This is one of those cakes that doesn’t look much but is really nice. I was actually looking for a recipe for something else entirely when my book fell open at this page and I remembered the five apricots in the fridge. Just the right number for the recipe.
You simply halve and stone the apricots and lay them cut side down on a layer of creamed butter and sugar, then add the cake mixture.
The cake looked lovely when I took it out of the oven – until I turned it upside down and the bottom, now the top, looked rather unappealing. However a good sprinkling with icing sugar soon turned it from an ugly duckling to a very tempting dessert.
Ours was still very slightly warm when we had it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of single cream. It was delicious. The slight tartness of the apricots went well with the lemon sponge and the texture was moist but not dense.
It’s an easy, quick recipe that I expect would work well with other fruits and I will certainly be making it again. I adapted it from Annie Bell’s Baking Bible, where it also includes instructions for a honey and lemon sauce to pour over the cake for extra moistness and sweetness if you like.
For the fruit layer
30g light muscovado sugar
30g softened butter
5 apricots, halved and stoned
For the cake
150g softened butter or baking spread
150g golden caster sugar
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
125ml whole milk
200g plain flour
1½ tsp baking powder
For the sauce (optional)
100g set honey
juice of half a lemon
1 tsp cornflour
Butter a 20cm loose bottomed deep round tin and line the base with baking paper. Preheat the oven to 200°C / 180° fan.
To make the fruit layer, beat the muscovado sugar and butter together and spread the mixture in the bottom of the tin using your fingers. Arrange the halved apricots cut side down on top of the sugar mixture.
For the cake, put the caster sugar and butter in a food processor and cream together. Add the eggs and process again, then the lemon zest. Sift in the flour and baking powder, add the milk and process again until smooth and blended.
Dot the mixture on top of the fruit and smooth over, levelling the top. Tap the tin on the worktop a couple of times to make sure the mixture settles into the gaps around the fruit and leaves no air spaces. Put a baking sheet on the shelf below and bake for 45-50 minutes or until done, covering with a loose layer of foil if it looks like it is browning too much. (The baking sheet will catch the drips if the tin leaks the sugary layer and save the oven floor!)
Cool in the tin for about ten minutes. Then run a knife round the outside of the cake, place a plate on top and tip it upside down. Release the clip if using a springform tin and push the base down onto the cake before removing the tin completely. Remove the baking paper and transfer to a cake stand or plate if you wish. Either dust with icing sugar or serve with the optional honey and lemon sauce.
(To make the sauce, bring the honey, lemon juice and water in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Blend the cornflour with two tablespoons of the liquid and stir back into the sauce. Simmer for a minute or two until it thickens then set aside to cool before serving with the cake.)
Cuts into 8-10 slices.