The perfect summer cake
Come summer and I start craving lighter and colder desserts. Is it just me, or is it a thing with you too? Here in Delhi, as the temperature soars, I no longer look forward to spending ages in the kitchen labouring over multi-step recipes for food or dessert. The cooking time and effort aside, even the tummy craves something less rich. More salads, cold soups, lots of cooling curd and buttermilk, chilled fresh fruit and so on.
When I popped into the corner store last week, I couldn’t resist buying a whole bag-full of citrus fruit. Mausambi (Sweet Lime) and Keenu (Kinnow Orange) for fresh juice, Malta Orange to slice and put in tall glasses of chilled water, Lemons for Nimbu-Paani (Lemonade). Of course, I realised that I had bought too much as soon as I returned home. It gave me the perfect reason to bake this easy Citrus Syrup Cake.
I was looking through the blog archives to find a particular cake recipe and was amazed to find that I had never put up this cake, even though it’s one of the oldest and most favourite in my repertoire. It’s fresh, zesty, bursting with tart-sweet citrus flavour and moistness. And do you know what the best part is? It tastes even more delicious when it’s chilled than when it’s warm or at room temperature. Just consume straight out of the fridge. Isn’t that amazing?
What’s even better is how simple this cake is. Essentially it’s just a soft, moist yellow cake, flavoured using fresh citrus zest, and drenched in a citrus syrup of your choice (yellow cake adapted from Real Simple magazine). When I was younger, I used to make this using a basic pound cake proportion, but over the years I’ve come to like the added moistness of the yellow cake. Also, if the cake is too crusty (like the pound cake recipe), it does’t absorb the syrup as quickly.
You can make this with any combination of citrus fruits or even with just one kind. Just make sure you get enough zest, peel and juice and you won’t go wrong. I generally just go with what I have at home when I crave this cake. For this version, I used a combination of Mausambi, Malta Orange and Lemons.
Can you see how moist and well-drenched it is from the inside? I’m craving it all over again as I write this. Even though we just polished off 2 of these cakes. Maybe I’ll make more tomorrow!
Without further ado, let me share the step-by-step recipe with you!
Here’s what I used for a 9″ round cake:
1-1/4 cup AP Flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp table salt
1/2 cup (100 gms) softened, unsalted butter (plus more to grease pan)
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup full-cream (whole) milk
2 mausambi (sweet lime)
2 malta orange
For the syrup:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Here’s how I made it:
First, I turned on the oven to pre-heat at 175° C. Then I lined a 9″ round pan with parchment paper, greased it with a little softened butter and dusted it with flour. I placed all the dry ingredients – flour, baking powder, baking soda & salt in a bowl and gave them a good whisk to combine.
Setting the dry ingredients aside, I prepped the citrus fruit. I grated the zest finely from 1 each of the mausambi, malta and lemon using a microplane zester. I got roughly 1-1/2 tbsp of the combined zest. (I was actually making 2 cakes at the time so, in the pictures, it may look like there’s more quantity of everything).
Using a sharp paring knife, I peeled the remaining mausambi, malta and lemon and reserved the peel for the topping (garnish). Then, using a citrus juicer, I juiced all the citrus fruit and ended up with approximately 1 cup of juice. For the juice, I like to keep as much of the pulp as possible but obviously not the seeds.
I used the paring knife to thinly slice the peel and kept it aside.
Now to make the cake! In the bowl of my stand mixer, I placed the softened butter, powdered sugar and grated zest. I beat these on high for about 4-5 minutes, until fluffy and increased in the volume. I find it quite useful to stop every minute or so and scrape down the sides.
I then added the eggs one-by-one, beating on medium speed after each addition.
Next I added flour and milk alternatively, beating on slow speed in between each addition just until combined. Do not over-beat at this point. So a third of the flour mix – beat – half the milk – beat – another third of the flour mix – beat – rest of the milk – beat. For the last addition of the flour mix, I like to remove the bowl from the mixer and fold it in using a spatula.
I spooned the batter into the prepared pan, smoothed it with a spatula and tapped it sharply on the counter a few times to even it out and let trapped air bubbles escape.
I popped the cake into the oven on the centre rack for about 25 minutes.
While the cake was baking, I made the syrup. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, I placed the granulated sugar, the juice and the thinly sliced peel. Placing it on high, I brought it to a boil, stirring to ensure that the sugar dissolves.
Once it came to a boil, I allowed it to simmer for 10 minutes. Taking it off the heat, I allowed it to cool until the cake was done. Straining the peel out, I transferred the syrup into a small jug for easy handling.
When I checked the centre of the cake with a toothpick at 25 minutes, I thought it could use a few more minutes. So I reduced the temperature to 150° C and let it bake for another 5. I let it cool in the pan for about 10-15 minutes and then turned it out onto a wire rack. I placed this cooling rack on a sheet pan to catch extra syrup.
While still warm, I poked the cake liberally and evenly with a toothpick to create more crevices that could absorb the syrup. Using a spoon, I slowly poured all the syrup over the cake. A lot of it dripped onto the sheet pan, but I just collected it and spooned it over the cake again. Once all the syrup was absorbed, I let it cool completely.
Final step: I piled the sliced peel and served it at room temperature. The leftovers were chilled and eaten straight out of the fridge, my favourite way!
Can you see how moist and syrupy it is from the inside?
This is officially my favourite summer cake and I end up baking it very often. I hope you’ll love it as much as I do!
PS: the boiled peel has a slight bitterness to it, despite the sugar syrup (like bitter marmalade) and I like it that way. But if it doesn’t work for you, simply place the sliced peel in cold water, bring to a boil and then discard the water. Repeat with fresh water 2 more times. Then continue to boil it with the juice and sugar as above!
PPS: if you’re lazy (like I am sometimes), feel free to grate all the zest into the cake batter and simply avoid the peel decoration. Just use juice and sugar for the syrup as above.
Have another favourite citrus cake recipe? Tell me about it in the comments below!
Same time, last year:
One Year Ago: Strawberry Crumble
Two Years Ago: Glass Noodle Roll with Avocado & Asparagus
Three Years Ago: Masala French Toast
Four Years Ago: Espresso & Chocolate Chunk Muffins
- 1-1/4 cup AP Flour
- ¾ tsp baking powder
- ⅛ tsp baking soda
- ⅛ tsp table salt
- ½ cup (100 gms) softened, unsalted butter (plus more to grease pan)
- ¾ cup powdered sugar
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup full-cream (whole) milk
- 2 mausambi (sweet lime)
- 2 malta orange
- 2 lemons
- For the syrup:
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- Microplane Zester
- Glass Measuring Cup
- Citrus Juicer
- Stand Mixer
- 9" Round Cake Pan
- Parchment Paper
- Silicon Spatula
- Wire Cooling Rack
- Baking Sheet
- Turn on the oven to pre-heat at 175° C and prepare the round cake pan. Line it with parchment paper, grease with butter and dust with a little flour. Keep it aside.
- Grate the zest off 1 each mausambi, malta and lemon using a microplane zester. Using a paring knife, peel the remaining fruit and slice the peel very thinly for the garnish. Set aside.
- Using a citrus juicer, juice all the fruits and set it aside.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients - the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, place the powdered sugar, softened butter and grated zest and beat on high speed for 4-5 minutes until light and fluffy. Scrape down a few times in between to ensure even mixing.
- Add the eggs, one-at-a-time, beating on medium speed after each addition.
- Add the flour and milk in parts, alternatively, mixing on low after each addition just until combine. Begin and end with the flour (so flour-milk-flour-milk-flour).
- For the last flour addition, remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in gently with the spatula.
- Spoon the batter into the prepared cake tin, level and tap on the counter to even out and allow trapped air bubbles to escape.
- Bake in the centre of the oven for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
- While the cake is baking, prepare the syrup. Place the juice, granulated sugar and sliced citrus peel in a heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir continuously to make sure the sugar dissolves.
- Once it comes to a boil, simmer for about 10 minutes before removing from heat.
- Strain out the peel and set aside for garnish. Transfer the syrup into a glass measuring cup for easy handling.
- Once the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for about 10-15 minutes before transferring it to a wire rack. Place this wire rack on a baking sheet to catch extra syrup.
- While the cake is still warm, poke it liberally and evenly using a toothpick to make more crevices that can absorb the syrup.
- Using a spoon, slowly pour the syrup over the cake. Much will drip into the baking sheet at the bottom. Collect all that syrup and repeat as many times as necessary to finish all the syrup.
- Once all the syrup has been absorbed, allow cake to cool completely.
- Garnish with the sliced peel and serve cold.
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