125 g unsalted butter , softened, plus extra for greasing
225 g golden caster sugar
4 large free-range eggs
1 large orange
200 g ground almonds
100 g self-raising flour
For the lemon icing:
225 g icing sugar
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This cake reminds me of my nan, and also of some of the older customers who used to come into my parents’ pub. The old dears would come up to the bar and ask for a half pint of Guinness for themselves and a St Clement’s for the wife, which is a simple orange juice and lemonade combo. It’s named after that nursery rhyme we all grew up singing, which I’ve realized is actually quite a sinister song about owing people money and chopping off heads! But putting that aside, this cake is as sweet and lovely as you’d want it to be. The icing that seeps into the sponge adds flavour, and once the top layer firms up it becomes a sherbety, citrusy delight. If you really smother the cake well, it will help to keep it nice and moist for quite some time. This recipe also makes the sweetest little cupcakes.
Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4. Grease a 20cm loose-bottomed springform cake tin with a knob of butter, then line the base with greaseproof paper. Beat the softened butter with 125g of the caster sugar until it’s light and creamy, then crack in the eggs, one at a time, beating each one in well before adding the next. Finely grate in most of the orange zest, keeping back a few scrapings of the zest in a clingfilm-covered bowl. Fold in the ground almonds and sift in the flour. Mix and gently combine everything, then spoon the cake batter into your prepared tin and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until risen and lightly golden. To check that the cake is cooked through, poke a skewer or cocktail stick into the centre of the sponge. If it comes out clean, it’s done; if not, cook it for a few more minutes. Leave to cool for a few minutes in the tin while you make the orange syrup.
Put the remaining 100g of caster sugar into a pan and add the juice of the zested orange. Place the pan on a medium heat for a few minutes, or until the sugar has dissolved. While the cake is still hot, poke lots of little holes in the top with a cocktail stick and pour the syrup all over it. Once all the syrup has been absorbed, move the cake to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the icing, sift the icing sugar into a bowl and grate in most of the lemon zest. Keep back a few gratings, add them to the bowl of reserved orange zest, and cover again with clingfilm. Squeeze the lemon juice over the icing sugar and mix, adding more juice if needed until you get a good drizzling consistency. Keep aside until the cake has completely cooled, then transfer it to a serving plate and pour that lemony icing all over the top, letting it drizzle down the sides. Sprinkle over the reserved
orange and lemon zest, and serve.