Lemon drizzle cake. Lemon sponge soaked in lemon syrup. Coated with sugar and crystallised lemon. It haunted the tables of my childhood; the birthday parties, the family gatherings, lunch with the grandparents and dinner with the cousins.
My grandmother, 83, mind and body bent with age, can still remember the recipe if you prompt her. Now, with the help of Haley her cleaner, cooker and all time organiser, she heats the oven to 180C.
My brother, 18 , ignoring his maths and physics and art, beats together 225g softened unsalted butter and 225g caster sugar until pale and creamy, then add 4 eggs, one at a time, slowly mixing through, and sprays the mixture all over the counter
My cousin, also 18, in Newcastle university, clings to the familiar smells as she sifts in 225g self-raising flour, then adds the finely grated zest of 1 lemon and mix until well combined.
Her sister, 25, back from her first day as a teacher, silently curses her class as she lines a loaf tin (8 x 21cm) with greaseproof paper, then spoons in the mixture and levels the top with a spoon.
My mother, lined face and tired eyes, continuing the mess my brother abandoned, places the cake in the oven and bakes it for 45-50 mins until a thin skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
My uncle, in a small cottage in ireland while the cake is cooling in its tin, mixes together the juice of 1 ½ lemons and 85g caster sugar to make the drizzle, his arm aches from a bullet wound and he wears army green.
My aunt, stuck in her big childless house, is meticulous, she lays a ruler across the top of the cake then pricks the warm cake all over with a skewer or fork, then pours over the drizzle – so the juice sinks in and the sugar forms a lovely, crisp topping.
My grandmother, surprised that sh has made a cake, forgetting the past half hour, leaves the cake in the tin until completely cool, then removes it and serves.
She serves lemon cake across the boundaries of years and the miles of road and the canyons of the lost.