Last weekend, we took a trip up north to the Mahurangi Peninsula and drove around Matakana, Warkworth and Scandrett Regional Park. It is the ideal weekend getaway just an hour drive from Auckland Central with many interesting local primary industries like cheese and honey factories, the famous Matakana Farmers’ Market and tons of regional parks to hike and picnic at. (More pics and info in the next post!)
While exploring the towns and parks, we spotted many lemon and orange trees as it is the season. Though the winter weather in Auckland is often grey and damp, citrus trees grow in complete contrast to their growing season- bright and fresh. I think it is nature’s way of rebelling against the inhospitable, like a smack on its cold cheeks.
Inspired by all the citrus we had seen, I decided to make a pound cake from all the winter citrus fruits available at the market. This is not your usual pound cake though. The cake, syrup, frosting and candy garnish are all infused with a tinge of citrus zest, juice or the sliced fruit. For the cake, I used the zest of Meyer lemons and oranges and for the garnish, I made candied Meyer lemons, oranges and mandarins which were dusted with fine sugar and brûléed. I poked some holes into the freshly baked cake and poured a few tablespoons of the citrus syrup leftover from the candy making.I was sceptical at first as I thought that it would be an overkill of citrus flavour and sweetness but I was proven wrong when I took my first bite. It was LOVE at very first bite … and then the next and the immediate next. To me, it is the ultimate citrus pound cake.
First, you’d bite into the slightly crunchy lemon frosting and the brûléed citrus candy. You’ll be greeted by the burst of mellowed citrus flavour as the candied oranges and lemons are all full of citrus gooeyness and exceptionally addictive without being very sweet. Then, as you sink your teeth into the ‘flesh’ of the cake, you’d realise how moist the cake is from being soaked in the syrup and how tender the bite is. And soon after, unabashedly, you would cut another slice for yourself and top it off with more brûléed citrus candy slices. When I typed ‘you’ and ‘yourself’, I really meant ‘I’ and ‘myself’. #truestory
The layers of citrus in this cake make it really memorable. I absolutely love how cooking mellows ‘original’ flavours and creates new flavours in some food. For example, slow roasting garlic completely changes the flavour of its pungent original self into the most delicious, creamy garlic. Likewise, candying lemons and oranges changes the bitter rind to a pleasant, perfumy bite. Though you could buy candied citrus, I recommend making your own as it does not need any fancy tools and can made in about thirty minutes. It is quite satisfying to see the opaque white pith become transparent and very exciting to eat your own homemade citrus candy. Brûleeing the edges of the citrus candy not only makes for an interesting presentation but it makes the brûléed parts slightly ‘crispy’. Totally unnecessary but very fun to make! Make sure you don’t set off your smoke detector though!
Brûléed Citrus Pound Cake
- 115g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 250g caster sugar
- zest of 2 lemons + 1 orange / 3 Meyer lemons + 1 orange
- 1/2 tsp lemon oil/extract
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 225 cake flour*
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 125g sour cream
- juice of 1/2 a lemon (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 180°C / 160°C (fan-forced) 350°F/ 330°F (fan-forced). Grease and line a 23×13 cm/ 9×5 inch loaf tin. Sift the flours and baking powder in a large bowl.
2. In your electric mixer bowl, beat the butter on medium speed, sugar, citrus zest and lemon oil/extract for about 5 minutes or until pale and fluffy.
3. Reduce electric mixture speed to low and add eggs, one at time, to the butter mixture until completely mixed.
4. Add half of the sifted plain flour, corn flour and baking powder. Then add half of sour cream. Repeat. Add lemon juice if batter is too thick.
5. Scrape the batter into prepared loaf tin and level the top using the back of a spoon or spatula.
6. Bake for 50-60 minutes, until skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean and the cake is just starting to pull away from the tin.
7. Using a skewer, poke holes all over the cake and pour citrus syrup (recipe below) over the top of the cake, a spoonful at a time. About 1/2 cup of citrus syrup is enough.
8. Cool the cake completely in the tin.
9. Remove from cake tin, pour the lemon glaze (recipe below) over the cake. Top with citrus candy slices (recipe below).
10. Sprinkle some fine sugar on the citrus candy slices and using a blowtorch brûlée the edges slightly.
10. Serve each slice with brûléed citrus candy slices. Goes down well with afternoon tea or a coffee over breakfast.
- To make cake flour, remove 2 tablespoons of plain flour from every 125g / 1 cup of plain flour and add 2 tablespoons of corn flour to the plain flour. Sift together at least 4 times to evenly mix the 2 flours. Cake flour yields a more tender crumb in cakes than plain flour.
- 40 ml lemon juice (juice of 1 lemon)
- 160g icing sugar
Using a whisk, mix together lemon juice and icing sugar to make a thick glaze of pourable consistency. If you want the glaze to be more opaque, add a tablespoon of icing sugar to the glaze, mix and add more if needed.
Candied Citrus Slices
- Oranges & lemons, sliced as thin as possible using a very sharp knife, seeds removed
- Equal parts sugar to water
- Cartouche, Parchment paper cut to fit on surface of syrup to reduce loss of liquid
- In a thick-bottom, medium-sized saucepan, bring to boil equal parts sugar and water until all the sugar has dissolved. There should be enough liquid to completely submerged the citrus slices.
- Add citrus slices. Make sure they are completely immersed in syrup. Place cartouche on top of liquid. Use the back of a spoon to push the cartouche down so that it stays on surface.
- Gently simmer citrus slices in syrup for 30-40 until the pith (white part) turn translucent.
- Remove cartouche once ready and with a slotted spoon remove citrus candy slices and place them on a tray lined with parchment. Leave to dry overnight.
So, when life gives you lemons (and oranges)… make
lemonade a citrus pound cake!