It’s safe to say that Britain’s Mary Berry knows a thing or two about baking.

Mary Berry on September 2, 2014 in Wisley, England.

Berry, 88, is an iconic British baker, food journalist, and former host of “The Great British Baking Show.”

Over the years, she’s published more than 20 books containing her go-to recipes and expert insights into how to master the art of baking sweet treats.

One of her signature recipes is a lemon drizzle tray bake, which she says she’s made more times than most people have had “hot dinners.”

Mary Berry photographed on October 18, 1977.

Showcasing the recipe in episode three of “Mary Berry Absolute Favourites: Episode 3,” Berry opened up about the backstory of her favorite lemon drizzle tray bake cake, revealing that she picked it up from the mother of one of her friends in the 1960s.

“She said, ‘You girls don’t do enough baking,’ and she stood in the kitchen with the little prams all around and the children, and made the cake for us and it’s been my favorite ever since,” Berry said, cheekily adding that she’s made more lemon drizzle tray bakes than most people have had “hot dinners.”

According to the BBC, the recipe is also the one Berry gets asked about the most whenever she’s stopped on the street.

To make the zesty tray bake, you’ll need a few baking staples, a whole lot of sugar, and two lemons.

The recipe called for two types of sugar.

To make the tray bake batter, you’ll need:

  • 225 grams of butter, plus extra for greasing your tin
  • 225 grams of caster sugar
  • 275 grams of self-raising flour
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons of milk
  • The zest of two un-waxed lemons.

An optional addition to the batter is finely chopped lemon verbena, a leafy plant that has the same zesty aroma as lemons. I couldn’t find it in my local shop so decided to skip it, as Berry said the recipe works just fine without it.

Besides the ingredients for the batter, you’ll also need to set aside the juice of two lemons and 175 grams of granulated sugar, used to create the crunchy glaze.

The first thing I did was preheat my oven and prep my baking dish for the mixture.

Prepping the tray for baking.I used a glass baking dish with the 12 by 9 inches dimensions Berry recommended for this recipe. I also preheated the oven to 160 degrees Celsius, or 320 degrees Fahrenheit.

Before getting started on the cake mixture, I greased the dish with butter and lined it with baking parchment paper to make removing the cake from the dish seamless after baking.

Next, I mixed together all of the dry ingredients.

Mixing the dry ingredients.

Berry’s recipe on the BBC website doesn’t specify if you have to mix wet and dry ingredients separately, but it’s a baking tip I like to follow as it ensures all the ingredients are evenly distributed in the batter.

I then added softened butter and worked it into the dry ingredients using my hands.

Adding the butter.

To soften the butter, I put it into a microwave-safe dish and let it melt for roughly 10 seconds before adding it to the dry ingredients and using clean hands to work it into the mixture.

Then it was time to add four eggs and four tablespoons of milk.Adding the rest of the wet ingredients.

Adding the wet ingredients turned the mixture from a crumby, dry state into thick, smooth cake batter.

The final step of creating the batter was adding the zest of two un-waxed lemons.

Adding the grated lemon.

If you buy lemons that are waxed, you can also scrub them with water to remove the layer of wax before grating them.

After a few minutes of whisking the batter so all the ingredients were smoothly incorporated, I poured it into the baking tray.

Use the back of a spatula to smooth the cake mix.

To give the cake an even top, I smoothed out any lumps with the back of a spatula.

I loved how quick and efficient the recipe was so far — within 15 minutes the cake was ready to bake.Putting the traybake in the oven.

I popped the cake in the oven. According to the recipe, it can bake for between 35 and 40 minutes, or until the cake has shrunken slightly from the sides of the tin and the center “springs back” when poked with a finger.

With the bulk of the recipe completed, I was able to spend the next few minutes on clean-up duty before getting started on the crunchy glaze.

The cake glaze consists of the juice of two lemons and a ton of sugar.The icing only called for two ingredients.

Unlike the batter, however, the glaze calls for granulated sugar. Once dried, it creates the perfect crunchy topping to contrast the moistness of the cake.

After 35 minutes, the tray bake was ready. I carefully transferred it onto a serving dish to cool for five minutes before brushing it with a heavy layer of the glaze.

Brushing the icing onto the cake.35 minutes was enough time for the exterior of the cake to take on a golden brown hue, which I then topped off with the lemon sugar glaze.

One tip Berry encourages is to brush the glaze all over the surface of the cake, including the sides, which ensures the crunchy texture is evenly distributed.

After letting it cool down to room temperature, I sliced the tray bake into thick cubes and was pleased to see how fluffy the inside looked.
The inside of the traybake was visibly moist and cooked through.

Removing a corner piece was all it took for me to know the cake had cooked evenly. As my knife cut into the cake, I could hear the crunch of the layer of icing before it seamlessly slid down to the bottom, indicating that the bulk of the cake was light and fluffy.

There was also a thin, dark yellow layer at the top of the cake, which showed the icing had soaked through.

I understood why Berry swears by this cake from the first bite — it’s light, fluffy, and so addictive that I ended up going back for seconds.
Trying a slice of the cake.

As I’d opted for baking the recipe without lemon verbena, there was a part of me that was slightly worried my attempt to recreate Berry’s signature lemon drizzle cake would lack in flavor and zest. After taking my first bite, I was relieved to find that was far from the case.

The flavors of the lemon zest and juice in the icing hit immediately but weren’t overly bitter since they were balanced with the sweetness of the sugar.

I also loved that it had textural variation, even though it was relatively simple. The cake itself was moist, light, and fluffy, but the icing — which gave it a professional glimmering sheen once dried — provided a perfectly contrasting crunch.

Once I’d finished my first slice of cake, I took a break to make myself dinner and then found myself returning for an additional two slices. It’s so good, and so easy to make, that I now understand exactly why Berry says she’s been making it routinely since the 1960s.


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