I've never been into baking as much as cooking. My idea of a satisfying dessert has always been a really good lemon gelato; the sweet, sugary rush coupled with a sour tang is just my ticket. I suspect I don't tire of this cake because the texture is light and bursts of sourness created by the fresh lemon juice deliver the sweet and sour balance I love so much. The unexpected tanginess is always met with approving 'oohs' and 'ahhhs' and someone will always remark 'it's so light!' I also love how versatile it is - perfect for breakfast, as an after dinner sweet with coffee or wrapped in paper and crammed into a picnic bag as a sunny day treat.
I used a blood orange, lemon and lime for the cake pictured because it's what I had and it turned out wonderfully but I often just use lemons.
2 cups self-raising flour
3/4 cup castor sugar
1 cup milk
2 lemons, zest
1 lime, zest
1/2 cup lemon and lime juice
2 tbsp castor sugar
1/4 cup mascarpone
2 cardamom pods
2-3 tbsp milk
Handful of pistachios, roughly crushed
Lime or lemon zest
Cover the base of a loaf tin with baking paper, it should reach at least half way up the tin. Grease the exposed parts with butter.
Sift flour into a medium sized bowl and mix with the sugar. Melt butter in a saucepan over a low heat. Remove from heat and then add milk, eggs, zest (reserving some for the top of cake) and beat well with a fork to combine. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until combined.
Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake in an oven set to 200 C. Bake for about 30 minutes but times vary according to oven so ensure to do the toothpick test when checking for readiness. Cover the top with baking paper after 20 minutes to prevent burning.
While the cake is baking, dissolve 2 tbsp of sugar in the lemon-lime juice and set aside. Stir 2 tbsp of milk into the mascarpone to achieve a smooth and runny consistency (a bit thinner than pancake batter), add more milk if required. Crush cardamom pods using a mortar and pestle, fish out skins and roughly pound. Stir into mascarpone and set aside in the refrigerator.
When the cake is ready, allow it to cool for a couple of minutes and poke holes through the top of the cake with a skewer or a strand of dry spaghetti. While the cake is still warm, slowly drizzle the sugar syrup over the top giving it time to absorb. The juice may seem like it's too much but it will produce a cake with just the right amount of tangy goodness. Before serving, drizzle the mascarpone over the cake, start from the inside, working out to the sides. Sprinkle crushed pistachios on top and finish off with with some lime or lemon zest.
You can make this the day before, store in an airtight container and finish it off with mascarpone, pistachios and zest just before serving to keep it looking fresh. It will keep for 2-3 days in an airtight container at room temperature.