lemon & ricotta cupcakes

Little pots of sunshine.
Little pots of sunshine.

When life gives you lemons…

… say ‘thank you’. Because you’re about to make something wonderful.

My favourite flavour of dessert is lemon, every time. There’s something bright and rather astonishing about it that’s always refreshing, and when that sharpness is tempered by something smooth and silky like yoghurt or cream… my goodness. All bets are off.

Lemon and ricotta: a truly spectacular combination.
Lemon and ricotta: a truly spectacular combination.

I’m not the only one who’s wild about this particular combination; lemon and ricotta is totally a thing. There are cookies, there are cakes, there’s pasta and pancakes and crepes and ravioli. There’s a whole world out there going nuts for lemon and cheese, and it’s spectacular.

I don’t know why I’m so late to the party, but I’m glad I came.

Spring is nearly here.
Spring is nearly here.

These adorable little cupcakes make me think of spring, of warm sunshine yet to reach its full heat, of little parties in the garden and afternoon tea with friends. They’re sweet, they’re tart, they’re incredibly exciting, and you must have them immediately.

Lemon and ricotta cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
200g plain flour
1½ tsp baking powder
1 large egg
150g caster sugar
120g butter, melted
150g ricotta
1 lemon (juice and zest)
1 tsp vanilla essence
For the icing:
125g icing sugar
Juice of 1 lemon

Sift the flour and baking powder together, then set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the sugar and the egg together, then whisk in the butter, ricotta, lemon juice and zest, and vanilla essence.

Add the flour and whisk until the mixture is smooth and creamy.

Spoon the batter into 12 cupcake cases and bake at 180C for 25 minutes. Remove and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, make the icing by mixing sugar and the lemon juice together until it forms a thick paste. Spread on the cupcakes. The icing will set firm and dry to the touch.

Little darlings.
Little darlings.

gluten-free lemon cookies

Lemon cookies. Just because.
Lemon cookies. Just because.

Is it cookie time again already? Well, when isn’t it?

I have a weakness for lemony desserts and lately I’ve been spending a little time indulging in the sweeter side of life. As the cooler weather sets in, traipsing through London’s streets in search of the next great party has taken a backseat to warm, intimate coffees and good conversation with friends. And how could you possibly have coffee without a little something to go on the side?

Moreish little morsels.
Moreish little morsels.

On days that start with frosty mornings and slip into rainy evenings, I like to sit on my couch with a really good book, a cup of coffee and a biscuit. The smell of lemon cookies wafts through my place, filling the air with something not unlike happiness.

Fill thy house with the scent of lemon biscuits. Go!
Fill thy house with the scent of lemon biscuits. Go!

These lemon cookies are a variation on the chocolate chip cookies I did earlier. I urge you all to bake a batch, keep warm and embrace cheerfulness. The festive season is peeking around the corner – can you feel it?

Gluten-free lemon cookies
1¼ cups almond meal
½ cup desiccated coconut
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1/3 cup caster sugar
1 egg
3 tbsp coconut oil, melted
½ tsp vanilla extract
Zest and juice of a lemon

Mix together the almond meal, coconut, baking powder, salt and sugar. Zest the lemon and mix well, making sure there are no clumps.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg until fluffy and doubled in volume, then whisk in the coconut oil, vanilla extract and lemon juice.

Add to the dry ingredients and mix until combined.

Place in the fridge and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200C. Remove the dough from the fridge and shape into flat 7cm discs. These will relax a little more than the chocolate chip cookies, so leave some room in between.

Bake for 7-10 minutes or until edges are brown. Remove and allow to cool on the tray.

These cookies should be eaten within two days. Not because they go bad or anything, but even in an airtight container they start to go soft, sticky and chewy.

gluten-free lemon cake

gluten free lemon drizzle cake
I confess: I really only got into baking because of the pretty pictures.

I’ve always had this endless enthusiasm for potatoes. Where others would look longingly towards the dessert section, I would revel in the salty crunch of fries. Crisps filled my dreams at night and roasties haunted my days. My comfort was a sea of creamy mash, my excitement a bed of rosti. Oh yes. Leave no chip behind.

Was it inevitable, then, that I’d eventually find a way to incorporate potato into everything, including a lemon cake? I’ll admit I was slightly dubious when I found this recipe for a gluten-free lemon cake – sorry, you want me to put what in it? – but allow my own incredulity to reassure you: it sounds completely batty, but it works. Potato is a friend that keeps the cake light and reassuringly moist and doesn’t get in the way of the lemon at all.

It's lemon cake with a surprising helper: the humble potato.
The humble potato gives this lemon cake a light moistness.

Lemon, for me, is tremendously exciting. Its ability to enhance and be enhanced by the contrast of salt or sweet, to lurk pleasantly in the background or take centre stage as the main flavour, to hold fragrant oils and piquant juice in the one fruit – well, it’s kind of amazing. Somehow the moreish tang of lemon tempered with sugar dangles you precariously between the worlds of sharp and sweet, each clamouring for attention and yet working together in a curious harmony.

And harmonious is just how this cake turns out. It’s such a surprising and unexpected marriage between lemon and potato, but it’s a joyous celebration nevertheless and you get to be good to your coeliac and IBS friends.

Share the lemony love this summer (with a tall glass of Pimms, naturally).

Grab a fork. I promise you won't taste the potato.
Grab a fork. I promise you won’t taste the potato.

Gluten-free lemon cake
For the cake:
200g butter, softened
200g golden caster sugar
4 eggs
175g ground almonds
250g mashed potatoes (cooled)
zest of 3 lemons
2 tsp baking powder

To drizzle:
4 tbsp sugar
Juice of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celcius, and grease a 20cm cake tin.

Beat the butter and sugar together and then add the eggs one at a time, beating after each egg.

Add the baking powder and mix, then fold in the mashed potato, almonds and lemon zest.

Pour into the cake tin and bake for 45 minutes, or until the skewer comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Put the cake on the serving tray before you drizzle, and serve with double cream.