Tom’s ‘Classically Spectacular’ Cake


Series 12

Flavoured with lemon and almond and topped with crunchy praline and sweet candied lemons, this classic celebration cake is a certain crowd-pleaser.

Serves: 12–16
Difficulty: Needs skill
Hands-On Time: 1 hr, plus cooling & setting
Baking Time: 25–30 mins
  • Ingredients
  • Method
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Step 1
Heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/Gas 4.

Step 2
Put the milk and cardamom pods in a small saucepan and warm over low heat until just steaming. Remove from the heat and set aside to infuse and cool.

Step 3
Put the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the beater. Beat on a medium speed for about 3–4 minutes, until light and fluffy (scrape down the sides of the bowl several times to ensure everything mixes well).

Step 4
Add the eggs, a little at a time, beating well between each addition. Then add the almond extract and the lemon zest. Beat again for 1 minute to combine.

Step 5
Strain the cooled milk and discard the cardamom pods. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Add the dry ingredients and the infused milk into the butter and egg mixture one third at a time –alternating between them. Gently fold in the ground almonds until just combined.

Step 6
Divide the mixture between the prepared cake tins and bake on the middle shelves for 25–30 minutes, until golden and a skewer inserted into centre comes out clean. Cool the cakes in the tins for 10 minutes, then turn then out onto a wire rack and set aside to cool completely. While the cakes cool, make the fillings and decorations.

Step 7
Make the lemon curd. Combine the lemon juice and zest, butter and sugar in a small pan and cook over low–medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves.

Step 8
Whisk the eggs together in a large bowl, then slowly pour in about half of the hot lemon mixture, whisking as you goto prevent curdling. Pour the egg mixture back into the pan and return it to a low heat. Cook the curd, whisking all the time, until it thickly coats the back of a spoon(about 3minutes). Pour the lemon curd into a clean bowl, cover the surface with baking paper to stop a skin forming, cool, then store in the fridge until ready to assemble the cake.

Step 9
Make the candied lemons. Put the sugar in a small pan with 250ml of water and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Add the lemon slices and bring the liquid to a gentle simmer. Cook for 15–20 minutes, until the lemons soften and the liquid becomes thick and syrupy. Set aside to cool.

Step 10
Heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/350°F/Gas 4.

Step 11
Make the almond praline. Spread the almonds out on the prepared baking tray and toast them in the oven for 6–8 minutes, until golden. While the almonds are toasting, Put the sugar and 2 tablespoons of water in a small, clean pan and cook over a low heat, stirring from time to time, until the sugar dissolves (about 5 minutes). Once all the sugar has dissolved, turn up the heat to high and continue to cook until the caramel, swirling the pan to ensure it cooks evenly (don’t stir), until it reaches a deep amber colour (about 8–10 minutes).

Step 12
Pour the caramel over the toasted almonds, tilting the tray so the caramel spreads out into a thin layer. Set aside to cool, then break the caramel into large shards.

Step 13
Make the almond buttercream. Put the softened butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat, on medium speed, for 1–2 minutes, until fluffy. Add half the icing sugar to the butter and beat on low speed until combined. Add the remaining icing sugar and beat again. Add the almond extract to taste and beat on high speed for 3–4 minutes, until pale, light and fluffy. If the icing feels stiff, add a little milk to adjust the consistency. It should be easily spreadable but hold its shape.

Step 14
Assemble the cake. Put the first layer of sponge on a serving plate, securing it in place with a small dollop of buttercream. Spread it with an even layer of buttercream, followed by half of the lemon curd. Place another layer of sponge on top, then spread over another layer of buttercream and the remaining half of the lemon curd. Top with the third sponge.

Step 15
Spread the outside of the cake with a thin coating of buttercream(this is a crumb coat), then chill the cake for 30 minutes, until firm.

Step 16
Cover the top and sides of the cake with the remaining buttercream, using the offset spatula or cake scraper to smooth it into a neat, even layer. Arrange the praline shards and candied lemons on top to decorate.