“I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine”
William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
It may not be Midsummer yet but some of my culinary herbs are shaking off their winter mantle and turning their heads to this lovely spring sunshine – their fresh new growth keeps waving at me cheerily and it would be rude to ignore it!
I love having herbs planted right outside my kitchen window, ready to be snipped, chopped and thrown into whatever I have cooking, they add instant flavour and depth and the smell of them is guaranteed to draw my family to my side. Some of them, like rosemary and thyme, are just as happy in a sweet dish or aromatic cake as they are in a savoury. This fresh lemon cake spiked with thyme makes a perfect bake for Elevenses or Afternoon Tea, washed down with a piping hot cup of Earl Grey tea.
I’ve used Foxley thyme but any culinary thyme will do – lemon thyme would obviously be very pleasing but I’m a bit in love with the variegated leaf of Foxley so in it went!
It’s a very pretty thyme, it may be popping up in many more dishes as the year meanders on
- 200g self raising flour, sifted
- 200g softened butter
- 200g caster sugar
- 2tsps chopped fresh thyme
- 3 free range eggs (I used duck eggs here which have been a revelation in my baking, so light, so fluffy and such a rich colour!)
- 120ml milk
- Zest and Juice of 2 lemons
- 100g granulated sugar
- You’ll also need a 2lb loaf tin, greased and lined with baking parchment
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/350F/Gas 4.
- Beat the butter and caster sugar together using a hand whisk or free standing mixer until light and fluffy (the buttery goodness, not you!)
- Gradually add the eggs, beating well after each addition (they are much less likely to curdle if they are at room temperature when you start – if they do ‘go’ add a spoonful of your flour and beat again).
- Gently fold in the sifted flour, stir in the milk, the grated zest from your lemons and the thyme.
- Spoon the mixture into your prepared tin, gently level the surface and bake for 40 – 50 minutes until golden brown. Test if it’s cooked by pushing a skewer into the centre, if it comes out clean you’re done!
- While the cake is baking, prepare your lemon syrup. Pour the squeezed lemon juice into a small pan with the granulated sugar. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat immediately and simmer for 10 minutes or so or until the liquid has reduced by about half.
- Leaving the cake in the tin prick it all over with the skewer and pour the syrup as evenly as you can over the surface.
- Leave to cool for 10 minutes before turning out on to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Serve decorated with a sprig of thyme and a nice cup of Earl Grey tea with a slice of lemon
I love the light in this picture, the shadows cast by my kitchen blind, the little hint of my spring apron hanging on the back of the door, my lovely cake tins waiting patiently for their occupants – hoorah for spring baking!
I’m a bit obsessed with English baking traditions, I wrote about Elevenses this time last year (and shared this delicious recipe for Rhubarb Crumble Muffins – go on, take a peek, you won’t regret it!)