I used to put lemon loaf in the old-lady category of tea time treats. In my part of Canada, the population is largely comprised of over-50s (our poor economy sent young folk elsewhere for work for many years) and, as a small girl, I would dutifully follow my parents around our tiny community for visits and tea on the weekends.
My mother had a group of ladies she would regularly visit, and my father would also have a group he enjoyed calling to (having known these people all his life; my father had inside knowledge on who were the best bakers).
Fudge, gumdrop loaf, cookies and squares (traybakes here) were regular specialities in these homes, and lemon loaf would also feature. In Ireland, lemon drizzle cake is often made in traybake format, but in Canada, we would make the lemon drizzle into a loaf. The best ones were soft, zingy and luscious – dark golden brown on the outside; soft crumb inside and an almost-crunchy layer of lemon syrup on top; poured while the loaf was still hot from the oven. We don't add any icing, and I think this is where the Irish lemon drizzle cake comes out on top.
I love that extra layer of sweetness.
My lemon drizzle cake is a Canadian recipe (my granmother's, actually) made with Irish ingredients and the addition of a sweet vanilla glaze. Irish butter and buttermilk have also improved this Canadian recipe; making the cake part extra moist and flavourful. When we lived in Canada, my Irish husband would always complain about the butter.
"It's white," he would say. "It doesn't spread well on toast, either."
I now understand what he meant; and I could never go back to Canadian butter. I know the ladies back home would be impressed, as well – if only they could call for tea. My eldest daughter loves all things lemon, so mother-daughter tea time is a good replacement until we can get back to Canada for a visit.
125g softened butter
250g caster sugar
2 large eggs (room temperature)
1 tsp vanilla
200g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Finely chopped rind from one lemon
For the lemon soak:
Juice from one lemon
125g caster sugar
For the vanilla glaze:
500g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3-4 tbsp milk
1. Preheat your oven to 190°C. Line a round spring-form cake tin with parchment and spray with baking spray. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, cream the softened butter and caster sugar with a hand blender (or in a stand mixer). Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, and then add the vanilla. Mix to combine.
3. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into the egg mixture and mix until just combined. Add the buttermilk and mix on high for 20 seconds to incorporate everything. Then, using a spatula, gently fold in the chopped lemon rind.
4. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake in the centre of the oven for 30-40 minutes (check after 30). A skewer or knife inserted into the centre of the cake should come out clean once it's baked.
5. While the cake is baking, mix the lemon juice and sugar together for the cake soak. The lemon juice should very nearly dissolve all of the sugar.
6. When the cake comes out of the oven, immediately brush the lemon soaking liquid all over the top. It will absorb into the cake quickly. Depending on how drenched you like your lemon drizzle, use all of the soak or save some (it's nice on pancakes or mixed into porridge).
7. Let the soaked cake cool in the tin for 20 minutes, then remove from the tin and cool completely.
8 While the cake is cooling, make the glaze: in a bowl, combine all of the glaze ingredients and whisk until smooth. I like my glaze a bit on the thick side; you might like yours looser - if that's the case, just add a bit more milk.
9. When the cake is cool, pour the glaze over the top (make sure you do this while the cake is on the cooling rack and that something is placed underneath the rack to catch the excess glaze). Let the glaze set.
10. Once the glaze is set, cut into desired portions and serve. This cake keeps for several days in an airtight container (I actually like it better the next day!). Enjoy.