Over Easter long weekend, Alex and I took a day out to the sort-of suburbs of Richmond, in Southwest London, for a stroll along the Thames. We came across Petersham Nurseries, a gardening centre with a Michelin-starred restaurant, and a little café for those of us a little less inclined to dine constantly at Michelin-starred establishments. Inside the café, we were first faced with a huge selection of cakes before getting to the lunch mains – just my type of place! There were some fun flavours like chocolate pear, but the most unique of them all caught my eye – coconut lemongrass. It looked like a dense cake with big crumbs, not something I typically go for, but the flavouring sounded so different that we just had to have a slice. Thank goodness, because not only could I not forget about this lovely cake after we ate it, but I also went on during the week to re-invent it in my kitchen so now you can try it at home too!
The cake has a rustic quality to it – big crumbs, no-fuss decoration (just a light dusting of icing sugar will do), and seriously good with a cup of tea or coffee in the afternoon. Also, it takes me about 30 minutes to throw everything together and pop it into the oven. I’d know, because I made the recipe twice in a week! Taste-wise, it is remarkably light and coconut-y. Although there’s coconut milk, the cake isn’t actually creamy or rich like an indulgent dessert might be. The little slices you cut off to accompany your tea might go quicker than you expect! Therefore, I’ve doubled the recipe here to make a bigger cake – always the best solution to the over-eating problem.
- 160g butter
- 150g white sugar
- 150g brown sugar
- 4 eggs
- 2 stalks of lemon grass, chopped into 2″ sections
- 200g coconut milk
- vanilla (optional)
- grated zest from 1 lime (optional)
- 250g plain flour
- 50g polenta (cornmeal)
- 6g baking powder
- 50g shredded coconuts (a finer shred is probably better, and sweetened makes it a bit nicer to taste)
- Infuse the coconut milk by warming it up in a small pot with the chopped lemongrass segments. Bring to just under a boil, and turn off the heat. Keep covered and let steep for about 30 minutes
- Butter and flour an 8″ square pan or a 9″ round pan, lining the bottom with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- With the paddle attachment in an electric mixer, cream butter until softened
- Add in sugars, and beat well until combined
- Add in eggs, beating until well emulsified. If using, add in 1 tsp vanilla extract or a small tip-of-the-knife dot of vanilla paste
- Add in the dry ingredients. If using, add in the lime zest as well. The mixture will be very dry, so you can start adding in a splash of coconut milk at a time, taking care to remove the lemongrass stalks first.
- Once all the liquid has been added, beat well for 10-15 seconds until everything is well mixed. Do not overmix
- Scrape batter into prepared pan, bake until golden on top, and the cake is springy (about 30 minutes)
- Let cool in pan for a few minutes before taking out of pan, removing parchment paper, and cooling on a rack.
- Lightly dust with icing sugar just before serving with a large cup of tea!