Friday, 11 July 2014

Crème Fraîche Cake with Lemon Icing

Cakes by their very nature tend to be sweet and sometimes very sweet. If I had a treat of choice, it would invariably be cake over biscuits, chocolate and pastries. Mind you, I don’t often refuse any of these when offered to me either. But I do love cakes.

I especially love what could be termed classic or retro cakes; by this I mean, the tried and tested classics like Black Forest Gateau,  Pineapple Upside-Down Cake, Victoria Sponge, Lemon Drizzle Cake and the oh so twee, but very tasty and gorgeous classic Battenberg Cake. For me, having a slice of one of these is reassuring and comforting.
I also adore plainer cakes such as Madeira Cake or a simple Boiled Fruit Cake. I am particularly fond of Seed Cake – which is basically a Madeira Cake with the added inclusion of caraway seeds. All these are cakes that are great stand-bys and the ideal thing to have with a cup of tea. They are elegant in their simplicity and delicious in their plainness. They are the type of cakes our grandmothers used to make; and indeed my own grandmother regularly did. For her, the height of frivolity would have been a Coffee & Walnut Sponge iced with loads of coffee buttercream icing – but that would only have been made if guests were expected or for special occasions.
Anyway, my point is that the trend these days seems to be towards elaborate, intricately decorated cakes which incorporate wacky flavour combinations. Sometimes something plain and simple is like a haven in all the baking madness that seems to dominate. As such, I am always eager to try out recipes that appear quite austere in their lack of adornment.
This cake is so simple but is absolutely delicious. I found it in the pages of an old French cook book – you know the type of cookbook that has no picture, hardly any illustrations and is heavily laden with small text. I will admit that the main reason I made it was that I had a tub of crème fraîche lurking around in the fridge and decided that I better use it up before it went out of date. My translation of the original may leave something to be desired, but in any event, the resulting cake was fabulous, so I’m not overly worried about any inaccuracies that may have crept in due to less-than-perfect conversion to English.

The crumb is spongy and looks dense but the cake is incredibly light. But the amazing this is that the ratio of sugar to the other ingredients is fairly small when compared to other cakes. This results in a cake that is not overly sweet and can therefore take the lemon drizzle icing that I decided to include. I decided to bake it in a ring tin and was delighted that I did so because I think that the cake looked so pretty when it was finished.


8 large eggs
115g caster sugar
150g butter, melted and allowed to cool slightly
200g tub of crème fraîche
2tblsp milk
450g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
150g icing sugar
Juice of ½ lemon


1. Preheat the oven to 180C/Fan Oven 160C/Gas Mark 4. Grease an 23-25cm ring tin with butter and dust it with flour, shaking out the excess.
2. Place the eggs and sugar in a large bowl and using a hand-held electric mixer, beat together for about 10 minutes until pale and creamy. Add the crème fraîche, milk and melted butter and beat again until just incorporated. Sift the flour and baking powder together and fold into the egg mixture with a large metal spoon, to create a smooth batter. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking tin and smooth the surface slightly. Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 40 minutes until well-risen, a rich golden colour and when a thin skewer inserted comes out clean.
3. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the baking tin and then remove from the tin and allow to finish cooling on a wire rack. When the cake has cooled you can ice it.
4. Mix the icing sugar and lemon juice together to form a thick, but still runny icing. Drizzle over the cake and allow to harden before serving the cake.

Serves 10-12.