If you've been reading my blog for a while you'll have seen this post already as I shared the recipe back when I auditioned for the show. It was actually the dish I brought to my first audition; I've always known it was special so I had no qualms repeating it when I got through. Not only is this lemon cake my dad's favourite, but I used to make it day in, day out for 3 years when I worked in a tearoom. Yes, I could make it with my eyes closed, but that doesn't make it any less special. I stuck to my guns and made something simple but perfect and it paid off; this is my winning recipe and Marco Pierre White himself said 'always keep it simple'.
Cake, cream and jelly are one of life's best combinations (basically trifle, sans custards) and this makes a really lovely, properly British pud that will definitely impress people with a bit of extra technique. It's deceptively easy to pull together and everything can be made in advance, so it's perfect for Sunday lunch or an afternoon tea party.
To make the lemon cake:
3 eggs (150g)
150g self-raising flour
150g softened butter
150g caster sugar
To make the lemon drizzle:
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
50 - 100g caster sugar
The formula for a simple sponge goes: equal quantities of eggs, flour, butter and sugar. Three medium eggs should weigh about 150g, but if they weigh more or less, adjust your other ingredients to match; for example, if your eggs weigh 170g, then use 170g each of self-raising flour, butter and sugar.
Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Mix together the butter and sugar until smooth, then beat the eggs and add to the mixing bowl along with the flour and the grated zest of one lemon. Beat together until you have a creamy batter. Be careful not to over beat, though, or you'll knock out all the air and be left with a dense sponge. If you have a couple of lumps, they are likely to be butter and should melt when cooked anyway.
To make these little individual cakes, I used empty baked bean tins (I saw the idea here ages ago) that I thoroughly cleaned and removed the paper from the outside. To be honest, I don't recommend it - I cut myself pretty badly twice. On the show, they gave me a set of fondant pudding moulds and these worked much better and I liked the shape better too.
Fill the tins about halfway full and then bake in the oven for 10 - 20 minutes or until a skewer poked through the centre comes out clean. If you are using a loaf tin instead, the cake will need around 30 - 35 minutes.
While the cakes are still in the tin, mix together the juice of two lemons with the caster sugar. It really depends how sweet you want the cake; if you are serving it with something like ice cream, you might want the syrup to be a bit more tart. Poke holes in the top of the cake with a skewer, making sure to go all the way through to the bottom, and pour over the syrup.
For the rose water cream:
300ml whipping cream
A few drops of rose water
Rose water is a lovely fresh flavour, but be careful not to overdo it as things can get a little overpowering. For the cream, simply add a few drops of rose water and whisk until thick and fluffy. It's best to go slowly with the rose water - you can always add more but you won't be able to subdue the flavour unless you have some extra cream to dilute it. You can fold in some crushed blackberries for a little bit of colour if you like, but they might alter the texture a little bit as the juice is quite acidic.
For the jellied elderflower blackberries:
75ml elderflower cordial mixed with 325ml of water
1 sachet of gelatine
The sachet of gelatine that I used is intended to set 570ml of liquid, but to make the jellies stand on their own, you need to use less liquid than the packet suggests for a more sturdy consistency.
Pour a few tablespoons of boiling water into a glass bowl and add the gelatine to the bowl (always add the gelatine second, never pour boiling water straight onto it). Gently stir until the gelatine dissolves. If the gelatine clumps, place the bowl on top of a saucepan of simmering water, add some of the elderflower liquid and stir until the lumps disappear, but never allow the mixture to boil. Then add the warm, gelatine-infused liquid to the rest of your elderflower mixture.
To create mini jellies, fill an ice cube tray about half full with the mixture and place in the fridge to chill. After about half an hour, test the jelly with your finger and if it has set, or at least started to set, you can press a blackberry into it and then top up with more elderflower. You can also use this jelly in a mould or small bowl and it will set in the fridge in a few hours. To turn out the jellies, put half an inch of warm water in a baking tray and then place the ice cube tray in the pan for a few minutes so that the jelly softens slightly. Then using the the end of a teaspoon, gently push out the jellies and they should pop out in shape. Don't worry if some break - it just gives a more rustic finish ;)
The last round of the competition, when I went head to head with the other finalist, Carine, was really tough. Up until that point we were kind of on equal footing - you can find my Vietnamese beef recipe here - and our puddings both turned out well without any major disasters. It really was such a mind game in that final round, with the producers egging us on to criticise each other's desserts. It still hasn't quite sunk in that a Michelin-starred chef said that my cake was perfectly cooked; at that point, the producers were behind the camera telling us 'who was Marco talking about? Tell her you think yours was perfectly cooked!' In my heart I knew I'd nailed the sponge, but it would have been heart-wrenching to say mine was perfect and then not have won!
In the end, neither of us eliminated ourselves. I think it was just too close and we both felt that the risk of eliminating yourself and then finding out that Marco Pierre White would have sent the other person home would have been so much worse than missing out on the cash you'd get for bowing out. I was also confident in my special little pudding and now, every time I eat lemon drizzle I will think of this amazing experience.