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An Amateur Bake-Off Tale and Lemon and Cointreau Drizzle Mini-Cakes

A friend told me that Union Chapel up in Islington was holding a summer fete and when I  checked out the event, I saw that there was a baking competition. I was in. So in. I’m competitive ok! Quite late in the day I found out it was a lemon drizzle competition and thought excellent – easy peasy, I have a tried and tested recipe!  (A competition is no time to experiment unless you have time and energy for multiple trials. I’ll post about my alternative mince pies from last year before next Christmas).  And then I thought hmmm, my lemon drizzle is good, but what will make it stand out from the crowd, make it better, make it a winner? The answer to this question is almost always, “bacon” but in the case, the second option, “booze” was a better fit. So I added Cointreau.

So, on the day, there were 12 entries – with impressive variety.

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Mine was the top right entry – the overall winner was the top left entry – Basil and Lemon Cake

The public were offered the chance to try all 12 entries for £4 and vote in 4 categories

Best looking (never my forte)
Best for ‘Lemony-ness'(maybe adding an orange flavour was a mistake?)
Best for ‘Drizzly-ness’ (I added icing – hmmm)
Best overall (you never know I suppose)

The competition was tough and a Basil and Lemon Cake won best overall but…..

As the winners were announced….

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I only went and won the Best for ‘Lemony-ness’ category – super chuffed! (And a little surprising considering the fairly prominent orange flavour from the Cointreau!). I won a lovely Union Chapel tote bag.

I have included a little slideshow at the bottom with some pictures taken on our behind the scenes tour at Union Chapel – I’d recommend checking it out, its a lovely building and great gig venue with fab acoustics.

And so to the cake….

My recipe is more or less the Lemon Drizzle Loaf Cake from the greatest Nigella Lawson book, How to be a Domestic Goddess. I leave out the lemon zest and add in some lemon juice (and in this case Cointreau).  I’ve used this recipe numerous times in many variations; as a layer cake, a tray bake and as cupcakes/muffins. The ratio of fat to sugar/flour/egg and addition of milk is slightly different to a classic victoria  sandwich cake and I think makes for a lighter, softer sponge.  I’ve adapted the drizzle too, however, this was more to accommodate my lack of icing sugar in the house than a tactical decision. I used butter in this recipe too, again due to my lack of low fat spread – I do usually use that however.

Serves 12

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Ingredients:

125g Softened Butter
175g Caster Sugar
2 Large Eggs
175g Self Raising Flour
4 tbsp Skimmed Milk
1 tbsp Lemon Juice
1/2 tsp Sea Salt Flakes

4 tbsp Lemon Juice (Fresh is better but bottled is fine)
5 tbsp Caster Sugar
1 tbsp Cointreau

200g Icing Sugar
3 tbsp Lemon Juice
Zest of one Lemon


Preheat the oven to 170c or equivalent.

Beat 125g Softened Butter and 175g Caster Sugar together in a medium mixing bowl until light and fluffy (see below pic).

Tip – I use an electric hand whisk (see my recommended products page) but I would use a stand mixer if I had one. Mixing by hand will work but will be a struggle to produce the same light batter.

Add the first of 2 large Eggs and continue whisking until well combined and the mix is light and creamy (see below pic).

Tip – The mixture will likely split – don’t worry, it doesn’t matter, just keep whisking.

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Top left: After butter and sugar creamed. Top right: After one egg added. Bottom left: After two eggs added, Bottom right: After flour folded in.

Add the second egg and continue whisking again.

Add 1 tbsp Lemon Juice and 1 tbsp Cointreau and whisk further.

Add 4 tbsp Skimmed Milk, two at a time, whisking well after each addition (See above pic).

Move to using a silicone spatula or wooden spoon and fold in 175g Self Raising Flour and 1/2 tsp Sea Salt Flakes (See above pic).

Divide the mixture into 12 cake cases.

Note – I used 8. It was a mistake. Excuse the pictures. The cake rose too much and I had to trim off the tops. This isn’t ideal. I should have used 12!)

Tip – I use an ice cream scoop to keep the portioning even.

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Bake for around 20 minutes – until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean. I had to separate my ballooning batch cakes 5 minutes before they were finished cooking.

Leave on a cooling rack to cool.

Note – Using 12 cases, you won’t need to, but at this point I sliced off the tops of the cakes (for competition presentation, I wouldn’t have otherwise). Don’t worry the trimmings did not go to waste.

Whilst the cakes are cooling, add 4 tbsp Lemon Juice, 5 tbsp Caster Sugar and 1 tbsp Cointreau to a small saucepan and heat gently whilst stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once the syrup starts bubbling (see below pic), take it off the heat. This should take no more than 3 to 4 minutes.

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Spoon a scant tablespoon of the syrup over each cake (while still warm) and leave them to finish cooling.

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To make the icing glaze, mix 200g Icing Sugar and 3 tbsp Lemon Juice to a smooth paste. 

Use about 1 tbsp of icing on each of the totally cooled cakes and use a knife or spatula to distribute evenly. 

Using a fine grater, Zest one Lemon directly over the wet icing from a good height for even distribution. 

Tip – Put the cakes as close to each other as you can for the zesting to minimize waste in the gaps. 

I then used a tupperware container with a tight fit to transport the cakes to the fete – the less the cakes can move, the more likely they are to reach their destination intact.

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These cakes are super moist so should keep for a good few days.

As promised, pics from Union Chapel:

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One thought on “An Amateur Bake-Off Tale and Lemon and Cointreau Drizzle Mini-Cakes

  1. […] Now I can bake ok, I enjoy baking and I even put a bit of pressure on myself by entering the odd bake-off event but this was on a scale that I’d never encountered.  60 people to cater for, including at […]

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