As far as I am concerned, there is no greater cake than a lemon cake, and this one has the crown. It’s an upside-down cake with an easy candied lemon bottom, which, once cool, is turned over to become a gilded lemon roof. The lemons burnish as the cake cooks, under a crumb of almonds, polenta, and oats (so it’s free of gluten, if that’s something that’s on your radar). The lemon comes with a backup of cardamom and vanilla, a combination that’s well used in my kitchen, and for very good reason.
- Preheat your oven to 395°F. Next, grease and line a 9-1/2-inch springform cake pan with waxed paper.
- Put the zest and juice of 2 of the lemons in a small bowl and set aside. Next, prepare the remaining lemons for the base of the pan. Using a really sharp knife, slice the lemons into wafer-thin slices (about 1/4 inch is ideal). Remove any visible seeds from the slices.
- Put 1/4 cup of the sugar into a medium saucepan with 3 1/2 tablespoons of water and heat until the sugar has dissolved, then simmer for about 5 minutes until you have a syrup. Add the lemon slices and very gently simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes, until they are starting to turn slightly translucent, then carefully scoop them out of the syrup and put them on some parchment paper to cool so that you can handle them. Reserve any syrup for later.
- Meanwhile, blitz the oats in the food processor until you have a rough, flour-like consistency.
- Bash the cardamom seeds to a rough powder. Beat the canola oil and remaining sugar with a wooden spoon. Mix in the polenta, baking powder, almonds, cardamom, vanilla, eggs, ground oats, and reserved lemon juice and zest. Sprinkle over the salt and mix well again.
- Arrange the sliced citrus on the bottom of the lined cake pan, leaving some little gaps for the batter to hit the bottom of the tin, which will allow some of the steam to escape. Pour the batter on top and level it out with the back of a spoon.
- Bake in the middle of the oven for 35 to 40 minutes, checking at 30 minutes and perhaps covering with foil if it looks like it's getting very brown on top. Check that it's cooked through by piercing the cake with a skewer; if it comes out clean, the cake is ready.
- After the cake has cooled for about 20 minutes, remove the pan, peel away the paper, and carefully upturn it onto a plate. Pour any leftover syrup from the lemons over the top. Serve with yogurt, whipped with a little vanilla.
From The Modern Cook’s Year by Anna Jones, published by Abrams Books c 2019.