For this elegant dessert, you will need a medium-sized cake pan with sides about 2 inches (5 cm) high. As the cake contains no leavening, it is important to beat the egg whites until they are very stiff, for it is the whites that will make the cake rise. Decoration can be as whimsical as you like — see the suggestions below.
For the cake:
6 large eggs
1/4 pound (125 g.) butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp. flour
grated peel of one lemon
1 tbsp. poppy seeds
Separate the eggs, placing the whites in a large bowl and the yolks in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk the yolks briefly. Set aside.
Melt the butter and remove from heat. Using a pastry brush, coat the bottom and sides of your cake pan with melted butter. Add 1 tbsp. flour and shake until evenly coated. Tap the pan and tip out any excess flour.
Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (400 F., 205 C.).
Beat the egg whites using an electric beater. When the whites are quite firm, add the sugar and continue beating until they form very stiff peaks.
Using a rubber spatula, transfer about 1/3 of the whites into the bowl of yolks. Whisk to blend. Now transfer this the yolk mixture back into the bowl of whites. Using your rubber spatula, gently lift the whites to fold in the yolks. Turn the bowl a quarter-turn after each fold to achieve an even blend. Do not stir, or the whites may collapse – and your cake will not rise.
Sift 1 cup of flour over the mixture and gently fold in. You can do this using a regular sieve instead of a sifter — just pour the flour into the sieve and push it through using a spoon.
Add the grated lemon peel and poppy seeds and fold again. Pour in the melted butter and fold once more. When the mixture is evenly blended, turn it into the cake pan.
Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan and the center is firm. Place a wire rack over the pan and invert. Tap the pan a couple of times and lift off. Allow the cake to cool before decorating.
For the icing:
1 cup icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar)
2 tbps. milk
2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice or orange juice
1 tsp. brandy
Place the icing sugar in a bowl. Add the milk and stir with a wire whisk. Add the juice and brandy and whisk again. If the icing is too thick to spread easily, add a little more milk.
Decorating the cake:
This is where you can allow your creativity to blossom. Before beginning, make sure you have sufficient decorative items for the cake and its platter.
For the rim of the cake, you can use flowers, candy, fruit, whatever. A nice touch in springtime is then to surround the cake with strawberries, as shown in the photo above. If you choose to do so, buy 1 pint (300 g.) of medium-size strawberries — about 20 berries, or enough to go around the cake. Another option is to place strawberries on top of the cake and then to surround it with flowers.
Leave the cake on the wire rack for the initial stage of decorating.
Spoon some of the icing onto the cake. Using a metal spatula, spread it toward the edges and let it drip down, turning the cake and spreading the icing over the sides as you go around. Some of the icing will drip onto your countertop and be lost — this is inevitable.
Allow the icing to set for about 5 minutes. Then repeat the process to achieve a smooth finish with no gaps.
When the icing has set, carefully lift the cake from the rack and transfer it to a serving platter. Place the decorative items around the rim of the cake at even intervals, as shown in the photo. Then decorate the platter as you like.
Do not refrigerate this cake. Serves 10.