I seem to have declared my weekly allotment based cake making year at the worst time. The stores are empty, and my rhubarb is still a few weeks from picking. I’ve had to go leftfield and see what’s available in the herb garden.
Fortunately for me, my cherished thyme plant is still looking green and lush despite being unprotected over the winter. I love this thyme plant – I grew it from seed, and the day that the plant dies off will be a sad one.
I’m in the middle of a Nigel Slater idolisation period. He’s brilliant. Whether Nigel is inspiring me to make cakes for visitors, or just being utterly awesome by taking the time to respond to followers on Twitter, I’m thinking he’s great. Therefore, it seems appropriate to begin my cake-making adventure with a Nige recipe, and with a few sprigs of thyme to hand, I’m delving head first into his Lemon and Thyme cake.
200g golden caster sugar
100g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
100g ground almonds
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp thyme leaves
For the topping, you’ll need 4 tablespoons of sugar, juice of two large lemons, and ½ teaspoon of thyme leaves.
1. Pre-heat the oven to 160C/325F/Gas 3. Line a 900g/2lb loaf tin with baking parchment.
2. Cream the butter with the sugar in a food mixer until pale and fluffy. In a separate bowl sift together the flour and baking powder then mix with the almonds.
3. Lightly beat the eggs then fold them into the butter mixture in two or three sessions, beating them in thoroughly each time. If the mixture looks as if it is about to curdle, stir in some of the flour.
4. Grate the zest from the lemon and mix it with the thyme leaves. Pound the two together with a pestle, or some other heavyweight, and stir into the cake mixture.
5. Gradually mix in the flour, baking powder, and almonds.
6. Spoon the cake mixture into the lined tin and bake for 45 minutes (if dividing the mixture into smaller tins reduce the time accordingly).
7. For the topping, dissolve the sugar in the juice of the lemons over a moderate heat and stir in the thyme leaves (a few flowers would be good here too). As the cake comes from the oven, spike the surface with a skewer and spoon over the syrup.
8. Leave to cool and serve in slices with thick yoghurt.
Verdict in 2 Sentences
A thyme is forever, not just for Christmas. Or more specifically, thyme is for moist, fluffy lemon drizzle cakes, not just roast dinners.
Not that I’m one of the question professional chefs, but what would I do if I did it again?
I’d add more herbs to the cake. The thyme is quite delicate in the cake, and I did find myself searching for the taste a little.
Other people’s attempts
Yumblog.co.uk: Dense moist lemon with a twist of thyme. Drink with tea in the finest bone china.