As I was at the doorsteps struggling to reach deep inside my bag to pull out my bunch of keys, I heard a low-pitched voice calling me from behind. 「伊藤さん、伊藤さん！良かったら、このみかんどうぞ。うちの庭で採れたのよ ～ 」 It was my neighbour who lives directly opposite us. Katayama-san is already 80, yet still full of charms – she doesn’t even look that old actually.
Living away from the city does mean we get to eat fresh homegrown vegetables and fruits sometimes!
There in her big garden – a pretty uncommon sight even in the suburban of Tokyo nowadays, she owns a couple of fruit trees which bear her sweet juicy mikans, persimmons and blueberries every year. Generously as always, she brought me a bag of mikans that she had fleshly plucked in that morning.
Japanese love giving gifts.
Whether be it a beautifully wrapped gift or a freshly picked Daikon from the farm, gift-giving is very much a common gesture Japanese practise in their everyday lives.
Every time my daughter’s friends come over to play, they would bring a small gift along – like a token from their parents to thank me for allowing their daughters play in our house.
In my opinion, even though those gifts are inexpensive usually, I find such formality can be excused so that we can be more at ease with each other, especially among the children.
Well, I understand it’s their custom, I respect and will follow. So whenever it’s my daughter’s turn to play at her friend’s, I make sure she doesn’t go with empty hands.
It feels good to receive gifts, but always remember to send something back, particularly if you live here.
Not that they expect a return, but Japanese express their thanks and appreciation through O-kaeshi お返し and a perfect pound cake like below makes a fantastic food gift for any occasions.
Since it is the season, I thought it’s good to make Katayama-san a classic pound cake with some Setouchi lemons from 瀬戸内 広島県 Hiroshima, in return of her generous gesture. Wrap in colourful waxed papers and twine strings, I am going to turn this simple cake into great little homemade pressie.
One Pound Lemon Cake
For 1 cake (with a 19 Χ 8.5 Χ 6cm mould)
Prep time 15-20 mins, cook time 50-60 mins
To save/print recipe, click here.
What You Need
100g of plain flour
½ tsp of baking powder
80g of sugar
100g of unsalted butter
Zest from one lemon
A little vanillia essence
For lemon syrup
2-3 Tbsp of lemon juice
2-3 Tbsp of sugar
4-5 pieces of lemon slice
1- Preheat oven at 160ºC (320°F)
Bring eggs and butter back to room temperature. Preheat oven at 160ºC (320°F). Grease and flour the baking tin and set aside.
2- Whisk butter and sugar together.
Put softened butter in a large bowl and whisk briefly with an electric mixer. Add in sugar next. Divide the portion into two – add one portion into bowl first, whisk and pause. Then put in the remaining and continue to whisk until creamy.
3- Add eggs and vanilla essence.
Add eggs to the creamy butter one at a time. It forms a lumpy and watery mixture initially but that’s fine. Just continue to whisk at a high-medium speed and soon you’ll see the butter breaking apart, incorporating into the eggs and forming a smoother texture. Add in the vanilla essence next.
4- Sieve in flour and baking powder.
Combine baking powder and flour together in a separate bowl. Sift the flour into the egg-butter mixture though a sieve. Then use a silicon spatula, gently fold in the flour – forming a rather soft dough-like cake batter.
5- Zest lemon, mix well and bake
Wash and dry the lemon well before use. Zest the rind and add into the batter. Gently combine them and subsequently transfer into baking tin. With the same spatula, spread the batter out evenly, filling up corners of the tin. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a tester comes out clean from the cake.
6- Make lemon glaze.
While still baking in the oven, make lemon glaze. Cut lemon into 2. Use one portion for lemon slices and extract juice from the other. Slice the lemon thin, approx. 1-1.5mm thick. Heat lemon juice and sugar in a saucepan under a medium-low fire. When sugar melts, put in lemon slices. Stir briefly. As soon as the syrup boils, take them out. Continue to boil until the syrup thickened.
7- Cool cake completely and glaze.
Once out from oven, cool the cake in the tin on the rack for 5-10 minutes, after that transfer out onto rack to cool completely. Spread a layer of the lemon glaze on top of the cake with a pastry brush. Then place the lemon slices one by one, overlapping each other slightly.
If you do not intend to eat soon, cling wrap the cooled, unglazed cake and store away from direct sunlight or in the freezer for up to 3 months. To eat, leave it out to thaw overnight at room temperature and glaze before serving.
I usually grease and flour my baking tin. However, if you prefer to avoid the mess, line the tin with parchment paper instead or use disposable paper trays. Both ways work well.
It is important to make sure the butter is soft enough. Otherwise, it will be difficult to beat until smooth and creamy.
When baking, if you find that your cake is browning more than it should, open the oven halfway and place a piece of aluminium foil on top to prevent it from getting burnt further.
What do I like about this dish?
Pound cake is classic and versatile! With one basic recipe, you can make your own variations by trying out different add-ins like fresh or dried fruits, chocolate chips and nuts or dress up it with glazes, sauce or cream. It’s “one cake with many faces”.
Whether is it for a quiet afternoon treat, to take to a party or a gift to friends, this classic pound cake is bound to make everybody beam with satisfaction. Decadent with a sweet tangy glaze, just one thick slice of this lemon cake with a cup of tea by my side – oh, life is too good, I’m happy and contented.
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To save/print recipe, click here.