Lemon and apricots go really well together and I love adding liqueur to my cake batter. This fluffy cake features sambuca and, typical of Italian desserts, calls for extra virgin olive oil rather than butter.
- 170 g caster sugar
- 230 ml milk
- finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
- 100 ml extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tsp mistrà or sambuca (optional; see Note)
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1⅓ cups (200 g) self-raising flour
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 7–8 apricots, cut in half
- flaked almonds, for sprinkling
- fresh ricotta and honey, to serve (optional)
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Cooling time 1 hour 10 minutes
Preheat your oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced). Grease and flour a 21 cm square or 27 cm x 21 cm rectangular cake tin (or line it with baking paper).
Place the sugar, milk and lemon zest in a medium saucepan over low heat and cook for 3–4 minutes, stirring regularly, until the sugar has dissolved. Do not let the milk come to the boil. Turn off the heat and stir in the vanilla seeds, olive oil and liqueur (if using), then let the mixture cool for 5–10 minutes.
Add the beaten egg, flour and bicarbonate of soda and whisk to form a smooth batter. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and arrange the apricot halves on top any way you like. Sprinkle with the flaked almonds and bake for 30–35 minutes or until pale golden and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the tin for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool at room temperature for 1 hour before cutting. Serve just as it is or with honey-drizzled ricotta.
• For an alcohol-free version, replace the liqueur with milk.
• If using very small apricots, layer quarters on top of each other so that they won't completely sink into the batter as it cooks.