Inspired by Books – Zingy Orange Cake with Lemon Icing (Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo)

Sometimes, all you need is a slice of soft cake and this orange cake topped with lemon icing hits all the citrusy spots. Why not an orange icing, you might wonder? I ran out of oranges, and I had to improvise. Simple as that. However, and to my surprise, the sharpness of the lemon impressed me more than the classic ‘all orange everything’. The recipe also happens to be dairy-free, but you’re welcome to switch the vegetable oil for butter if you fancy it.

This is also the first of a series of recipes inspired by books: we start with best-seller and Booker Prize winner “Girl, Woman, Other” by Bernardine Evaristo. More on the book and why it played as inspiration after the recipe. But now, without further ado, let’s focus on the recipe: the cake will cook for 40 minutes so we have time to chat afterwards.

Orange Bundt Cake, with one slice cut

Orange Cake with Lemon Icing

A light and soft citrusy cake, packed with flavour and zinginess.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Resting Time 15 mins
Total Time 1 hr 10 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine European
Servings 10 servings


  • Oven
  • Kitchen Mixer (optional)
  • Whisk


For the Orange Cake

  • 4 medium eggs
  • 200 gr caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 orange (juice and zest)
  • 200 ml vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp dark rum (optional)
  • 300 gr flour
  • 9 gr baking powder

For the Icing

  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • 1 lemon


For the Cake

  • Start by preheating the oven in fan mode at 180°C/355°F.
  • Separate your eggs and proceed to whisk your egg whites in a kitchen mixer or with an electric whisk (or with a lot of arm work) until you get stiff peaks. Set aside.
  • In a separate bowl, mix your egg yolks with sugar and vanilla extract until you get a fluffy, homogeneous mix. Slowly add your vegetable oil while you keep whisking, and the rum (if using).
  • Proceed to sift in the flour and baking powder, folding it in, delicately.
  • Add the egg whites and fold. Use a spoon for this step, as the rounded edges will preserve the softness of the whites.
  • Transfer your mix to a buttered-and-floured tin, and cook in the oven for approximately 40 minutes. Check with a skewer when ready.

For the Icing

  • In a small pot, mix together the lemon juice and the icing sugar. Cook on low heat until the mix starts to lightly bubble. Do this 5 to 10 minutes before the cake is ready.
  • Once the cake is out of the oven, pierce it with a skewer and pour over so it gets absorbed. Let cool down for at least 15 minutes (good luck).
Keyword Easy Cake, Easy Desserts, Summer Cakes, Summer Recipes

Orange Cake with Lemon Icing and… A Book? Why?

Well, why not? The link between food and literature is a not-always-explored, but a very strong one. And if you don’t believe me, may I just say… Madeleine? When writing about food, you can evoke so many different feelings and memories and sometimes, even have your reader feel like they are actually tasting your words.

I am on a journey now of paying more attention to the books I read from a food perspective. I want to add another layer of understanding and comprehension. I want to read Proust’s Recherche while snacking on madeleines with a cup of warm tea beside me. And to quote Marcel Proust:

Many years had elapsed during which nothing of Combray, save what was comprised in the theatre and the drama of my going to bed there, had any existence for me, when one day in winter, as I came home, my mother, seeing that I was cold, offered me some tea, a thing I did not ordinarily take. I declined at first, and then, for no particular reason, changed my mind. She sent out for one of those short, plump little cakes called ‘petites madeleines,’ which look as though they had been moulded in the fluted scallop of a pilgrim’s shell.

And soon, mechanically, weary after a dull day with the prospect of a depressing morrow, I raised to my lips a spoonful of the tea in which I had soaked a morsel of the cake. No sooner had the warm liquid, and the crumbs with it, touched my palate, a shudder ran through my whole body, and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary changes that were taking place. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, but individual, detached, with no suggestion of its origin.

And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory–this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me, it was myself. I had ceased now to feel mediocre, accidental, mortal. Whence could it have come to me, this all-powerful joy? I was conscious that it was connected with the taste of tea and cake, but that it infinitely transcended those savours, could not, indeed, be of the same nature as theirs. Whence did it come? What did it signify? How could I seize upon and define it?

Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past

Going back to ‘Girl, Woman, Other’ and to this orange cake: why? As the novel, this is a refreshing, light cake that is packed with flavour and depth coming from the rum. The soft sponge will not make you heavy. Each mouthful is going to slowly melt and it’s going to be hard to stop at one slice, as it is hard to stop at the end of each chapter of Bernardine Evaristo’s book.

It’s fresh, zingy, sweet. There are different levels of flavour to unpack and if you close your eyes, you’re going to find more. They are both fun, but at the same time comforting. They’re going to leave you with something, and you’ll come back for more. Both this book and this orange cake are going to leave their respective marks and you’ll think about it again and again. This is a promise.

You can also read more about books and see how this “Inspired By Books” series proceed on Two Vs In a Pod on Instagram.

A picture of orange cake with lemon icing on a cake stand next to a copy of 'Girl, Woman, Other' by Bernardine Evaristo

Summer calls for orange cake and lemon icing

As I’m writing this, I’m looking around my living room for a sweater, and “summer” and “United Kingdom” don’t seem to go hand in hand. This however will not stop my need for differentiating between winter cakes and summer cakes. While I’m always going to eat any cake that is presented to me, there’s something intrinsically summery about a citrus-based cake. And when you have not one citrus, but two in the same recipe, the next thing you might want to do is grab your sunscreen and iced tea and look for a wicker hat.

And if you don’t believe me, just think of our apple cake: if that doesn’t scream autumn to you, well, we live in two very different dimensions I guess.