It’s officially summer and, with any luck, we can look forward to blue skies and warm, lazy days. The peak of the season means bright mornings, long evenings and high spirits; our serenity threatened only by the persistent presence of wasps. I savor the scent of sun cream, particularly when it mingles with the sound of clinking glasses and the taste of smoke on the air. In July the weather is still fresh enough to go about business as usual, but hopefully with a sunny spring in ones’ step.
To me, summer flavours are fruity and sharp; chunks of grilled watermelon with feta cheese, fresh mango salsa, lemon sorbet and crushed mint. Salads and vegetables must be generously drizzled and brushed with olive oil, adorned with torn handfuls of fresh basil and spritzed with citrus. Berries and stone fruits are in abundance, squashed and strewn over pavalovas or rippled softly through ice cream. Tropical tastes come to the fore and I find myself craving the creamy flesh of coconuts and the tongue-aching tang of pineapple. The heavy comforts of winter are, for this short window, no longer necessary.
Baking and warmer weather aren’t always a happy match; no one wants to sweat in the kitchen when it’s balmy outside. However, the British summer is, at best, a temperamental one and we are guaranteed a handful of frustrating, rainy days. For those days we have to resort to making a little sunshine of our own, for those days the scents of summer must be manually combined. My Sunshine Cake is exceptionally simple baking; a golden batter, poured and baked into a sheet of light, berry-flecked, summery crumb. Olive oil, coconut and a heavy dose of lemon pay tribute to fantasies of warmer climes and summers spent on sandy beaches, Greek islands and dusty vineyards.
115g olive oil
100g caster sugar
115g white self-raising flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
80g desiccated coconut
finely grated zest 3 lemons
100g fresh raspberries
for the soaking syrup
juice 1 lemon
for the icing
5 tsp lemon juice
100g icing sugar
- Line a rectangular baking tin with baking paper (aim for around 12’’ x 9’’ or 35cmx25cm).
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C Fan.
- In a large bowl combine the oil, sugar, coconut, vanilla and eggs, beat together until smooth.
- Add the flour and stir until combined.
- Pour the batter into the pre-prepared tin and distribute the raspberries evenly into the batter.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly golden or until an inserted cocktail stick comes out clean.
- Meanwhile prepare the syrup; add the lemon juice and sugar to a small pan and bring to a simmer over a medium heat. Allow the mixture to reduce by approximately half. Do not allow it to boil. Set to one side.
- Whilst the cake is still warm, use a cocktail stick to make small holes all over the surface, this way the syrup will be better absorbed.
- Use a tablespoon to pour the syrup evenly over the cake, until the top of the cake is moist and sticky.
- To make the drizzle icing mix the icing sugar and lemon juice gradually until it reaches a thick, pouring consistency.
- Allow the cake to cool completely before icing.
- Garnish with a little lemon zest.