How not to make Mary Berry’s Lemon Drizzle Traybake

What do you do when a recipe doesn’t work? Throw your floured hands in the air in exasperation, huff and puff around the kitchen, glare at the offending item sitting on the kitchen worktop hands on hips or do you gnash and grind your teeth or weep in exasperation?

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At varying times I’ve been known to do all of the above and more… you can include swearing in that cake mix.

Mary Berry’’s Lemon Drizzle traybake recipe  recently had this affect on me. What emerged from the oven was a flattened thin and mean looking affair – not the light fluffy treat I had in mind.

I hate the thought of waste – of time, effort and ingredients. Time to put the coffee on and have a wander and ponder.  A recipe rescue was needed if I was to take these on my book group walk and talk. A restorative caffeine hit and I was gently heating up a few tablespoons of apricot jam, cutting the traybake in half and slapping the said warmed apricot jam on one side of the cake and unceremoniously gluing it to the other slice. A quick lemon drizzle and a sprinkle of lemon zest later and I managed, by the skin of my teeth to pull the cake from the bin abyss.

The cake was duly eaten and enjoyed – but to be honest by the time we took a break from our walking read and talk and ate our snacks almost any kind of treat would have gone down well!

Later, I went back over the recipe, I had definitely followed the instructions, measured the ingredients, allotted the right time and temperature. So why did it not work? A few days later the answer came in a blog article I read (and which I forgot to note down so the mystery blogger will have to remain a mystery to you and I). It was all about baking, ingredients and techniques. It mentioned baking powder and it’s freshness……. Ahh the  proverbial baking light went on, let’s check the date on my baking powder….. yup definitely out of date…getting on for a year…… (please don’t be harsh and judge me too unkindly!). Time to go and buy a replacement.

Lesson learnt. Three cheers for bloggers, apricot jam and not giving up!


And the book group walk and talk? We read Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye’s as our farewell to a dear friend. I know both the book and cake would have met with her approval, but probably not the fuss and attention!



  • At least it was edible and looks quite respectable! I have had disasters before now, including some profiteroles that just didn’t want to puff up. When the second batch didn’t work either I just squirted the cream inside anyway and smothered them in chocolate sauce. They looked a bit flat but tasted heavenly! (I must go and check my baking powder now too! LOL!) Have a great weekend Claire!

  • What a good save! It sounds moist and lovely with your alterations, Claire. I recently replaced my – far past its expiration date – baking powder, too. Tightwad that I am, I found myself thinking “maybe I could just use this one in recipes that I don’t care so much about…” I got sensible, though,and tossed the out-of-date can, before I tempted fate. Margaret Atwood is on my list of “should read” authors, but I’ve never gotten through a single one of her books. Thanks, Claire!

  • If you hadn’t told us, we’d never have known the cake wasn’t meant to look like that – it looks perfectly respectable and very tasty! At least you found the problem and can fix it for next time. I regularly create ‘disaster’ cakes and can only put it down to my own incompetence!

    • I think there are times when I’m too honest fo rmy own good Sarah! And don’t worry I have my own level of incompetence as well 🙂 Have a super weekend

  • I always throw custard over the top of disasters and serve for dessert! Mind you yours still looks good xxx

    • HI Fran, I’m loving reading all the “how to disguise” ideas 🙂 Mind you if that had been my mum, the custard would have been worse than the cake – she never could make custard!

  • We’ve all been there, many times; it’s infuriating and frustrating as you wrote and as you mentioned the thought of having to discard food is unbearable! I have two batches of rather flat, unsuccessful sponge toffee in my freezer waiting for some kind of epiphany! BTW my cause was old baking soda!
    Your result doesn’t look as bad and if you hadn’t mentioned your expectations, likely no one would have been the wiser.

  • Looks delicious and intentional! We’ve had our fair share of talking the baking off the cliff in our house. The only one we couldn’t save was when DH attempted biscuits and made hockey pucks 😉 He can make pancakes or muffins without a recipe, but biscuits with a recipe turned out to be his Achilles heel.

  • You made me laugh, Claire! This happens but often the recipe is the problem not the baking powder, then it’s really annoying. Didn’t realize that it goes off so quickly…but then I don’t know when it turns stale. I don’t use that much baking powder as one can tell by the flavour.

    • So true Annette, the recipe can be as flaky as the ingredients! And until I read the article about baking powder it never occurred to me that it had such a short shelf life.

  • Symapthies! My last lemon drizzle didn’t work either, I did the all in one “man’s lemon drizzle’ in Pam Corbin’s cake book and it was heavy and stodgy. She does say somewhere in her introduction that the all in one cakes tend to do that. It is a pity there isn’t a way to test baking powder, like you can dried yeast with hot water and sugar… or maybe there is a way to? I will go and have a peek. I wonder which bit goes off?

  • You left out tossing the results in the garbage which I’ve done a couple of times too. 🙂 Great save.

    I guess the lesson is that we should all test our baking powder and baking soda for effectiveness even if the expiry date hasn’t been reached or we no longer have the original box and have no idea when it was.

  • An inspired solution – looks delish! I recently tried 3 times to work with some fresh yeast, and it was in date, but to no avail…so even the freshest ingredients sometimes let us down 😦 Damn them!

  • Claire, first I am intrigued by your “walk and talk” book group…how does it work? I might like this idea better than any that have been presented to me yet?
    Now to your cake…genius…you turned failure into success with a bit of your cleverness and humor…and caffeine! Very well done.

    • Hi Teresa, the walk and talk book group is working well- in fact better than the sitting around someones home stuffing your face with snacks and guzzling wine! Sorry that should be sipping wine!

      The idea comes originally from this programme on the BBC which got the idea from this article –

      Basically you choose a book, a date to meet up and agree on a walk (how long, where and difficulty) and basically start walking, And after the usual chat about the weather, work and life you gradually and gently start to talk about the book – as you are walking either side by side you tend to talk to one person for a while and then as the walk progresses you chat to someone else about the book.

      My fellow book group walkers find this way of talking very easy – less pressurised and as one person said “organic”. We try and stop mid way – for a coffee or a tea (the problem we’ve found is finding somewhere to stop and rest especially in this wet weather and over winter, I take a flask of mint tea and cake) and we end our walks in a country pub, where we can relax, get something to eat and have a more refreshing drink 🙂
      Hope this helps, and maybe even inspires !

  • I never would have known the Lemon Drizzle Cake was a failure! It just proves that “mistakes” can lead to something better! Like a slathering of jam and a lemon drizzle!

  • I need a new oven…mine is not holding the temperature. Recently I made multiple batches of short bread and none of them came out as they should. I used a family recipe that’s been “fool proof” forever! It was so disappointing to have it fall flat, but after three tries, I decided it just makes a great cookie. Not short bread, but still a good cookie. If we start with good ingredients I suppose it doesn’t matter if the recipe is completely changed. I think you were very creative with your failed attempt and you created something yummy in place of the original recipe! 🙂

    • I think our oven probably needs replacing too – I recently bought an oven thermometer to check and yes it doesn’t get to the right heat! Somehow having to buy a replacement baking powder doesn’t seem so bad after all 😉

  • I did this recently with soda bread muffins. No rise. Do you think freezing baking powder would keep it fresh longer?

  • I’ve been known to throw a failed effort right into the garbage as usually it doesn’t taste very good either. At least that wasn’t the case with your cake. I’m learning that there are many things in the pantry that don’t work too well when they get old.

  • Sounds perfectly luscious to me, and the bonus is that it’s unlike anyone else’s lemon slice, so perhaps even better than strictly as planned? 😉

  • Didn’t know that about baking powder, and am glad to have learned. It seems a few of your readers were already aware of the danger. But I have to admit, that even though I’ve seen such saves… a dead sponge cake come to life again, and quite attractive… when something I’ve made doesn’t look right, I throw it in the trash first… and then later think about how I could have saved it… but maybe, just maybe… this will be the inspiration I needed.

  • You know, I’ve seen that reminder to check my baking powder so many times…Have I checked it? Nope! You seem to have rescued that cake in a genius manner. As long as it tastes great, what does it matter how it comes out looking. Unlike some muffins I made last week… they looked beautiful, but they were pretty yucky. In the trash went the muffins!

  • Claire, I love your save on the traybake, and I had to laugh at your attitude when food goes horribly wrong… I get that way at the holidays when trying to make pie.
    No gluten = no elasticity
    That means patchwork pie crust every time. I have learned to use a cookie cutter on the crust for the top and just layer it on. Adapt and improvise! 😀

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