My favorite lemon cake

I’ve been baking cakes since I was ten years old and, as you can imagine, have amassed quite a collection of recipes.

I made this Lemon Sour Cream Cake for the first time just last year—but it has already become one of my very favorites. (And my family and friends like it, too!)


Lemon Sour Cream Cake - my new favorite cake

Lemon Sour Cream Cake – my new favorite cake


It’s a fabulous cake with a wonderful texture and flavor. I just love pine nuts, but before baking this cake I’d only ever used them in savory dishes.

I serve the cake with vanilla-bean yogurt and blueberries—though it tastes great just on its own.

This is quite a big cake and I usually freeze half of it for later. It freezes beautifully, with or without the honey drizzled on top.



Fresh from the oven


The recipe is from a marvelous Australian cookbook: Bake: Celebrating the time-Honoured Tradition of Home Baking by The Australian Women’s Weekly, published by ACP Books.

My well-used copy of BAKE

My well-used copy of BAKE

I spoke to the publisher, Pamela Clark, who is one of the doyennes of cooking in Australia, about this cake. She advised me to follow the recipe exactly, use the correct size cake pan, not to be tempted to use a higher oven temperature, and to leave the cake in the oven for the full hour.

Her advice was spot on because the cake has turned out perfectly every time I’ve baked it!

Here’s the recipe.


Preparation time 15 minutes

Cooking time  1 hour (plus cooling time)

Serves 16

250g butter, softened

1 tablespoon finely grated lemon rind

2 cups (440g) caster sugar

6 eggs

¾ cup (180g) sour cream

2 cups (300g) plain flour

¼ cup (35g) self-raising flour

½ cup (80g) pine nuts

1 tablespoon demerara sugar

¼ cup (90g) honey

1 Preheat oven to 170˚/150˚ fan-forced. Grease deep 23-cm square cake pan; line base and sides with baking paper, extending paper 5cm over sides.

2 Beat butter, rind and caster sugar in medium bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Stir in sour cream and sifted flours, in two batches. Spread mixture into pan; bake 15 minutes.

3 Meanwhile, combine pine nuts and demerara sugar in small bowl.

4 Carefully remove cake from oven; working quickly, sprinkle evenly with nut mixture, pressing gently into cake. Return cake to oven; bake further 45 minutes. Stand cake in pan 5 minutes; turn, top-side up, onto wire rack.

5 Heat honey in small saucepan; drizzle hot honey evenly over hot cake. Cool.


NOTE Australian standard measuring cups are used in this recipe. An Australian standard measuring cup is 250ml, an American one is 240ml so there isn’t much difference in a recipe like this.

One Australian metric tablespoon holds 20mls; a tablespoon in the US, the UK and New Zealand holds 15mls.

100 grams is approximately 4 oz

170 degrees C oven heat is approximately  340 degrees F

You can use light brown sugar instead of demerara sugar   Caster sugar is also known as superfine sugar   Regular rather than light sour cream works best   Plain flour is also known as all-purpose flour   Self-raising flour can be made by mixing  1 cup of plain/all-purpose flour with 2 teaspoons of baking powder   Baking paper is also known as parchment paper  • A metric sized 23-cm square cake pan is equivalent to a 9-inch square pan.

For an excellent resource in converting baking measures and ingredients from other countries, visit Joy of Baking.



Reinventing Rose is an e-book special at Amazon for the bargain price of just $US0.99 until May 31.

Kandy Shepherd writes fun, feel-good fiction. Her new release is the contemporary women’s fiction (aka chicklit!) Reinventing Rose, where the characters don’t get much of a chance to eat cake let alone bake it…

Kandy’s romances include The Castaway Bride, Something About JoeLove is a Four-Legged Word and Home Is Where the Bark Is

Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb

Do you have a food you loathe? Until quite recently my reply would have included rhubarb. Sharp, stringy, nasty tasting stuff (or that’s what I used to think!)

When I was a kid my grandmother tried to trick me into eating it set in red jelly (Jello). I wasn’t fooled.  Rhubarb stayed on my food-hate list for years and years. Then we bought our farm and inherited two magnificent rhubarb plants. For years visitors admired them; for years I replied, “I hate the stuff.” For years my husband said, “I like it.” But I still didn’t harvest it or cook with it. Poor husband! (Not that he isn’t a good cook himself, but only if he has a recipe to follow.)

This rhubarb plant dies down to nothing in the winter

Would you believe this rhubarb plant dies down to nothing in the winter?

Then a writer friend started to bring a rhubarb cake with her when she visited. It tasted so good! Maybe, just maybe I should try cooking my own rhubarb from my own rhubarb plants?

So I harvested—gingerly, as those big leaves are poisonous. And stewed some with sugar until it was way too mushy. Not just my husband, but also my daughter loved it. They pleaded for more. So I tried again. This time no water, just sugar and a piece of vanilla bean, and a not-so-long cooking time. Success!

Freshly picked from the garden

Freshly picked from the garden

It’s become the family’s second-favorite breakfast treat, served with yogurt. (The first favorite is the plums from our ancient tree, but they’re only around in January in the Down Under summer.) Rhubarb is a source of vitamins, anti-oxidants and dietary fibre so that’s all good.

One of these rhubarb plants flourishes all year round. The second one is gone at the first hint of frost, but emerges in spring as beautiful ruby-red sprouts pushing up from the ground and rapidly unfurling into the so-valued stalks and the huge  leaves. The experts say not to let the white flowers bloom as they take nourishment away from the stalks, but sometimes I let them bloom, and it doesn’t seem to diminish the quality of the stalks.

I know spring is here when the rhubarb plant starts to sprout

I know spring is here when the rhubarb plant starts to sprout

And me? Did I fall in love with my rhubarb? Not really. I like it, but I don’t love it like my family does. How I enjoy it is in muffins where the slight tartness of the rhubarb puts a pleasing edge to the sweetness of the muffin. I make my favorite muffin recipe, put half the muffin mixture in the muffin tin hole, add a teaspoon of the rhubarb-stewed-with-vanilla, cover with the rest of the mixture and top with more rhubarb and a teaspoon of brown sugar and a pinch of cinnamon. The streusel topping becomes all crunchy and the caramelized fruit juice drips down into the muffin. Now that’s the way I love to eat rhubarb!

Rhubarb streusel muffins just out of the oven

Rhubarb streusel muffins just out of the oven

And my writer friend who brings me the marvelous rhubarb cakes? Two springs past, I dug up some of the new-growth rhizome to take home with her. She now also has a flourishing rhubarb plant—and when she brings me cake, it’s made with “my” rhubarb, transplanted and thriving in her garden.

Kandy Shepherd writes fun, feel-good fiction. Her books include The Castaway Bride, Something About Joe, Love is a Four-Legged Word and Home Is Where the Bark Is—and while food plays a part in her stories, so far rhubarb has not made an appearance!

A slice of deliciousness

Many families seem to have a favorite treat that’s always requested for special occasions. In our small family it’s what has become known simply as “The Slice”.

Down Under where I live, a slice is a name to cover a sweet treat made in a rectangular baking tin (but not necessarily baked) and cut into squares or rectangles to serve. In other countries it might be known as a bar or a tray bake.

Whatever it’s called, it is invariably calorie dense in the extreme and totally irresistible to people like me who were born with a sweet tooth!

When my teenage daughter asked me what she could make me for Mother’s Day this past weekend, I only had to say “The Slice” for her to know exactly what I meant.

“The Slice” as served to me on Mother’s Day

“The Slice ” is correctly called Apricot and Coconut Slice and I originally found it on a Nestle ad in a magazine. It’s a decadent concoction made with crushed sweet biscuits (of the Australian and British type of biscuit), finely cut dried apricots, dessicated coconut, condensed milk and chocolate. (In Australia a Morning Coffee biscuit works brilliantly, in Britain a digestive, in the US, I think a graham cracker would substitute.)

One time my daughter and I made a tray the night before we had visitors due to our farmhouse. I’ve ashamed to say we ate the entire tray by the time they arrived and had to whip up a quick batch of cookies instead. (Needless to say we never confessed, because the visitors love “The Slice” as well.)

Last time we made it with marbled dark and white chocolate

The recipe is easily located on the Nestle Australia website for Apricot and Coconut Slice. But I’ll share it here anyway. (Note: Australian standard measuring cups are used in the Nestle recipe. An Australian standard measuring cup is 250ml, an American one is 240ml so there isn’t much difference in a recipe like this. For an excellent resource in converting baking measures and ingredients from other countries, visit Joy of Baking  .)

Recipe Ingredients

(Makes 24)

  • 250g plain sweet biscuits, crushed
  • 1 cup (150g) roughly chopped dried apricots
  • 1 1/2 cups (120g) desiccated coconut
  • 395g can NESTLÉ Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 125g butter, chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups (185g) NESTLÉ Milk Melts, melted

How to make

1. Grease and line the base of a 28cm x 18cm baking pan with baking paper.

2. Combine crushed biscuits, apricots and coconut in a large bowl.

3. Place NESTLÉ Sweetened Condensed Milk and butter in a medium saucepan; stir over medium heat until melted. Stir into dry ingredients. Press mixture into prepared pan.

5. Pour NESTLÉ Milk Melts over slice, allow to set. Cut into squares to serve.

NOTE: Allow setting time.

Preparation time:
15 minutes

Cooking time:

3 minutes


Food somehow plays a part in the novels I write–think I might have to work “The Slice” into one of them!