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Lemon Sherbet Cakes

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These cakes were for work – and this time I decided to really court controversy and make four mega cupcakes for my own little department of (not coincidentally) four people, and tiny cupcakes for sharing with everyone else, most of whom sit on a different floor. The reasons for this are several, but boil down to ‘they’re my cakes and I’ll do what I like’. Sorry about that. A slightly more sensible reason is that it’s one of the small team’s birthday tomorrow, so a tiny cupcake wouldn’t do, yet neither would it be OK for him to get a giant cupcake and for me to go without. If I was going to make two I might as well make four, and let all four of us sit with icing smeared across our faces, smug in the knowledge that we got the biggest cakes. There are 26 of us in the department, and I know from frequent experience that making a normal sized cupcake for everyone uses a lot of ingredients, time and effort; I decided to cut myself some slack. Except now I’m spending a lot of time justifying it.

I’ve put the camera really close to the cakes, so they look even bigger. I think I have some issues to work through.

To move on from my rationalizing and barely concealed guilt, here is my recipe for lemon sherbet cakes. This recipe makes 25 petit four size cakes, and four muffin sized cakes. The sponge recipe is adapted from the great book ‘Muffins: Fast and Fantastic‘ and goes a little something like this:

We’ve got giant cakes so IN YOUR FACE everyone else…

  • 1 large egg
  • 240 ml soy milk
  • 90 ml lemon oil
  • 255 g wheat free flour
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 140 g granulated sugar
  • rind and juice from 1/2 lemon


I didn’t really set out to make these wheat and dairy free, but they turned out that way anyway. A cheeky bonus for those of you on restricted diets – they could be vegan if you used some kind egg replacement; I know such a thing exists but I’ve never used it, or looked into it much. Still, it’s an option.

  • Measure the milk and oil into a measuring jug, one on top of the other, then add the egg and whisk together
  • Sieve the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, salt and sugar together – I found that the sugar needed some encouragement to go through the sieve, by which I mainly mean that when it became obvious that the sugar didn’t want to go into the bowl via the sieve, I had a quick check for any lumps of anything untoward and, on not finding any, I tipped the remaining sugar straight in to the bowl. I’m not saying that’s what anyone else should do, you understand, just that I didn’t spend a lot of time worrying about it.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, half combine, then add the lemon juice and zest and finish folding together until there is no dry flour visible. Don’t over mix – three things you should never do are over mix, cross the streams and stand up in a canoe.
  • Fill 25 petit fours size paper cases with about 1 tsp of mix – the mix won’t rise much, despite the baking powder, so make sure they’re full. You can see in the photo that they baked into whatever shape the raw cake mix was in, so they’re very rustic looking – you could spend a lot of time forming perfect cake shapes, but is it worth it?
  • Bake the mini cakes for 13 minutes at 190C, turning half way if your oven is uneven like mine.
  • Fill four muffin sized cases with the remaining cake mix, and bake for 20 minutes at the same temperature.

For the icing:

  • 100 g cream cheese. Plain, please, no onion and chive flavour.
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 400 g icing sugar. For pure cream cheese icing, you need a lot more sugar to make a stiff icing, which is why I like to use half cream cheese and half butter, usually, but needs must.

Combine the cream cheese and lemon zest with a hand mixer, then slowly add the sugar until you have a thick, creamy consistency that holds its shape and tastes sweet but lemony.


  • 4 tbsp icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp citric acid
  • 1/2 tbsp bicarbonate of soda

Mix all three ingredients together thoroughly, then taste by lifting a little on a dry spoon and dropping into your mouth. Add more sugar if it’s too sour, or more acid and bicarb if it’s too sweet.

Mix 2 tbsp of the sherbet into the cream cheese icing, and set the rest aside for dipping the mini cakes in. Pipe a little icing on each mini cake (so that it looks like each one is wearing a jaunty beret with a point) and a lot on each big cake. Decorate the big cakes by pressing yellow sugar sprinkles into the icing; the icing is too dry for the decorations to stick without a bit of help. Be a bit delicate though, no need to put your thumb right through them.

As suggested above, I’m serving the little cakes with a pot of sherbet for dipping. Hopefully people will use common hygiene sense and dip the icing in before giving it a big, germy lick, but I can’t guarantee it. I’ll just let everyone get on with it. I suppose it can also be sprinkled on top of the cakes (with clean hands, please, people) or directly into the face, though that all might get a bit messy. Looking forward to seeing what everyone does when faced with this conundrum.


About Rock Salt

Seasoning while rocking out since 1983.

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