This happens every year. I settle down to watch the Great British Bakeoff and happily spend an hour absorbing images and descriptions of deliciousness, thinking vaguely, at some point, ‘oh, it’d be nice to have a bit of cake/tart/giant croquembouche.’ And somehow, within 24 hours (typically more like 12 hours) that desire becomes an all-consuming need, and by the time my husband gets home from work the next day we’ve got something cooling on the countertop while I’m frantically beating icing or melting caramel and our son’s giving his dad a look that says, ‘I dunno, dad, she’s been muttering about proper sponge consistency all day. I think she may have a problem.’
But at least we grownups get cake at the end of it.
As it’s summer, I went the lemon route (yeah, I know citrus is really a winter crop, but there’s something so summery about a nice, light lemony something, right?) and I was inspired by Iain’s use of basil in his Swiss roll, so I thought I’d toss in a bit of rosemary, which I know goes really nicely with lemon. If you’re not keen, go ahead and just leave the rosemary out of this and just make lovely little lemon cakes, or replace it with lavender, which is also an excellent lemon pairing.
This recipe is based on one by Madame du Berry, naturally.
Lemon and Rosemary Fairy Cakes
For the Cakes
125g butter, softened
125g sugar (recipe calls for caster, I used regular granulated and it worked fine)
2 eggs (large in the original recipe, medium worked fine for me)
125g self-raising flour
Finely grated zest of 1 small lemon (try to get unwaxed)
1T finely chopped fresh rosemary
For the Drizzle Syrup
1T finely chopped rosemary
1T lemon juice
For the Icing
Juice of ½ lemon (a couple of tablespoons)
About 110g icing/confectioner’s sugar
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C/350F and line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper cases.
Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy and pale (it will be nearly white in colour. Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring to incorporate. Add the lemon zest and rosemary and give it a quick stir. Add the flour, in a couple of batches, mixing on low just until everything’s completely combined. If you’re using an electric mixer, use a rubber spatula to give the batter a quick couple of folds just to make sure all the ingredients at the bottom have been mixed through.
Divide the batter between the muffin cups and bake 20-25 minutes, rotating halfway through, until risen and golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack.
While the cakes are cooling, put the drizzle ingredients in a small saucepan with a couple of tablespoons of water and warm until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a simmer, and then remove from the heat, setting aside for a couple of minutes to give the rosemary a chance to infuse into the syrup a bit. While that’s happening, use a skewer to poke a few holes in the tops of the cooling cakes. Strain the syrup through a fine-mesh sieve to remove the rosemary and drizzle it over the tops of the cakes.* Let the cakes cool completely.
Mix the icing ingredients until you get a white, fairly runny icing. If it’s too runny, beat in a little extra icing sugar, a teaspoon at a time. Drizzle it over the tops of the cakes. If you’re being fancy, decorate them with a tiny bit of chopped fresh rosemary or some silver dragees.
*If we’re being honest, this is a bit of lily guilding that just adds a little extra moisture and flavour, so if you don’t feel like doing this step, feel free to skip it.