Lavender Elderflower Cake with Elderflower Buttercream

Saturday, October 13, 2018


Ever since I was gifted a package of Cotswold's Lavender, I've been waiting for an opportunity to bake with them. And I've always wanted to make a cake! I can only imagine the delicate aroma infused in a light vanilla cake, much like a Victorian sponge, a blissful floral note, a bit on the girly side (then again, why not?) evoking memories of a distant Proven├žal summer. It would be glorious.



I pitched this idea to the kids, and every time it is Max who gives me the carte blanche. I couldn't be more relieved. It wasn't just simply making all these cakes, it was also making sure that the flavours, the colours, and even the textures, were unique enough so each one would be appreciated for its virtues.



A lavender cake would be lovely, but it was the pairing with St. Germain, an elderflower liqueur that would heighten its appeal and complement its taste. Lavender, on its own, may be singularly used for a cookie, a loaf, or even a cupcake. It has the capacity to shine in a bite sized delight. However, a slice of cake is like a dish in itself. It has to have varying textures, flavours that augment each other, and colours that complement or contrast. And with this cake, I am convinced that lavender and elderflower do make a magnificent Victorian match.



There are various components that make this cake special. Because the individual flavours are subtle, I found that layering them in an infused milk, the cake itself and the syrup that soaks the cake all contribute to making the whole so much greater than the sum of its parts. It's a bit laborious and I did it over a few days. Cake for celebrations call for that, after all it is a labour of love.


Ingredients:

A) Lavender Milk:
480 ml (2 cups) milk
2 tbsp lavender buds


B) Lavender Elderflower Syrup:
240 ml (1 cup) water
2 tbsp lavender buds
100 g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
60 ml (1/4 cup) St. Germain elderflower liqueur


C) Lavender Elderflower Cake:
405 g (3-1/3 cups) all purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp lavender buds, ground
1 tsp salt
255 g (1-1/8 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
400 g (2 cups) granulated sugar
4 large eggs + 1 yolk, at room temperature
1 tbsp St. Germain elderflower liqueur
360 ml (1-1/2 cups) lavender milk


D) Elderflower Italian Meringue Buttercream:
425 g (2 cups + 2 tbsp) granulated sugar
90 ml (3/8 cup) water
6 egg whites, at room temperature
Pinch of cream of tartar
510 g unsalted butter, just slightly softened, cut into 1.5 cm (1/2 inch) cubes
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp St. Germain elderflower liqueur


Directions:

A) Lavender milk:
1. Combine the ingredients in a medium saucepan.
2. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and steep for 5 minutes.
3. Strain and let cool completely before using. You will need only 360 ml (1-1/2 cups) for the cake.
The milk can be kept, covered, in the refrigerator for a day.

B) Lavender Elderflower Syrup:
1. In a small saucepan, place the water, lavender, and sugar.
2. Bring to a boil, then set aside to cool.
3. When cooled, stir in the St. Germain elderflower liqueur.
The syrup can be kept, covered, in the refrigerator for up to a week.

C) Lavender Elderflower Cake:
1. Preheat the oven to 175C or 350F. Butter and flour the sides of 3 20-cm (8-inch) baking tins, and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, ground lavender buds, and salt together. Set this aside.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, on medium high speed, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy and lightened in colour, this will take about 3 to 4 minutes.
4. Reduce the speed to medium, then add the eggs and the yolk, one at a time, waiting until it is fully incorporated before adding the next one. Scrape down the sides when necessary.
5. Add the elderflower liqueur.
6 Reduce the speed to medium low, then alternate adding in the flour (in 3 additions) and the lavender milk (in 2 additions), stopping and scraping the sides as needed. Mix just until no visible pockets of flour remain.
7. Divide the batter into the 3 prepared pans and bake for 18 - 20 minutes, or until cake has pulled away from the edges and have turned a golden colour.

8. Cool in the tins for 5 minutes before placing them upright onto a cooling rack to cool further.
9. When cool, level the cakes with a cake leveler or a serrated bread knife to get a flat top. Use the leftover domed part for cake pops ;)
10. Brush the leveled cakes with the prepared Lavender Elderflower syrup.
The cakes can be double-wrapped with plastic wrap, then frozen up to a month.

D) Elderflower Italian Meringue Buttercream:
1. In a small saucepan, start heating the sugar and water. Have an infrared (or candy) thermometer ready.
2. In a clean and dry bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, start whisking the egg whites on medium speed.
3. As soon as the egg whites turn foamy, add the cream of tartar. Keep whisking the egg whites until you get to the soft peak stage.

4. Keep an eye on the sugar syrup, as soon as it hits 112 - 115C or 235 - 240F, turn the heat off and VERY VERY CAREFULLY pour the syrup into the running mixing bowl, trickling it down the sides of the bowl. (You do not want to pour it into the whisking area because it will splatter and burn you!)

5. Keep whisking until you get a voluminous white meringue.
6. The bowl will get hot, at which point you want to cool it off with damp cold kitchen towels. You can stop whisking at this point long enough to place a larger bowl with ice and/or cold water under the mixing bowl to help it cool quicker.
7. As soon as the meringue reads 39 - 40C or 102 - 104F, switch the whisk attachment with the beater attachment, then start beating on medium speed.

8. Add the butter, a cube at a time, in about 5 second increments, the buttercream will start coming together after 2/3 of the butter is added. Continue adding the butter until depleted.
9. Add the vanilla extract and Elderflower liqueur and beat for another minute.

The buttercream will keep at room temperature, covered, for up to 2 days in maximum 25C weather. Otherwise you will need to refrigerate it.
If your buttercream is curdling, or you see water is separating from the butter, the mixture is too cold. Warm the bowl by placing hot towels around the bowl.
If your buttercream isn't coming together, or still watery, it may be too warm. Cool the mixing bowl by wrapping it in cold kitchen towels.
Italian meringue buttercream can be kept, covered, at room temperature (during cooler months) up to 3 days or in the refrigerator for up to a week. Re-whisk before using.

Assembling:

Now that we have our buttercream ready and at room temperature, and our cakes leveled and brushed with syrup, we can continue to assemble them. Make sure your cake board, turntable, offset spatulas, leveler, and a large cookie scooper is also on hand.

1. Check all the layers and choose the best one for the top of the cake. We are looking to place the bottom side up for the top-most layer.
2. Place a small smear of buttercream on a cake board, then place a layer, bottom side down, centering it as best you can.
3. Using a cookie scooper, scoop about 1 cup of buttercream on top of the layer, leveling it as evenly as possible.

4. Repeat with the second layer, this time you may choose to place it either side down, it doesn't really matter, just that it is infinitely easier to spread buttercream on a more level surface without picking up crumbs.

5. For the top layer, place it bottom side up.
6. Continue to crumb coat the whole cake, then refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes to set and harden the buttercream.
7. Frost the whole cake and decorate as desired.




This cake was one of four in a lineup to celebrate the quads' birthday.

From left to right:
Chocolate Chunk & Coffee Cake with Chocolate Buttercream
Lavender Elderflower Cake with Elderflower Buttercream
Kahlua Coffee Cake with Coffee Buttercream
Vegan Cookie Butter Cake with Bacardi Buttercream


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