What do you picture when you think of lavender? For many it will be endless fields of beautiful purple flowers stretching across the South of France. As someone who works for a cosmetics company I have to admit that bath bombs and soap are the first things that come to mind.
Even though it has a long history of culinary use lavender isn’t a common ingredient in most kitchens. It turns out that it’s not a common ingredient in most shops either! I had to resort to buying it online, as tracking it down on the high street proved impossible. I’d become determined to make this cake after being reminded of where I first had orange and lavender together over 10 years ago…
I was at Borough Market. A large covered market next to Southwark Cathedral, just south of the River Thames in London. It was a proper food market for centuries, but in more recent times it’s become something of a mecca for lovers of more speciality foods. It’s always busy but if you’re after good quality produce, or some of the more experimental foods it’s a great place to go.
Anyway, it was a sunny, Winter’s day. Boris Johnson was walking around the market trying to drum up support for his run to become Mayor of London. I’d just been accused of flirting with a guy, when I’d actually been talking to him about his French Bulldog puppies who’d tried eating my shoelaces. They were both beautiful – one was a dark sandy tone and the other a glorious dark mink (a colour which dog breeders bizarrely refer to as blue or lilac). Anyway, I digress…
I don’t know if the little bakery I bought an Orange and Lavender cake from is still there. But my memory of that cake is as strong as ever. It was light as a feather, with a golden crust that sparkled with an orange-flavoured drizzle. Inside was flecked with orange peel and every bite came with that delicate perfume of lavender. It was very much love at first bite.
My version, which was created entirely from memory, recreates all of the components that I remember from that day. I like to cook it in a big patterned bundt pan, as this really shows off the golden outside. It also provides lots of little hollows in which the sugary drizzle can accumulate. Every slice has little hints of orange from the grated peel that runs through the mixture. And there’s a delicate hit of lavender that comes to you like a distant perfume. It’s just how you want it to be as if you add too much it quickly becomes astringent.
I absolutely adore this cake. It’s not outwardly showy (unless you use an overly patterned pan, of course) but as soon as you take a bit you know it’s something a little bit special. Beauty is more than skin deep after all…
Orange & Lavender Cake
for the Cake
- 225 g Caster Sugar
- 2 tsp Culinary Lavender
- 225 g Unsalted Butter or Stork softened
- 4 large Free Range Eggs beaten
- 2 Oranges zested
- 225 g Plain Flour
- 2 tsp Baking Powder
for the Glaze
- 200 g Caster Sugar
- 2 Oranges juiced and zested
- 1 tsp Culinary Lavender
Make the Cake
- Preheat the oven to 160°C. Prepare the cake tin of your choice (line with baking parchment, grease or apply cake release).
- Put the sugar and lavender into a food processor and pulse until the lavender flowers have been reduced into smaller particles and mixed well with the sugar. (If you don’t have a food processor then bash the flowers with a pestle and mortar and stir through the sugar).
- Add the softened butter to the sugar then mix until well combined, light and fluffy. (You could do this with a conventional whisk / mixer in a separate bowl if you’d rather).
- Pour in the beaten eggs and mix again until everything is well combined, followed by the orange zest.
- In a separate bowl mix the flour and baking powder, before sieving into the batter mixture and combining well. You could do this in the food processor too, but don’t over mix it or it will affect the flour. I prefer to tip out the batter into a mixing bowl and fold in the flour.
- Once combined, pour the batter into the prepared cake tin then put it into the middle of your preheated oven. Cook for 45-60 minutes (depending on your cake tin), checking that a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
- When cooked remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack – depending on your cake tin you may want to turn it out fairly quickly or allow it to cool first.
Make the Glaze
- Put the caster sugar into a saucepan then add in the orange juice and lavender. Stir well then put over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved into the orange juice.
- Allow to cool slightly, then pass through a sieve to remove the lavender flowers.
- Whilst the cake is still warm make several small holes in it with a skewer and gently spoon over the syrup mixture. This will allow some to soak into the cake whilst the rest should form a sugary crust on the outside.
- Allow to completely cool, then enjoy. The cake should store well in an airtight container for 3-4 days but I doubt it will last that long.