terre. The Cinque Terre consist of five small, old, colourful villages along a beautiful rugged coastline in the north of Italy. It is hard to get there by car, but there is an amazing walking path along the coast that passes the different villages. This path is not the easiest thought, at some places it is very narrow and steep. When I walked it with my family, my mother decided to take the boat to go back to the town where we were staying instead of walking back. So it was my dad, my sister, and me on the return journey. It was a hot summer day and a tiring walk. Somewhere on this road back, we found a small hole in the wall where people were selling their homemade limoncello. Of course, we wanted to take some of this back to try it later. But the small bottles were closed with a metal cap, and the seller already took that off. So there was no other option than drinking it immediately. It was good, really good; sweet and very lemony. But maybe not the best energy drink for the last part of the walk! Fortunately, we still made it back safely, with some extra limoncello to drink later and share with my mother as well.
Now I am personally not really into making my own alcoholic beverages, I rather leave that to others. So instead a recipe for something else that is sweet and very lemony: a lemon drizzle cake with lemon icing. It goes very well with a strong espresso, or maybe even with a bit of limoncello.
- 120 grams of butter – at room temperature
- 180 grams of sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 sachet of baking powder
- Zest of 2 lemons
- Pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 190 grams of flour
- 120 ml buttermilk or 120 grams of yogurt
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar
- 150 grams of powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon of milk
Preheat your oven to 175°C and make sure to grease your loaf pan with some butter.
Cream the butter and sugar together until it is a pale mixture. For this it is ideal to have an electric mixer, but it can be done by hand with a whisk as well.
When the butter and sugar are mixed well, add the eggs and whisk them through. Then mix in the vanilla extract, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and baking powder. Next, add around a third of the flour and combine with the butter mixture. After this mix half of the buttermilk or yogurt, whichever one you are using, through. Continue with another third of the flour, the second half of the buttermilk or yogurt, and finally the last part of the flour. Whisk well in between each step, so that you end up with a smooth cake batter.
Pour the cake batter into your loaf pan and bake for 45 to 55 minutes until the cake is golden brown.
Once the cake has been cooked, take it out of the oven and let it cool down for a few minutes. Meanwhile, mix the lemon juice and the sugar to create the lemon syrup. Invert your loaf pan carefully, and place the cake on a cooling rack. I usually use the rack from my oven placed over my sink for this. Carefully spoon the lemon syrup over the warm cake.
Once the cake has cooled down completely, make the lemon icing. Sift the powdered sugar over a bowl. Add the lemon juice and mix through well. Add enough milk to make the icing easily spreadable, but make sure it is not too runny. Spread the icing all over the cake, and allow it to dry before you serve the cake.