Lemon Drizzle Cake - An Elegant Party Cake

Let’s start with the basics: really, lemon drizzle is really just a sponge with added zing. When cakes as we know them first started appearing on British tables, around the start of the 17th century, it was the technique of frothing egg whites until they could be used to raise a batter which really defined this new and exciting food.

The term “drizzle cake” was first used in America in 1969, but the practice of drizzling hot or cold frosting over a cake was long-established. Modern cakes tend to have a more casual, “I just threw this together” appearance than their Victorian forefathers, but the lemon icing is another era-specific technique that frequently uses lemon essence, which was just becoming popular. Our late 19th century forefathers also made lemon drizzle cake, but they would not have called it that.

For ages, England possessed a type of cake in the shape of yeast-risen fruity numbers, which later changed into the rich fruit cake (notable by its absence from the top 20 in the new poll). The sponge cake quickly gained popularity when the first English recipe for it was published in 1615. It diverged into the savoy cake (a fatless sponge that is perfect for trifles) and the pound cake (the recipe requires one pound – roughly 500g – each of the four main ingredients, flour, butter, eggs and sugar). The latter is where the lemon drizzle comes from.

Cooks in the past were not at all afraid to try out new flavours: pound cakes came with dried fruit, orange flower water, spices, nuts, and lemon. Up until the 1870s, cakes were costly (or at least not inexpensive), but when the price of sugar fell sharply, more people could afford them. For ages, England possessed a type of cake in the shape of yeast-risen fruity numbers, which later changed into the rich fruit cake (notable by its absence from the top 20 in the new poll).

According to the Telegraph, 40% of Brits rank lemon drizzle cake as their favourite teatime dessert, topping traditional favourites like chocolate and carrot cake as well as Victoria sponge and Chelsea buns. The recipes for Lemon Cake and A Very Rich Lemon Cake can be found in Warne’s Model Cookery Book, a traditional middle-class cookbook of the era. Lemon Cake calls for the zest of two lemons, while A Very Rich Lemon Cake triples the eggs, doubles the amount of peel, and adds a glass of brandy for good measure. What about the drizzle, though?

The remaining cakes in the poll provide an indication as to how baking has changed over the past 100 years: Americans now predominate over Britons when it comes to oil-based combinations. Lemon Drizzle cupcakes are quite popular among the general public due to their sweet and tidy recipe for a typical cupcake that hits the right taste bud with the tang of lemon zest. They are a perfect quick for Sunday picnics or brunch by the garden.

Try baking a vegan version of lemon drizzle cake. Light and zingy, it also works well if you replace the flour and baking powder with gluten-free alternatives. The taste remains almost unnoticeably the same as a regular drizzle cake. For a bigger party, be an elegant host by chevving up a lemon drizzle tray bake. It’s a beauty to look at, can be devoured by 6-8 people and perfect for a New Year’s or Thanksgiving Dinner.

But the flavours, even blueberry and carrot, were already about then, albeit not always in Britain. Swiss roll, battenburg, madeira, angel and fairy cakes, all of which feature, are all essentially sponge with jam and colourings, plus a few options which aren’t technically cake, such as sticky toffee pudding.

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