- Preheat the oven to 325°F, slipping in a baking sheet at the same time. Spray the inside of your bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray, or brush on a paste made of 2 teaspoons of all-purpose flour mixed with 2 teaspoons of oil, making sure you get into all the crevices of the pan. Leave the bundt pan upside down over a piece of newspaper or parchment paper while you get on with making the cake batter. (And keep this piece of paper once you’ve put the batter in the pan, as it’ll come in handy for the glacé icing part.)
- Combine the flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a bowl, and fork to mix.
- Put the butter in the bowl of a freestanding mixer or a regular mixing bowl, grate in the zest of both lemons, and beat until creamy.
- Strip ¼ cup of thyme leaves from the sprigs, and add along with the sugar, and beat again until you have a light fluffy mixture.
- Now, one by one, beat in the eggs and, after the last one, slow down your mixing and add a third of the flour mixture, followed by a third of the buttermilk, and so on until both the flour mixture and buttermilk are used up.
- Finally, beat in the juice of 1 of the lemons and transfer this mixture to the prepared bundt pan. Place on the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 1¼ hours, though start checking after 1 hour. Don’t be alarmed if it looks like there’s too much batter for the bundt pan: all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. In other
words, the cake will rise but then sink back down comfortably.
- When a cake tester comes out clean, remove the cake to a wire rack and leave in its pan for 15 minutes before carefully unmolding. This is always a tense moment, but if the pan’s been sprayed or greased adequately, and the cake is fully baked, you should have no problem. Besides, it’s that moment of breathless tension which
makes the dramatic unmolding and unveiling all the more gratifying.
- When the cake is cool, slip the piece of newspaper or parchment paper under the wire rack, then sift the confectioners’ sugar into a bowl and beat in the juice of the remaining lemon until you have a glaze that is thin enough to run down the cake – I reckon on 2½–3 tablespoons – but thick enough to act as a tangy glue for the thyme leaves you are about to sprinkle on top. Or you can pour this directly over the cake on its serving plate. Duly pour the sherbetty glaze over the cake, and immediately scatter with thyme leaves and the odd sprig or two. How many you add is entirely up to you, but I tend to strew with abandon.
- Store in an airtight container in a cool place for up to 5 days. (This cake can be frozen, without icing, for up to 3 months. Wrap cake in a double layer of plastic wrap and a layer of aluminum foil. To thaw, unwrap and place on a wire rack at room temperature for about 5 hours.)
*I’ve specified buttermilk in the ingredients list, but you can use runny plain yogurt in its stead. Or, easier still, make your own buttermilk – my fallback position – by adding 1 tablespoon of lemon juice (since you will have lemons at hand for this recipe; otherwise you can use white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar instead) to 1 cup reduced fat milk and letting it stand for 20 minutes before you need it, stirring before use.
Now, a cautionary word: even when the cake looks bronzed and ready, you need to make sure that it’s cooked through around the funnel. Otherwise, not only will it be the devil to unmold, but you will also find the cake disappointingly undercooked (however brown it looks on the surface) once you slice into it. If you don’t have a bundt pan, then you can make this in an 8-inch square cake pan (approx. 2¼ inches deep). It makes quite a high cake, almost the full height of the pan, and takes between 1 hour to 1 hour 20 minutes at the oven temperature below (and check that it is cooked all the way through to the center before removing it from the oven).
Excerpted from Simply Nigella by Nigella Lawson. Recipes copyright © 2015 Nigella Lawson, Photography copyright © 2015 Keiko Oikawa. Published by Appetite by Random House, a division of Random House of Canada Ltd., a Penguin Random House Company. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.
Nigella Lawson takes the All-Star Chef Egg Timer Quiz