Something sweet for the weekend : kaffir lime syrup cake

(Kaffir lime syrup cake)

In case you were wondering how or why I have been able to post more frequently this week, it’s because I have been on holiday. It’s only a week off from work so I didn’t make any plans to do much other than get reacquainted with my home kitchen and catch up with family and friends.

In a happy confluence of events, one of the friends I met up with this week generously offered me some kaffir limes and leaves. Being a rather dismal balcony gardener, I’m always thrilled (and frankly, in awe) when people offer me things they have successfully grown. Kaffir lime leaves are one of my favourite things to cook with. I usually throw the leaves, either shredded or left whole, into as many curries as I can muster for dinner. The limes, however, tend to leave me a little stumped.

At a place I once worked, our vegetable supplier gifted us with a large box of kaffir limes. Not knowing quite what to do with them, someone suggested a kaffir lime sorbet. After zesting and juicing every single lime in the box, I stirred in an appropriate volume of sugar syrup, tasted it and very quickly found out how unpleasant and bitter kaffir lime juice could be.

Naturally, the thing you next do when stuck with an unpalatable concoction is to deliberately leave it unattended on a counter top, to catch out some serial tasters. More than one inquisitive person fell victim to the lure of the bowl, dipping their finger in, hoping for something sweet, but discovering the complete opposite instead. Yes, it was an amusing day for everyone. Well, mostly me.

If you’re lucky enough to be at the receiving end of some fresh kaffir limes and leaves, make this lime syrup cake. But be warned, leave it unattended on a counter top at your own risk.

Kaffir lime syrup cake :
(based on a recipe from Mix & Bake by Belinda Jeffery)

50g plain flour
200g almond meal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
170g sugar
250g unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into large chunks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of 4 kaffir limes

Preheat the oven to 160’C. Butter and line a 20cm square cake tin.

Combine the flour, almond meal, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

In a food processor, add the eggs and sugar and process for about 1 minute. Add the butter and process again to combine, then add the vanilla extract and lime zest, followed by the flour mixture. Pulse until the batter is just combined, stopping every now and then to scrape down the sides with a spatula.

Tip the batter into the prepared tin, smoothing it out evenly. Bake for about 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Cool the cake in the tin before gently brushing the warm prepared syrup over the cake. You will only need 1/3 of the syrup made. The rest can be served alongside slices of the cake. Allow the cake to cool completely before slicing.

[Note: Remove the zest from the limes with a very fine grater like a Microplane, to avoid zesting any of the extra bitter white pith. If you don’t have kaffir limes, substitute with normal limes or lemon]

To make the syrup :

120g sugar
125g lime juice
250g water
kaffir lime leaves (as much or as little as you want, depending on how strong you wish the flavour to be. I used about 20 small leaves, branch and all)

Put the sugar, lime juice, lime leaves and water into a pot. Bring to boil, stirring. Once boiled, turn the heat down to a simmer and allow to reduce for 10 minutes or until it looks more syrupy.

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