Sticky lemon cake

After a lifetime avoiding fruit-flavoured cakes I’ve recently become a big fan.

This cake comes from the National Trust ‘Good old-fashioned cakes’ book by Jane Pettigrew and is delicious.  As you add in a lemon-flavoured syrup right at the end, the cake absorbs this sticky lemon flavour and is very moist and tangy.

The recipe is originally from Castle Drogo in Devon build by Julius Drewe in 1900. Mr Drewe, clearly a big cake fan, opened his own tea store (the Willow Pattern Tea Store) in 1878 and then set up Home and Colonial Stores in 1883 and became a millionaire.

The cake is a hearty lemon sponge with a sweet sticky syrup added as soon as it comes out of the oven to give it a finger-sticking quality. I amended the recipe slightly and added in a few mandarin segments while processing to give it another subtly flavour and make the texture moister. I also added slightly more flour than required and some baking power to make it lighter and give it some extra bounce.


100g (4oz) soft butter

100g (4oz) caster sugar

2 eggs

130g self-raising flour

half a mandarin or tangerine

1 teaspoon baking powder

rind of one lemon


juice of one lemon

2 tablespoons icing sugar

Icing (add more on less depending on how much you like it)

100g icing sugar

juice and rind of one lemon

Preheat the over to gas mark 3 (160C, 325F). Grease and line and 18cm (7inch) baking tin. Beat together the butter and the sugar for at least three minutes. As with all basic sponge mixes the mixture should double and be gasping out for the eggs to join in. Add the eggs, one at a time, and follow with the mandarin segments and lemon rind. Sieve the flour and baking power twice and add into the mix. Either fold in or add to the food processor and blitz for a minute. Put the mixture in the tin and bake for 45 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean from the centre of the cake.

To make the syrup, heat the lemon juice and dissolve the icing sugar into it. Immediately make several holes with a skewer and pour the syrup mixture on top, watch it until it’s absorbed into the cake before adding more.

Leave the cake in its tin until completely cold then carefully transfer to a plate or board for icing.

The icing stage does not have to be pretty (unless you’re a perfectionist). Once you’re mixed the icing sugar and water, drizzle over the top until any mishaps or holes are covered and you’ve got what looks like enough icing to cover the cake.

As it’s not the most beautiful cake in the world to look at, I added some colourful hundreds and thousands on top.




Filed under Food

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