Almond Lemon Easter Cake

Who loves lemon? We’ve been seeing such gorgeous lemons at the market recently, bringing their springy southern sunshine to Paris, that this Almond Lemon Easter Cake is giving us a bit of much needed zest at this time of year. It’s also ideal for pairing with chocolates in all shapes and sizes.

What fun it has been to put this simple, sticky cake together and dress it up with sugared edible flowers, macarons and Easter chocolates – just to be festive and celebrate Spring, following Macaron Day. It goes without saying – take the decorations away and it’s still a luscious lemon cake in its own right at any time of year.

Almond Lemon Easter Cake

Why is there a chocolate hen nesting on the cake?

French traditions of chocolate are surprising at first: as we’re used to mainly chocolate eggs and Easter Bunny sculptures and more in the UK, there are also some added traditional popular forms that appear – from supermarkets to the high-end expert Chocolatiers all around France. These are notably hens, bells and fish.  For a more detailed explanation and a tour of many Parisian chocolate Easter displays, see my post here.

French Easter Chocolate Traditions

HENS: As hens continue to lay their eggs even during the 40-day Christian tradition of Lent when meat or eggs are not allowed to be eaten, Easter’s arrival signalling the end of Lent means that there are a lot of eggs to be used.

BELLS: Tradition has it that church bells fly to the Vatican in Rome on Good Friday (bells therefore don’t ring for 2 days) and return with chocolate to distribute on Easter Sunday after joyfully ringing in the Mass to celebrate Christ’s resurrection.

FISH: There are even more chocolate fish than usual this year, as Easter weekend falls on 1st April.  In France, April Fool’s Day is known as Poisson d’avril (April Fish) and any decently duped April Fool in France will probably be sporting a school of colourful paper fish taped to their back.

Chocolate Easter Mendiants

Chocolate Easter Mendiant Decorations

You’ll see all sorts of bags of dark, milk or white chocolate fritures, a mixture of fish, seafood and shell shapes. As I previously made Mendiants of Easter macaron bonnets, I couldn’t resist melting some white chocolate and sticking on some fritures with candied orange peel and toasted almonds.

What’s more, I used my silicone macaron mat (have you seen my review here?) to make them. Gently melt white chocolate in a bowl over simmering water (bain marie) until 3/4 melted, quickly take it off the heat and stir to melt the rest of the chocolate, and leave for 5 minutes to cool. Spoon into the macaron circles (or simply onto baking parchment) and as soon as the chocolate appears to set (about 10 minutes later), quickly press in candied fruit, nuts and miniature chocolate eggs or friture. Leave in a cool place for about 20 minutes then peel off the mendiants.

almond lemon easter cake

Almond Lemon Easter Cake with macarons, mendiants and sugared edible flowers

Edible Sugared Flowers

Pick some untreated, clean edible flowers such as primoses, primula, winter pansies or violas, lightly brush with egg white from back to the fronts of the flowers, then sprinkle lightly with caster sugar. Leave to dry in a cool, dry place and use within a month.

For the macarons, use the recipes that are in either of my books, Mad About Macarons or Teatime in Paris!

Almond Lemon Easter Cake Method

Almond Lemon Easter Cake Recipe Method

This recipe uses cornflour instead of flour, making the cake extra light. I used a cake mould of 23cm diameter but any similar-sized cake tin will work well.  Ensure that your lemon is unwaxed before grating the zest.  If not, pour over boiling water and brush off the wax with a clean kitchen brush and pat dry on kitchen paper.

Almond Lemon Easter Cake Slice

Almond Lemon Easter Cake – just another slice …

Almond Lemon Easter Cake – Recipe

5 from 3 votes
Print
Almond Lemon Easter Cake
Prep Time
20 mins
Cook Time
40 mins
Total Time
1 hr
 

A simple, light lemon cake made with ground almonds and soaked in a tart lemon syrup to make this Easter cake extra moist

Course: Breakfast, Dessert, teatime
Cuisine: British, French
Servings: 12
Calories: 350 kcal
Author: Jill Colonna
Ingredients
  • 175 g (6oz) butter, unsalted (softened)
  • 150 g (5.25oz) sugar
  • 5 eggs (medium) (or 4 large eggs)
  • 250 g (9oz) ground almonds (almond flour)
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • grated rind of an unwaxed lemon
Syrup
  • 50 g (1.75oz) lemon juice (about one lemon)
  • 40 g (1.5oz) sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/360°F/160°C fan/Gas 4.
    Cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl, either using a balloon whisk or mix together in a mixer until pale, smooth and creamy.

  2. Continue to mix together, gradually adding the eggs, ground almonds, cornflour, baking powder and lemon zest until the batter is smooth.

  3. Transfer to a cake mould (I used a shaped mould, 23cm diameter, although a normal cake tin is good) and bake in the oven for about 40 minutes, until golden.

  4. Meanwhile, make the syrup: squeeze out the juice in a bowl via a strainer to sift out the pips then weigh the juice and sugar together in a saucepan. Stir over a medium heat until it thickens slightly for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

  5. Cool the cake in the mould for about 10 minutes then take out of the tin and cool on a wire rack.  Pour over the syrup all over the cake and decorate as you wish.

Recipe Notes

Can keep for up to 5 days if kept in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.  Good for freezing.

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION

350 Calories per serving; 7g protein; 26g lipids; Gluten Free.

 

Jill Colonna

MadAboutMacarons.com

 

Almond Lemon Easter Cake

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Matrimonial Cake – Oaty Shortbread Date Squares

I’ve baffled even myself as to why I haven’t made these oaty date squares until recently.  Granny called the recipe “Matrimonial Cake” and it was my personal favourite of all of my childhood baking with her and Auntie Shirley in Musselburgh. There was only one problem and so it comes with a warning to you: it’s so blooming addictive!

By now, if I’m able to control myself like the French women with sumptuous Parisian macarons, Lemon Passion Meringue tarts, Strawberry & Elderflower éclairs, double chocolate tartlets, buttery financiers and Madeleines (all in Teatime in Paris), plus the likes of palets bretons butter biscuits, I can safely make Granny’s Matrimonial Cake and leave it sitting in the box for up to a week.  Right?

Matrimonial Cake or Date Squares

Wrong. Moreover, it hasn’t helped that Lucie provides a daily reminder that they’re just sitting in the fridge. “Let’s just have a couple, Mum. Don’t worry – you’ll still get in to your dress for the next wedding”.

It’s hard to believe it’s already two weeks ago that I was back in Scotland celebrating Lindsay and Eddie’s wedding in Edinburgh.

matrimonial cake Scottish wedding

My cousin, Lindsay, is the life and soul of every family party and at Christmas time, before you know it after Auntie Catherine lights up her homemade Figgy Pudding with brandy, there’s no snoozing by the fire; you can pretty much guarantee being put into a team as Lindsay puts on the entertainment for the rest of the evening with a whole variety of party games, quizzes and prizes. Eddie, you’re in for a most fun-loving life together and wish you both matrimonial bliss for a long, healthy and happy vie à deux en amoureux. As they say in Scotland, “lang may yer lum reek” (long may your chimney smoke)!

matrimonial Cake Scottish wedding dancing

Back home in France – as the honeymooners had found the sunshine – we were unexpectedly snowed in.  For the first time in five years, Paris was briefly coated in a giant duvet of snow and with the girls’ lycée closed, it meant I turned to Granny’s Black Book of Scottish Recipes for our golden sunshine in the cosy kitchen.

Thinking of the wedding, it had to be Matrimonial Cake! As the recipe calls for cups, I’ve double checked the quantities in more modernised measurements in grams and ounces and, as always, reduced the sugar slightly.

matrimonial Cake in the snow

Why is it called Matrimonial Cake?

Goodness knows why the recipe is called “Matrimonial Cake”.  Do you know of its origins? If you do, then please leave a comment below this post – I’d love to hear from you! All I know is that it’s popular in Canada, with some Canadians mentioning that the recipe originally came from Scotland.

This is when I wish I could have asked Granny tons of questions today, as this recipe probably has a lot more to it than meets the eye. All I know is that before life with Grandpa, she’d left Scotland and lived in Canada for about 3 years with a most adventurous life as nanny to five children of a business tycoon of a canning factory, originally from Kinlochleven in Scotland. Mr & Mrs Stewart loved entertaining and while travelling in their private plane, Granny had full control of their children, taking them on holiday, baking, sewing etc. and keeping up with the glamorous life.

matrimonial cake

When she baked these date squares with us, who knows what was running in her mind of memories? Questions were taboo back in these days but knowing just this now, I’d be dying to know the children’s names. Were they named after her own 5 children later: Ronald, Shirley, Irene, June and Catherine?

So, Matrimonial Cake looks like it came from her previous life in Canada. Its name is probably just because it was served at weddings at some time.  It’s ideal for a winter wedding, as dates are easy to keep in store. My theory is that it’s simply so deliciously addictive that it had to be kept for weddings or special occasions – what do you think?

Whatever its origins, this Matrimonial Cake is just as addictive as I remember it and Lucie is pleading we make it again.  We have a good excuse, as tomorrow Antoine’s cousin is coming over with her fiancé for a goûter before we see them at their French wedding during the next holidays near Paris.  More matrimonial cake bliss is ahead…

matrimonial cake or date squares

Matrimonial Cake: The Recipe

Granny mentions using lemon juice so I’m sticking with it – and even added a bit more which made the date paste turn a bit pinkish in colour but I loved this, as it ended up being rather appropriate for Valentine’s Day, too.  I see in other Canadian recipes that they use orange juice instead plus even some zest but I prefer keeping it simple as I remember it.  If you feel some zest coming on, then go for it!

Once the delicious shortbread-like oat crumble is pressed in to the bottom of the tin and spread with the date paste, just drop on the crumble topping and only gently pat it down so that the effect is still a bit crumbly on top.

matrimonial cake (date squares)

If you love dates, then you’ll also love these Date and Apple Bran Muffins, another inspiration from Granny’s recipes. One day, I’ll convince Uncle Ronnie to give me his recipe for a rather famous Date Loaf. In the meantime, wishing them a most Happy Wedding Anniversary – 60 years and many more of matrimonial bliss! I even heard the Queen wished them Happy Anniversary, too!

5 from 3 votes
Matrimonial Cake or Date Squares
Print
Matrimonial Cake - Oaty Shortbread Date Squares
Prep Time
25 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
55 mins
 

Matrimonial Cake that Granny used to make. Whether it's Canadian or Scottish, the result is just as delicious: dates sandwiched in an oat shortbread crumble crust.

Course: Snack, teatime
Cuisine: Canadian, Scottish
Servings: 10 people (calories for 2 squares each @70g)
Calories: 275 kcal
Author: Jill Colonna
Ingredients
Date Filling
  • 255 g (9 oz) Pitted dates either in a block or separate in packets
  • 110 ml (4 fl oz) boiling water
  • 1 tbsp soft light brown sugar
  • 1 lemon juice only from a lemon
Oat Shortbread
  • 110 g (4 oz) butter (unsalted) softened
  • 110 g (4 oz) soft light brown sugar
  • 90 g (3 oz) porridge oats
  • 120 g (4 oz) plain flour all-purpose
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 good pinch salt (fleur de sel)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla powder
Instructions
For the Date Filling:
  1. In a saucepan, cook together all the ingredients except the lemon juice.  Cook gently until soft (about 20 minutes). It's ready when the dates soften into a paste. (If you prefer having a perfectly smooth paste, then blitz it for a few seconds in a food processor.)  Set aside to cool then add the lemon juice.

For the Oat Shortbread Crumble:
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/360°F/Gas 4 and grease a baking tin (I use a 27x19cm tin) with either butter or spray with baking oil.

  2. Cream the butter and sugar together either by hand using a wooden spoon or better, in a food mixer/processor.

  3. Add oats, flour, soda and vanilla until well combined.

  4. Press a bit more than half of the mixture into the greased baking tin - either with your fingers or using a flat spatula to make the bottom layer even. Spread on the date paste using a spatula and smooth it out until even.

  5. Top with the oaty shortbread crumbs and gently pat it on top to keep it in place but not too much - it's better to have a crumbly look to the topping. 

  6. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes or until the oats are lightly toasted.

  7. Cool on a wire rack then place in the fridge for about 30 minutes, remove from the tin and cut into squares - or bars, if you prefer.

Recipe Notes

Like macarons, this is even better eaten next day - and the next and next...

Store up to a week in an airtight container in the fridge. Best eaten at room temperature so remove from the fridge about 20 minutes before serving.

Jill Colonna

MadAboutMacarons.com

matrimonial cake or date squares recipe from Granny's selection of Scottish recipes

Like the recipe?  Have something to say about it? Just even want to say hello?  I love hearing from you – it’s my motivation to keep this blog going as I don’t monetise it. So, don’t be shy and leave a reply below… thank you!

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