Food & Drink

I made Meghan’s lemon cake recipe from new charity cookbook – here’s what happened

The Duchess of Sussex has contributed a lemon cake recipe to Jose Andres’ new cookbook (Chris Jackson/PA)
The Duchess of Sussex has contributed a lemon cake recipe to Jose Andres’ new cookbook (Chris Jackson/PA)

Chef Jose Andres celebrates the communal joy of food in his new charity cookbook – with help from friends like the Duchess of Sussex.

The World Central Kitchen Cookbook: Feeding Humanity, Feeding Hope includes a recipe for Meghan’s lemon olive oil cake, which is laced with limoncello and has crystallised rosemary on top.

In 2021, Meghan sent this cake to a group of female restaurateurs who partnered with the World Central Kitchen (WCK) during the pandemic and community members they cooked for.

Spanish chef Andres founded not-for-profit organisation WCK in response to the Haiti earthquake in 2010, providing meals to those in need following natural disasters.

Meghan isn’t the only famous face to contribute a recipe to the new book (published by Penguin Random House on September 12). Former first lady Michelle Obama has offered up her dish for breakfast tacos, made out of leftovers from steak night, a weekly tradition in the Obama household. It’s served with a hit of umami mushrooms, pickled onions and fluffy eggs.

Other contributions include actor and author Ayesha Curry’s chicken Parmesan, and green bean casserole from chef Guy Fieri.

The book has a moving forward from comedian and late-night TV host Stephen Colbert, who praises Andres’ work with WCK and acknowledges the power of showing love through food.

Andres himself writes a note in the cookbook, stressing the importance of these recipes in telling a story or marking a historical moment – from the arroz con pollo dish that was cooked in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria, or the recipe for Ukrainian Easter bread.

As well as recipes, the book dives into the work WCK does – whether it’s feeding firefighters in California or feeding displaced families after the 2021 volcano eruption in Saint Vincent.

Meghan’s recipe falls in the chapter dedicated to joy – a collection of desserts and drinks that will spark happiness, sitting alongside Venezuelan banana bread and Guatemalan doughnuts.

Here’s what happened when we put her recipe to the test…

The Duchess’ lemon olive oil cake

Lisa Salmon's version of the lemon and olive oil cake
Lisa Salmon’s version of the lemon and olive oil cake (Lisa Salmon/PA)

Not surprisingly, given that this is a lemon and olive oil cake, there’s a lot of lemony ingredients in the easy-to-make recipe – including the classic Italian liqueur limoncello.

And therein lay the only problem with making it – the first two supermarkets I went to to get limoncello didn’t have any. Fortunately, it was third time lucky at Sainsbury’s, and I was so relieved to find a bottle I even told the checkout girl, who laughed and suggested I’d been ‘supermarket foraging’.

So, having successfully foraged, the next task was to grate and juice a few lemons – the ingredients say one-and-a-half tablespoons of lemon zest is needed, and a quarter of a cup of lemon juice, and I found two lemons did the trick.

After that, it was more or less a case of putting all the ingredients together in the sequence outlined in the recipe, and whisking it all up (but not too much, it warns, whatever ‘too much’ actually means). This creates a pretty thin, lemony batter to pour in a lined springform cake tin – which I bought especially to make the cake, but in the end thought wasn’t particularly necessary, as lining the tin meant it could be lifted straight out in the paper without having to pop out the springform bottom.

The Duchess of Sussex
The Duchess of Sussex has contributed her lemon cake recipe to the new book (Kirsty O’Connor/PA) (Kirsty O'Connor/PA)

The recipe says the oven should be preheated to 325°F, which I erroneously thought would be around 176°C for a fan oven. With the cooking time between an hour and an hour and 15 minutes, I checked at the hour mark and was horrified to see the cake was on the verge of burning – not quite the golden brown the recipe suggested. Turns out I had my oven too hot, and it should have been around 140-150°C instead.

So I took it out immediately and left it to cool, before sprinkling icing sugar on (which thankfully went some way to disguising its dark brownness) – but not, I have to admit, the recipe’s optional crystallised rosemary. There were two reasons for this – one, I couldn’t find any rosemary, and two, I couldn’t be bothered making all that effort for just a few sprigs on top of the cake.

So, my whole family, including two teenage boys, had a slice of the cake after Sunday dinner, and it got a huge thumbs up from everyone, including me. It’s lemony, but not overpoweringly so, and the best thing about it is that it’s really moist, thanks to the olive oil, with an unusual texture that I’d describe as more like a sponge pudding than a cake. It would be great with custard, but we had it with whipped cream, which was naughty but extremely nice.

It’s not the most aesthetically pleasing of cakes – although that was perhaps more to do with my too-hot oven and my lack of effort on the rosemary front – but although I’m not convinced it would make the best dessert at a glamorous Duchess of Sussex dinner party, it really was a delicious, comforting and quite unusual pudding to end a family Sunday dinner with. And it was incredibly simple to make too (apart from the limoncello foraging!).