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Cook, food stylist and Bake Off quarterfinalist, Benjamina Ebuehi, shares a zesty spring bake…
Like many of you, we’re glued to our screens every year when The Great British Bake Off returns. So, it’s fair to say that we were delighted to step into the kitchen with Bake Off quarter finalist, Benjamina Ebuehi.
Since impressing the judges with her fresh, modern bakes in season seven, Benjamina has continued to bake up a storm, writing recipes for the likes of The Guardian and Waitrose Weekend, and recently publishing her second cookbook, A Good Day to Bake.
With lively family gatherings, Easter celebrations and garden parties (sunshine permitting) firmly back on the menu, Benjamina is sharing her go-to spring bake: a crowd-pleasing Mint & Lemon Drizzle Cake…
A classic lemon drizzle is pretty hard to beat. Whatever the weather, season or mood, I will choose this cake again and again. It’s got the perfect balance of sweet and sharp, and a soft, buttery crumb that gets drenched in lemony syrup. This version is still all of those things but with some extra brightness and fragrance from a good handful of fresh mint. It’s such a simple twist but wins big on the flavour front, giving you a cake that’ll feel right at home at any time of any day.
200g (7oz/ ¾ cup plus 2 Tbsp) unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
250g (9oz/1 ¼ cups) caster (granulated) sugar
10g (¼ oz) fresh mint leaves, plus extra to decorate
finely grated zest of 2 lemons
270g (9 ½ oz/2 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
1½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
2 Tbsp milk
For the syrup
50g (1 ¾ oz/1 ¼ cups) caster (granulated) sugar
juice of 2 lemons
3 fresh mint leaves
For the frosting
70g (2½ oz/ ½ cup) icing (confectioners’) sugar
2–3 Tbsp lemon juice (from about 1 lemon)
Preheat the oven to 180ºC (160ºC fan/350ºF/gas mark 4). Grease and line a 900-g (2-lb) loaf pan. Add the sugar and mint to a food processor and blitz until the mint is finely chopped. Cream the butter, minty sugar and lemon zest together with an electric whisk for 3–5 minutes until really pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Tip in the flour, baking powder and salt and mix on low speed until smooth. Finally, stir in the milk.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 50–60 minutes until golden and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
Meanwhile, make the syrup. Heat the sugar, lemon juice and mint in a small saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Let it simmer for 1 minute before removing from the heat.
When the cake is out of the oven, use a skewer or toothpick to prick the whole surface. Pour the syrup on top, letting it seep into the holes. Let the cake cool completely in the pan. Make the frosting by mixing the icing sugar and lemon juice together until you have a thick but pourable consistency. If it looks too thin, just add a little more icing sugar; if you want to thin it out, stir in a bit more lemon juice.
Remove the cooled cake from the pan and pour the frosting on top, letting it drip down the sides. Top with a couple of small mint leaves before serving.
Recipe © Benjamina Ebuehi, A Good Day to Bake, published by Quadrille.
Whilst the lemon drizzle cake was in the oven, we asked Benjamina what life has been like since GBBO…
How has your life changed since taking part in The Great British Bake Off?
It’s been a huge change! Before GBBO, I wanted to go into teaching but after the show, I discovered a whole new world within the food industry. I’ve been able to try so many new things; develop recipes for magazines, write cookbooks, style food, travel around the world… And I have connected with so many wonderful people along the way.
What is the most surprising/unexpected thing about being a contestant on The Great British Bake Off?
Something I didn’t really expect was how much it didn’t feel like a competition. All the bakers got on so well from day one that at times, it just felt like you were baking for fun with friends. It made the whole experience a lot more enjoyable and meant you were able to genuinely root for everyone.
What would you say is the most underrated baking ingredient?
It’s quite hard to pick just one but I think fresh herbs are quite underrated in baking. I dedicated an entire chapter in A Good Day to Bake to recipes that incorporate a range of herbs, from thyme and rosemary to sage and tarragon. It’s an easy way to infuse more flavour and depth to bakes.
Are there any hero ingredients that you always have on hand in your pantry?
II’m never too far away from all my spices! Very hard to pick just one, but I absolutely adore cardamom. It brings a beautiful citrusy fragrance that goes so well in creams, custard, dough, and cakes.
The photography in A Good Day to Bake is so beautiful, and we can’t look at your Instagram without getting a craving for something sweet. Are there any easy styling tips and tricks we can implement to take better food photos?
I always recommend taking photos in natural light. I usually set myself up next to a big window and it makes such a difference. I also prefer a ‘less is more’ approach when it comes to props – don’t feel like you need to fill up the image with lots of cutlery, napkins and tableware. Choose a neutral background and let the food do the talking!
Photography by Claire Menary