Cook the Books – Demerara Lemon Cake

cook-the-books-demerara-lemon-cakeNigel Slater’s recipes seem to have a resonance that are simultaneously timeless and on trend. It was his ‘Real Fast Food’ to which I first turned when I would come home from a long day at work and it is his ‘Kitchen Diaries” today to which I will always flip through to get inspiration. The cake below is another syrup soaked affair, full of zingy lemon flavour and dense with almonds and eggs. It is perfect as a light pudding with a dollop of thick Greek yoghurt and some strawberries or raspberries.  I been making it since 2010, initially for Jake’s lunch box but now, to occasionally have for unexpected visitors as it also keeps extremely well.





It’s not a difficult cake to make as long as you get everything measured out and ready to go. The first thing to do is to make the topping which is merely a matter of  slicing a lemon and simmering it for 5 or 6 minutes in a little water and sugar. This cools as you get on with the cake. Beat the butter and the sugar, then add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. If the batter starts to look curdled you can either add a spoonful of the flour mix with every egg or just ignore it as it all comes together in the end.  Fold in the flour mixture and scrape it into a lined loaf tin. Top with the lemon slices and bake. While it is baking, make the syrup which is just a little water and sugar and pour it over the spiked cake while it is still warm out of the oven. This is the first time I have made it in a conventional oven (as opposed to a fan oven) and the lemon slices sank – this has happened with other bakes too so the next time I try a topped cake, I will be turning the fan on to see if it makes a difference…


Lemon slices after simmering


Ready for the oven


For those of you who have been asking about Demerara sugar, it is a golden, raw cane, large crystal sugar, similar to Turbinado sugar. This is what BBC Food have to say about it;

This pale-coloured and mild-tasting raw cane sugar is named after its place of origin – Demerara, in Guyana – but it is now imported from various other countries, such as Jamaica, Malawi and Mauritius. It has large sparkling golden crystals and a crunchy texture. Traditionally used to sweeten coffee, it’s perfect for sprinkling but can also be used for baking, particularly in things that need extra crunchiness such as crumbles, cheesecake bases, flapjacks and biscuits.

This is what Wikipedia has to say about brown sugar;

Brown sugar is a sucrose sugar product with a distinctive brown color due to the presence of molasses. It is either an unrefined or partially refined soft sugar consisting of sugar crystals with some residual molasses content, or it is produced by the addition of molasses to refined white sugar (so-called Molasses Sugar).

Brown sugar contains from 3.5% molasses (light brown sugar) to 6.5% molasses (dark brown sugar) based on total volume. Based on total weight, regular brown sugar contains up to 10% molasses. The product is naturally moist from the hygroscopic nature of the molasses and is often labelled as “soft.” The product may undergo processing to give a product that flows better for industrial handling. The addition of dyes and/or other chemicals may be permitted in some areas or for industrial products.

And finally, this is what Wikipedia has to say about white sugar;

White refined sugar is typically sold as granulated sugar, which has been dried to prevent clumping and comes in various crystal sizes for home and industrial use:

  • Coarse-grain, such as sanding sugar (also called “pearl sugar”, “decorating sugar”, nibbed sugar or sugar nibs) is a coarse grain sugar used to add sparkle and flavor atop baked goods and candies. Its large reflective crystals will not dissolve when subjected to heat.
  • Granulated, familiar as table sugar, with a grain size about 0.5 mm across.”Sugar cubes” are lumps for convenient consumption produced by mixing granulated sugar with sugar syrup.
  •  Caster (or castor) (0.35 mm), a very fine sugar in Britain, so-named because the grains are small enough to fit through a castor, a form of sieve. Commonly used in baking and mixed drinks, it is sold as “superfine” sugar in the United States. Because of its fineness it dissolves more quickly than regular white sugar and is thus especially useful in meringues and cold liquids. Castor sugar can be prepared at home by grinding granulated sugar for a couple of minutes in a food processor.
  • Powdered, 10X sugar, confectioner’s sugar (0.060 mm), or icing sugar (0.024 mm), produced by grinding sugar to a fine powder.

Demerara Lemon Cake

  • Servings: 8 slices
  • Difficulty: Easy
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For the topping

  • 1 large lemon
  • 4 Tbsp water
  • 2 Tbsp demerara sugar

For the cake

  • 200 g soft unsalted butter
  • 200 g demerara sugar (I use 100g caster/superfine and 100g soft light brown)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 90 g plain flour
  • 90 g ground almonds or almond meal
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 large lemon, zested

For the syrup

  • The juice from the lemon that has been zested
  • 2 Tbsp demerara sugar


For the topping

  1. Place water and sugar in a small pan.  Slice lemon thinly and add to the pan. Bring to the boil and let simmer for about 5 minutes or until most of the water has evaporated.
  2. Set aside to cool while you get the cake ready.

For the cake

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160C/ 325F and line a loaf pan with paper.
  2. Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. This will take longer with demerara sugar as it is a larger crystal.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The mixture may look curdled but it will be fine once the dry ingredients are added.
  4. Combine the rest of the (dry)  ingredients in a bowl and whisk to make sure that the mixture is well blended
  5. Fold the dry ingredients into the batter with a large metal spoon to preserve as much of the air as possible.
  6. Scrape into the lined loaf tin and overlap the reserved lemon slices down the middle of the batter.
  7. Bake for 45 minutes.
  8. In the mean time, make the syrup by combing the lemon juice and sugar in a pan (I use the one I have cooked the slices in) and leave to dissolve while the cake bakes.
  9. Check the cake, using a skewer or toothpick – if it comes out clean then it is done – if there is some batter clinging to the then it will need a little  extra time.
  10. Remove the cake from the oven and spike all over with a toothpick. Pour the syrup (not all of the sugar will have dissolved) over the cake slowly and evenly.
  11. Leave to cool in the pan.
  12. Serve with a thick dollop of  yoghurt, cream fraiche or double cream and possibly some fruit such as raspberries or strawberries to make it more of a pudding course.

This damp cake keeps very well for a few days if it lasts that long.