I love thyme and sprinkle it wantonly in my cooking, but I wanted a cake that relied on it as a leading ingredient, not merely as a decorative ourish. Besides, with a rosemary loaf cake under my belt (in Feast), I had no doubt that it would work. And it does. Don’t be alarmed at the amount of thyme in the cake batter, as it doesn’t overwhelm. It charms.
Recipe by Nigella Lawson from the book, Simply Nigella.
Preheat the oven to 340°F, slipping in a baking sheet at the same time. Spray the inside of your bundt tin with non-stick cooking spray, or brush on a paste made of 2 teaspoons of plain flour mixed with 2 teaspoons of oil, making sure you get into all the crevices of the tin. Leave the bundt tin upside down over a piece of newspaper or baking parchment while you get on with making the cake batter. (And keep this piece of paper once you’ve put the batter in the tin, as it’ll come in handy for the icing part.) Combine the flour, baking powder and bicarb in a bowl, and fork to mix. Put the butter in the bowl of a freestanding mixer or a regular mixing bowl, grate in the zest of both lemons, and beat until creamy. Strip 4 tablespoons of thyme leaves from the sprigs, and add along with the caster sugar, and beat again until you have a light fluffy mixture. Now, 1 by 1, beat in the eggs and, after the last one, slow down your mixing and add a 1⁄3 of the flour mixture, followed by a 1⁄3 of the buttermilk, and so on until both the flour mixture and buttermilk are used up. Finally, beat in the juice of 1 of the lemons and transfer this mixture to the prepared bundt tin. Place on the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 11⁄4 hours, though start checking after 1 hour. Don’t be alarmed if it looks like there’s too much batter for the bundt tin: all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. In other words, the cake will rise but then sink back down comfortably. When a cake tester comes out clean, remove the cake to a wire rack and leave in its tin for 15 minutes before carefully unmolding. This is always a tense moment, but if the tin’s been sprayed or greased adequately, and the cake is fully baked, you should have no problem. Besides, it’s that moment of breathless tension which makes the dramatic unmoulding and unveiling all the more gratifying. When the cake is cool, slip the piece of newspaper or baking parchment under the wire rack, then sieve the icing sugar into a bowl and beat in the juice of the remaining lemon until you have a glaze that is thin enough to run down the cake—I reckon on 2 1⁄2–3 tablespoons— but thick enough to act as a tangy glue for the thyme leaves you are about to sprinkle on top. Or you can pour this directly over the cake on its serving plate. Duly pour the sherbetty glaze over the cake, and immediately scatter with thyme leaves and the odd sprig or 2. How many you add is entirely up to you, but I tend to strew with abandon. Store in an airtight container in a cool place for up to 5 days. This cake can be frozen, without icing, for up to 3 months. Wrap cake in a double layer of cling film and a layer of foil. To defrost, unwrap and place on a wire rack at room temperature for about 5 hours.