A confession: I have never made lemon drizzle cake before. I am not sure why. Partly it is that until recently I baked quite seldom and saved my baking days for Nigella's chocolate cakes and brownies. Most of my baking, in fact, has come about after reading Nigella. Anyway, seeing a picture of Jamie's nan's lemon drizzle cake inspired me, not least because the recipe is entitled 'My nan's lemon drizzle cake'. I have a particular affection for grandmother-cakes, probably because my grandmother, now 91, has always made cakes for us. I went to see her yesterday and again she had made a cake - a walnut cake, this time. I had taken her some plum and vanilla cake, so we swapped. Nana's cakes are usually orange, walnut or more seldom chocolate. They are light, airy, tea-time cakes that go down a treat with a cup of tea. Nana's oven is so old and unpredictable that I don't know how she has such a successful record of cake-baking (her legendary Yorkshire puddings are even more surprising). But as far as I know, she simply doesn't have failures. I wondered if Jamie's nan is similar and that made me want to try her cake.
So: I creamed sugar and butter, beat in 4 eggs, and added ground almonds, poppy seeds, and self-raising flour. I baked the mixture until a cake skewer came out clean.
Then I poured over a lemon syrup made of lemon juice and caster sugar, before leaving it to cool. Once cool, I mixed icing sugar with lemon juice and zest and effectively poured it over the middle of the cake so it would drizzle down the sides.
By the time the cake had cooked and cooled and the icing had set I was dying to try it. And it is a perfect Sunday afternoon cake, worthy of grandmothers everywhere - and the rest of us too. It is incredibly light and lemony, with a real zing.
It was only after I'd made the cake and re-read Jamie's blurb that I realized that this recipe didn't come from his nan - it was the cake he used to make for his nan and her whist-drive team. So where I had imagined this recipe being passed down through the generations, in fact it is Jamie's own. Which makes me wonder: didn't Jamie's nan bake? Every term that my brother and I went off to university in a car packed full of books and clothes and CD players, Nana made us a cake, and I don't know what my brother did with his, but I always cut mine open and shared it with my neighbours with a cup of tea while we caught up on the gossip - and before we started on the wine. I'm not sure I'll ever bake like Nana, but I am certainly trying.