Chocolate-topped Sharp Lemon Cake


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Josceline Dimbleby’s Complete Cookbook

Josceline Dimbleby’s Complete Cookbook

By Josceline Dimbleby

Published 1997

  • About

Lemon and dark chocolate are one of the great taste combinations. This is a moist cake infused with the sharpness of fresh lemon juice. The chocolate should be equally intense; choose the brand with the highest percentage of cocoa solids — some have as much as 70 per cent.


  • 175 g/6 oz butter
  • 175 g/6 oz caster sugar
  • 3 medium or large eggs
  • finely grated rind and juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 rounded teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 175 g/6 oz self-raising flour
  • 3-4 tablespoons milk
  • 50 g/2 oz granulated sugar

For the chocolate topping

  • 100 g/4 oz dark chocolate
  • 25 g/1 oz unsalted butter


Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Butter a 19-20 cm/7½-8 in square cake tin and line the base with a piece of buttered baking parchment. Put the butter and caster sugar in a bowl and beat until fluffy. Beat in the eggs thoroughly, one at a time, and then the grated lemon rind. Sift the baking powder and salt with the flour and fold into the mixture with a metal spoon. Stir in enough milk to give a soft, dropping consistency. Spoon the mixture into the cake tin and bake in the centre of the oven for about 45 minutes, until springy to the touch in the centre.

Loosen the sides of the cake with a knife and turn it out on to a baking sheet or a flat plate, then turn it over so it is the right way up. Make holes all over the top of the cake with a skewer, piercing right through to the bottom. Put the granulated sugar and the strained lemon juice into a pan, bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then bubble fiercely for 30 seconds. Pour the hot syrup slowly all over the top of the cake, letting it seep into the holes. Smear the last bit of syrup roughly along the sides of the cake. Press a long, wide strip of baking parchment all round the sides, coming at least 2.5 cm/1 in above the top of the cake. Leave until cold.

To make the topping, break up the chocolate and put it with 2 teaspoons of water in a bowl set over a pan of hot but not boiling water, making sure the water is not touching the base of the bowl. Stir until melted and smooth and then stir in the butter until also melted. Cool briefly, until slightly less liquid, then pour or spoon all over the top of the cake — the baking parchment should contain the chocolate. When the chocolate has cooled and set, carefully remove the paper and cut the cake into small squares with a sharp knife.