Monday, 27 October 2008

Lovely lavender...fragrant and calming

I found myself with a small bouquet of lavender at the weekend and couldn't resist rubbing my fingers along the flowers to catch some of that soothing lavender scent. Long known for its calming properties, lavender isn't an ingredient bakers often turn to. This is curious as lavender is such a delightful, quaint fragrance - you can use it for floral breadsticks to serve with goat's cheese for example, or in cakes. I decided to try the latter...

So, at the risk of becoming a bit of a granny, I made a lavender cake. Thinking this might be a tad old-fashioned for modern sensibilities, I threw in lots of orange zest and ground almonds to make a lovely moist, fragrant cake, dispersed with lavender buds which gave occasional bursts of lavender - a delightful reminder of mediterranean sunshine. Go on, give it a try!

  • 200g plain flour
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 75g butter, melted
  • 150g half-fat creme fraiche (using up what was in the fridge!)
  • 180g caster sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • zest of 2 oranges
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp lavender flowers
  • handful flaked almonds
If you want a lighter cake, whisk the eggs with the sugar for 5-8 mins instead of just lightly beating them as I did. Frankly I don't mind a slightly dense cake as long as the flavour's right, but if you're out to impress a real pastry chef then follow the traditional method.

I simply put the dry ingredients in one bowl, liquids in a second bowl, combined the two and gently folded the ingredients together, poured them into a 20m round cake tin (lightly oiled, of course), scattered the flaked almonds on top of the mixture and then baked the cake on the central shelf of a 180 celsius oven for 45 minutes. Phew, easy!

You could of course make a simple sugar syrup infused with lavender and orange zest to glaze the cake with: just take equal quantities of water and sugar (or indeed, half water and half freshly squeezed orange juice), place in a saucepan with the lavender and orange and bring to the boil, then simmer for 5 mins until the syrup looks, well syrupy. Drizzle on the cake when it's cooled down...

* Other edible flowers include violet and rose, make sure you buy un-sprayed ones though, you really don't want pesticide in your cake. 

* apologies to Fiona, I know you requested the butternut squash bread, but I didn't have any squash in the house this weekend. Going to kick-start Hallowe'en later this week with a squash baking bonanza so watch this space ;-)


Fiona Beckett said...

no apologies needed! this sounds heavenly - I wish I'd been there to try it! fx

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