Liliana’s lemon/dulce de leche cake

(the bonus recipe!)

Elena Heatherwick

Elena, this book’s photographer, is half-Argentinian. In Akhaltzikhe, Georgia, when Anna brought a jar of her home-made condensed milk, Elena’s face lit up. ‘I know my dulce de leche’, a twinkle in her eye and a wry smile. She tried it and smiled again, ’It’s good, it’s very good!’. And then she told me her mum Liliana made a lemon and dulce de leche cake, which sounded so good. It turned out even better as there was a suitably sweet story attached to it. It’s about Liliana’s third child Hanry, who was born between lunch and this cake on October 1st, 1989. It goes like this, in her own words: ‘Contractions started in the morning, I thought I should bake a cake, as Dr Michel Odent was coming to assist me. I made the cake, my mother prepared lunch. Sunday lunch…I was so hungry! But when the lemon/dulce de leche cake was approaching the table, I stood up and shouted: No cake, baby is coming! And I took refuge in a bedroom. Only 1 hour and a half later my 9lbs boy was born…and at this point I asked his father: Could you hold the baby so I can eat the cake? And he replied: I would love to…but the cord is short…! I was still attached to the baby!!! (as the placenta had not yet been delivered).’ This story made me happy. The end.

  • 200g butter, softened
  • 200g sugar
  • 200g eggs, lightly beaten
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 200g dulce de leche
  • 20g icing sugar
  • lemon verbena, bruised (optional)
  • edible flowers for decoration
  1. To make the drizzle, mix the lemon juice with the bruised verbena leaves (if using) to infuse for at least 30 minutes. Then whisk in the sugar, making sure it dissolves.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a 20cm cake tin with butter and line it with baking parchment. Whisk the butter and the sugar together until really fluffy and very pale, almost white with an electric whisk. Beat in each egg making sure it is fully incorporated before adding another. Whisk in the lemon zest.
  3. Fold the flour through the mixture gently and pour the cake mix into the tin. Bake for 50 – 60 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
  4. Cool the cake and cut it horizontally in half. Spread the dulce de leche between the layers.
  5. Brush the verbena drizzle over the top of the cake and it’s sides. Scatter some edible flowers over the top and serve