Sunday 18 March 2018

Rival This: Recipe for almond and lemon drizzle cake

Sweeten up those bitter feelings with a sumptuous slice of home-made heaven

Almonds kernel in a wooden plate
Almonds kernel in a wooden plate
Sophie White

Sophie White

Everyone, bar the most well-adjusted among us, has someone I like to call a Life Rival. Most commonly, a Life Rival is a sibling who is always doing better than you at school. He/she is captain of the hockey team, never has acne, then goes on to have a high-powered career and three gorgeous, well-behaved kids.

I was fortunate enough to be an only child and, therefore, never had to deal with the trauma of sibling comparisons. My granny, however, took it upon herself to assign me my first ever Life Rival at age 10, in the form of Maeve, the granddaughter of one of her bridge partners. Maeve was improbably sweet-natured and, according to my granny, was always having to ask her school for extra Trocaire boxes, such was her talent for inspiring altruism in others. Privately, I thought she was a bit vanilla.

My personal LR is none other than my incredibly talented and successful friend, The Writer. Now, it is important to point out that The Writer in no way ever tries to goad me or make me feel bad about myself. Quite the contrary; we are very, very close and she's the nearest thing I have to a sister.

To my mind, she has everything I want: career, independence, talent, beauty, a flat in London . . . you name it. And, when hearing about her achievements, I usually can't help but have a few snide, jealous little thoughts.

During a recent chat, she could hear Yer Man (the baby) babbling in the background, and said something along the lines of: "Oh, if only I hadn't wasted my 20s becoming established as a really successful writer – I should have been out there hunting for a husband."

She's implying that I spent my 20s hunting potential husbands instead of having a career. I later recounted to Himself (The Hunted, as we now call him) in a fit of rage: "She acts like it is the most boring and conventional thing ever to be married with a baby."

"But it is," was his ill-advised response. "Anyway, she's not implying anything. She's just chatting and you're projecting. These are purely your own insecurities," he counselled.

Annoying and totally accurate. The worst thing about Life Rivalries is that they consume us, while our perceived "rival" usually has no idea of their power to affect us.

To make amends for my mean-spirited thoughts, I made The Writer this tasty lemon drizzle cake on her last visit, to sweeten up my bitterness.

Almond and lemon Drizzle Cake

Makes 8 greedy slices.

For the cake, you will need:

3 eggs

160g (5½oz) caster sugar

125g (4oz) butter, melted

200g (7oz) ground almonds

60g (2½oz) spelt flour (or plain flour)

2 teaspoons baking powder

Zest of 3 lemons

For the icing, you will need:

80g (3oz) icing sugar

Juice of 1-2 lemons

Preheat the oven to 180°C, 350°F, Gas 4. Line a 20cm (8in) round cake tin with baking paper. In a bowl, whisk the eggs and the caster sugar together, until pale and creamy. Add in the melted butter and gently whisk.

In a separate bowl, add the ground almonds, then sift in the spelt flour or plain flour, whichever you are using, and the baking powder. Gently fold these dry ingredients, along with the lemon zest, into the egg-and-sugar mix.

Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake in the middle of the oven for about 30 minutes, or until it has evenly risen and is golden on top. When it's ready, a knife inserted into the middle of the cake should come out clean.

Cool the cake in the tin for about half an hour before turning it out.

To make the drizzle, sift the icing sugar into a bowl, and gradually stir in the lemon juice until the mixture is roughly the consistency of honey. When the cake has cooled completely, drizzle the icing over it and tuck in.

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