After surviving the excitement of the attempted coup, it was a relief to head for England for a spot of R&R. Short-lived of course, as we’ve had such a procession of engagements with friends and family that I’m tempted to ask Her Maj if she can lend me her social secretary.
Our friend Babs has been staying with us over the last few days, which has been an excuse for a few treats. She doesn’t have a happy relationship with wheat, so I snaffled some Doves Farm gluten-free flour when I saw it in the supermarket last week and set out to discover whether it really was interchangeable with ordinary flour – so far, so good.
My first gluten-free foray was to make fruit and nut biscotti – they were honestly better than the ones I have always made with regular flour, though I forgot to photograph them and they are now all eaten, so you’ll have to take my word for it. However, I will definitely make them again and share the recipe with you, as they literally take minutes to make, though they do need a slightly longer bake than the ones made with normal wheat flour.
Next up was to test the flour on my courgette and lemon cake, as I had a couple of courgettes threatening to turn up their toes in the salad drawer. It worked like a dream – delicious squidgy centre, topped with a crunchy top and finished with lemon frosting. I sent the remains of the cake back to Sussex with Babs when she left this morning – I really don’t need any more extra calories this week or my bottom will be the size of the Isle of Wight.
I’ve been making this cake for decades, though it was originally intended to be made as a double layer cake, sandwiched with the frosting. In my ongoing quest to be slightly less greedy when it comes to treats, I now just make one layer and top it with the frosting – I assure you it is just the right size for elevenses or that mid-afternoon slump. If you are feeling decadent or you’re having a party, by all means just double the quantities and make two layers. But don’t blame me if your bottom grows…
Obviously, if you are not avoiding wheat, you can just make this with regular flour. The texture will be slightly different, but it will be entirely delicious. Please note that with the gluten-free flour, the mixture does curdle when you add the lemon juice, but this did not affect the texture of the cake once it was baked.
Courgette and lemon tea cake with lemon frosting
Cuts into 12 slices
You will need a Victoria sandwich tin, base-lined and greased
For the cake:
1 medium courgette (mine was 120g)
125g softened margarine or butter (I used Flora dairy-free)
125g light brown or Demerara sugar (I used a mix of dark brown and white – cupboard was bare)
2 eggs, separated
100g plain flour (I used Doves Farm gluten-free)
1 teaspoon baking powder (the Dr Oetker brand is gluten free)
40g ground almonds (or polenta if you are avoiding nuts)
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
For the frosting:
100g icing sugar
1 rounded tablespoon very soft butter or margarine
Finely grated zest of a lemon plus the juice of half
A few chopped walnuts or pistachios (optional)
Pre-heat the oven to 185C.
Put the egg whites in a small mixing bowl and whisk until they are white and stiff (an electric whisk makes this job much easier – make sure the whisk and bowl are very clean with no traces of grease or detergent). When the whites are sufficiently whisked, you should be able to turn the bowl upside down without them falling out.
Grate the courgettes on a fine grater (don’t peel).
Put the sugar and butter or margarine in a large mixing bowl and beat until light and fluffy – this is also far easier with an electric whisk.
Add the yolks and beat again until smooth.
Add the grated courgettes, the zest and juice of the lemon and the ground almonds, and fold into the mixture.
Sift the flour and baking powder into the mixture and fold in very gently until all the flour has been mixed in. Add a heaped tablespoon of the stiff egg whites and mix in gently, then add the rest of the whites and fold in with a rubber spatula or metal spoon until just combined, trying not to knock out the air.
Put the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 50 to 60 minutes. The cake will only rise just to the top of the tin – there’s no gluten, so don’t expect miracles. However, this does mean the cake has a particularly lovely fudgy texture, so it’s not a hardship. The cake should be a dark golden brown, firm to the touch and should be just slightly pulling away from the edges of the tin.
Turn the cake onto a wire tray and leave to cool completely before spreading with the frosting. A few chopped walnuts or pistachios sprinkled over the frosting would also be a good addition.
For the frosting, put all the ingredients into a mixing bowl and beat until combined – a table fork is the easiest tool for this job. If the mix seems too dry, add a few drops of milk or cream and beat again – you want the mixture to be thick but easily spreadable. If it seems too soft or runny, add a little more icing sugar until you have the consistency you want.