Southern Italian Lemon cake with mascarpone and basil

1 big lemon lemon 

1 cup (250ml) olive oil , plus extra for greasing 

4 large eggs 

1 1/4 cup (250g) caster sugar 

2 1/2 cups (250g) ground almonds 

3/4 cup (100g) fine polenta 


1/2 cup (150g) runny honey 

1 big lemon 


1 cup (250g) mascarpone 

2 teaspoons icing sugar 

2 teaspoons vanilla paste

Few Basil or mint leaves

1. Place the whole lemon into a large deep saucepan, cover with cold water and a small heatproof plate (to keep the lemon submerged). Place the pan on a medium heat, bring to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, or until the lemon is soft. (You might need to top up with more water, if the water evaporates too much.) 

2. Take the lemon out and set aside to cool down, then cut it into quarters removing seeds. Place the lemon into a blender or food processor, then mix it with the olive oil until smooth. 

3. Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F. Grease and line a deep 8 inches (20cm) cake tin or small individual cake tins.

4. Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a large bowl, then whisk in the lemon and oil purée, the ground almonds and polenta. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin(s), spread out evenly and bake for 40 to 45 minutes (20 minutes if you’re making individual cakes), or until risen and golden and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin, then turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely. 

5. Meanwhile, make the lemon syrup: place the honey in a small pan on a medium-low heat and squeeze in the lemon juice. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, for 4 to 5 minutes, until the honey has melted. (You may need to add a splash of hot water if it looks too thick.) Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. 

6. To make the mascarpone cream, beat the mascarpone, icing sugar and vanilla together, then gently fold in the yoghurt and set aside. 

7. Tip the almonds into a small, dry frying pan and toast until golden. (Keep an eye on them, they burn easy).

8. To assemble the cake, place the sponge in the middle of the plate. Spoon the mascarpone cream on top making peaks and waves, then drizzle over the syrup and garnish with the toasted almonds, lemon zest and basil leaves.