Gin & Lime Cake II

In May, I enjoyed a fantastic long weekend in Wales with a dozen friends who were climbing Mount Snowdon for Opera for Change. Its director (and brother of my most fabulous friend, Cat) is the multi-talented Andy, alongside whom I catered the weekend’s meals. We had an absolute blast that weekend. I digress. When Andy’s birthday rolled round (today, in fact) I took the opportunity to give the Gin & Lime cake another bash, hoping to improve upon my first effort. If the reviews are to be believed, I must have achieved my goal.

Sponge
225g unsalted butter, room temperature
350g caster sugar
4 large eggs (I used duck eggs)
Zest of 2 limes – about 1½ tbsp
1tsp vanilla extract
375g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
¼tsp salt
60ml decent gin (I used Tanqueray)
60ml milk
Juice of 1 lime

Syrup
180g caster sugar
5tbsp gin (Now, personally, I think this could have handled more than 5tbsp gin as the flavour was very subtle – next time, I might try 6 or 7.)
Juice of 1 lime

Buttercream
250g unsalted butter, room temperature
375-500g icing sugar, depending on how sweet your sweet tooth is
Zest of 2 limes
Juice of 1-2 limes (start with one and see how your texture is doing – you’ll need to balance the fluid with the icing sugar)

Shopping list tip: a bag of 5 limes will do the job for this cake

Fully line your tin with baking parchment (to prevent the syrup from escaping or making the cake stick irretrievably to the bottom. This recipe works best as a single layer ‘tray-bake’ rather than a stacked cake, so a square or rectangular tin works well. It doesn’t really matter what size you choose as long as you adjust the timing so that you bake it until it’s done. I didn’t fancy schlepping a cake box across town to the pub so I used a broad-based paper carrier bag that had once contained lots of delicious chocolates. In a moment of unprecedented forethought that impressed even my mother (the queen of forethought), I measured the bottom of the bag and made my multisize tin fit (11” x 8” (leaving enough mixture for three small cupcakes (for Quality Control purposes, you understand)). I then discovered – to my delight – that it was almost exactly the size of my placemats, so one of those served as a cake plate. In the words of The A-Team’s stogie-smoking Hannibal Smith: I love it when a plan comes together.

I digress. Again. Preheat your oven to 180C.

Stage 1

Stage 1

Beat your butter until it’s creamy, add the sugar and beat for a good 4-5 minutes, until fluffy and pale. Add one egg at a time, beating thoroughly after each one. Zest the lime directly into the bowl and add the vanilla, then beat again.

Mix the flour, baking powder and salt together in a separate bowl and add half to the butter mixture. From this point onwards, avoid over-beating otherwise your cake won’t be as light as it could be. Beat gently, then add the gin, lime juice and milk, and beat gently again. Finally, add the rest of flour etc and beat just until thoroughly combined.

Pour into your tin and bake for around 35-45 minutes, testing with a skewer to make sure it’s properly cooked.

Oven ready

Oven ready

About 15 minutes into the baking time, put your syrup ingredients in a small saucepan and heat very gently (I have six heat settings on my hob and used the second) for approximately 10-15 minutes, stirring all the time. The idea is that you want the caster sugar to dissolve into the gin and lime juice without burning off too much of the alcohol – it might not all dissolve but the syrup will start to appear clearer, at which point take it off the heat and wait for the oven timer to ping.

Syrup, before heating and after

Syrup, before heating and after

When the cake comes out of the oven, sit it on a cooling rack but leave it in its tin. While it’s hot, stab the cake enthusiastically with a skewer, then use a soup spoon to drizzle the gin syrup all over the cake (if you pour directly from the saucepan, you’re less likely to get even coverage). Leave to soak and cool completely.

Baked sponge - warm, skewered and soaking in gin syrup

Baked sponge – warm, skewered and soaking in gin syrup

Standard buttercream instructions: throw the soft butter in the mixer and give it a good blast until it’s creamy, then sift the icing sugar in. Either mix it in gently with a rubber spatula or cover the mixer with a tea-towel before switching on at a low speed, otherwise a cloud of icing sugar will billow up into your kitchen, which will (a) make you choke and (b) necessitate the immediate recruitment of a white-coat-clad clean-up team. Zest the two limes directly into the bowl and blitz for a good 5 minutes. The longer you beat, the fluffier it will be.

With the employment of a cunning cake-lowering-in-and-lifting-out device made from foil lined parchment and a bit of home-made bunting, the cake was ready for its journey to the pub in Angel.

Bunting-clad, packed and ready for the tube journey

Bunting-clad, packed and ready for the tube journey

I was pleased to see that the mice in this establishment were so refined that they used cutlery to half-inch a bit of cake.

In situ, after the 'mice' had been

In situ, after the ‘mice’ had been

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Gin, Lemon & Lime Cake

Unfathomably (he paid me to say that), my friend Nick just turned 40 so I asked him what variety of baked goodness he might like.  When he chose a lemon cake, I confess that my heart sank ever so slightly, echoing the woeful rise I’ve achieved with previous lemon cake exploits.  A week or two later, another friend and fellow gin fan Lexie sent me a link to a Gin & Tonic cake recipe.  As fortune would have it, Nick rather enjoys a G&T so I decided to try and break the lemon cake curse by throwing gin into the mix.

Personally, I think it’s a little rude to tinker with someone’s carefully crafted recipe before you’ve tried it so I fully intended to give this cake a bash entirely unchanged, but one unexpectedly dead lime, forgetting to buy tonic and the fact that Nick had previously requested lemon buttercream on his lemon cake meant that a little jiggery-pokery was necessary.

(Also, I’ve converted the original cup measurements to metric weights, as I find it easier.)

Cake
375g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
¼tsp salt
225g unsalted butter, room temperature
350g caster sugar
4 large eggs
2tsp vanilla extract
1½tbsp freshly zested rind – ideally from limes, though I had to sub in a bit of lemon
60ml gin
60ml milk
juice of 1 lime

Drizzle
200g icing sugar
2-5tbsp gin
juice of 1 lime

Lemon Buttercream
250g unsalted butter, room temperature
500g icing sugar
zest and juice (approx 2tbsp) of 1 lemon

I followed the brilliant instructions on the original recipe, except I was too late to spot the advice about starting with 1-2tbsp of gin for the glaze; I went all-in with 5tbsp…  And I don’t regret it.

If you bake frequently, I’d encourage you to stick one of these brilliant multisize square cake tins on your Christmas list.  They give pleasingly sharp corners and take up very little cupboard space.  (Middle-aged comment alert.)

A fully lined 10" square tin

A fully lined 9″ square tin

A VERY orange egg yolk (Old Cotswold Legbar)

A VERY orange egg yolk (Old Cotswold Legbar)

Mmmm gin

Mmmm gin

Look closely to see the zest

Look closely to see the zest

Pouring the highly alcoholic glaze

Pouring the highly alcoholic glaze

Cooling and soaking

Cooling and soaking

For the buttercream, beat the butter until soft, then add the icing sugar.  Combine by hand with a rubber spatula before giving it a good beating in the mixer.  Zest the lemon directly into the bowl then add the juice.  Beat again.  I made mine on an extremely hot day so I had to add more sugar to get it to the right texture.

MANLY cake

MANLY cake

Nothing delicate or girly about this monster.  Excellent.

Flavour feedback: fresh, citrus flavour with a delicate but detectable tang of gin if you breathe in right after you take a bite.  A definite winner.