Lemon and lime cream cheese butter cake
I’m an absolute sucker for citrus cakes – in fact I think I could write a book exclusively about them! I love the way the sharp tang of the citrus zest and juice cuts through any sweetness, and adds sparkle and freshness to the flavour. In particular, I have a real soft spot for this cake as the addition of cream cheese gives it a moist, velvety crumb, which is so delicious. It’s a simple, homely sort of cake, and all the better for being so.
Makes 1 medium-sized loaf cake
1 ½ cups (225 g) plain flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
½ teaspoon salt
185 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
150 g cream cheese, at room temperature
1 ¼ cups (275 g) castor sugar
finely grated zest of 1 lime
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
finely grated zest of 1 orange
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup (55 g) castor sugar
¼ cup (60 ml) lemon juice, strained
1 ¼ cups (200 g) icing sugar mixture
2 tablespoons lemon juice, strained
very fine shreds of lemon, lime or orange zest, to taste
Preheat your oven to 180°C. Butter a 24 x 13 x 7 cm loaf tin and line the base and sides with baking paper, leaving a little overhang all around.
Tip the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a medium-sized bowl and use a balloon whisk to thoroughly mix everything together for 1 minute.
Put the butter and cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the beater attachment and beat them together on medium speed for 2 minutes until they’re well combined. Add the sugar and citrus zests and continue to beat for about 4 minutes, stopping and scraping down the side of the bowl occasionally, until the mixture looks light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one is added. Don’t worry if the mixture looks slightly curdled after the addition of the third egg – it will be fine. Add the vanilla and beat until it’s just combined.
Stop the mixer and add the flour mixture. I usually give it a quick stir with a spoon at this stage just to mix in the flour so it doesn’t puff up in your face the minute you turn on the beater! Mix in the flour on low speed only until it’s just combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared tin and smooth the top with a spatula.
Bake the cake for about 1 hour (it may take a little longer) or until it springs back when you press it gently in the centre, and a fine skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Sit the cake on a wire rack and leave it to cool in the tin for 30 minutes.
While the cake is cooling, make the lemon syrup. Pour the castor sugar and lemon juice into a small saucepan and stir constantly over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved, then remove the pan from the heat.
Rest a flat plate on top of the cake. Invert the cake onto this, then ease away the tin and baking paper, and carefully invert the cake again onto the rack. Slide a large sheet of baking paper (or a platter) under the rack to catch any drips, then pierce the top of the cake all over with a fine skewer. Brush the lemon syrup all over the cake, then leave it to cool completely.
For the icing, sift the icing sugar mixture into a medium-sized bowl. Make a well in the middle of the sugar and pour in the lemon juice. Use a small whisk to mix everything together until the icing is smooth, then stir in the citrus shreds. Sit a plate under the cake to catch the icing that drips off it, then pour the icing over the cake so it runs down the sides. Scoop up the icing that drips onto the plate and spoon it on again, then leave it to set. If you like, you can add a few more fine shreds of zest while the icing is still wet.
The cake keeps well for a couple of days in an airtight container at room temperature. I usually slice any leftover cake and store it in the freezer, where it keeps really well for up to 3 weeks.