I have become obsessed with the humble bumble bee. I love everything about them, from their fuzzy roundness, their black and yellow stripy backs, to the way they bob through the air as if bouncing from flower to flower. They are adorable. Where there are flowers, there are bumble bees, and where there are bumble bees there is honey not too far away! And what flower do bees love the most, lavender of course!
If you’ve ever been to a lavender farm you will have seen how the bumble bees bob and weave between the lavender as it moves with the breeze. A few weeks ago we visited our local lavender farm in Hitchin where you can cut your own lavender to take away and can buy big, golden jars of local honey.
It’s been a while since I visited the lavender farm. When I lived at home I made the most of warm weekends wandering the fields. On a trip to visit family at the end of July we decided to stop by for a visit. The smell from the flowers is frankly unbelievable. It’s dusky and heady as all good lavender is, but floats away subtly on the wind. I was instantly taken back to the last time I visited in 2013. I came home and made these Lavender and Honey Cucpakes for a garden party we were having to celebrate me finishing the legal practice course (LPC). 3 years later and I’m a fully qualified solicitor! Time flies when you’re having fun…
But, enough rambling on. I’m not in the lavender fields now.
To make this, or any other recipe flavoured with lavender, it’s not quite as easy as simply picking whatever variety you have in the garden. Although most varieties of lavender can be used in food, some varieties are more commonly used and for good reason! Lavandula angustifolia and Munstead Cultivar have one the sweetest taste and aroma amongst all types of lavender. This makes it particularly good for using in sweet dishes and cakes. Whilst most varieties are floral with citrus notes, if you’re not careful you might find yourself with a hot, peppery variety which can easily over power your cake.
This recipe uses fresh lavender in two ways. First, fresh lavender is used to make lavender sugar. Second, it is used as “sprinkles” to decorate the cakes.
If you want to make your own lavender sugar it couldn’t be easier (just add lavender to sugar, leave in an air tight container and hey-presto!). If you don’t feel quite brave enough going out and foraging your own flowers then you will be pleased to learn you can buy lavender sugar both online from the likes of Amazon Grocery and in certain branches of Waitrose. You could also use purple sprinkles instead of the fresh flowers.
We’ve spoken about lavender so it’s only right we talk about the next most important ingredient in this cake, honey. Shall I tell you all about the birds and the bees and how the sticky stuff is made? It’s actually kinda gross and a bit sciency. I wouldn’t want to bore you or put you off your cake…
Keep an eye out in your supermarket for local honey. Lots of the big chains are now trying to stock local produce. Best of all, visit your local farm shop, farmers market or lavender farm and they’ll be sure to have a jar you can buy. We actually picked up the honey used in this cake from our local pick your own fruit farm. They have honey bees out back.
Ever since visiting a hive nearly a year a go now I’ve become obsessed with the idea of having my own hive when we move house. I’m off on a hive keeping course soon and can’t wait to learn how to keep bees and harvest my own honey. But until then I’ll have to buy it like everyone else.
Honey not only adds far superior flavour to cakes than using caster sugar alone but it’s also fantastic at helping to keep the cake stay succulent and moist. The combination of lavender sugar and honey here has been carefully balanced so you not only get the best flavour profile but the perfect, moist sponge too.
Lavender and Honey Layer Cake Recipe
Lavender and Honey Layer Cake
This sweet and floral sponge cake is flavoured with lavender and honey.
For the cake
- 225 grams butter
- 300 grams lavender sugar see note 1
- 4 large eggs
- 245 grams natural yogurt
- 175 grams honey
- 1 vanilla pod
- lilac food colouring optional
- 375 grams self raising flour
- 1 pinch salt
For the buttercream icing
- 350 grams butter
- 750 grams icing sugar
- 100 grams honey
- Milk optional
To make the honey drips
- 200 grams golden caster sugar
- 85 grams honey
- 125 millilitres double cream
- 1 tbsp butter
Pre-heat your oven to 180C or gas mark 5.
Line 4 7" round pans with grease proof paper and place to one side.
In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until, pale, smooth and fluffy.
Slowly add the eggs and beat into the butter and sugar mix.
Next add the yogurt, honey, seeds scraped from the vanilla pod and a drop of lilac food colouring.
Fold the wet ingredients into the sugar, butter and egg mix until a smooth thin batter forms.
Finally, add in the self raising flour and pinch of salt.
Fold these dry ingredients into the wet batter and divider evenly between the tins.
Bake for 30-35 minutes until each cake is springy to the touch (or a skewer comes out of the centre of the cake clean).
Let the cake cool in the pans for up to 10 minutes before turning them out on to a cooling rack.
Make sure the cakes are cooled completely before attempting to decorate.
To make the buttercream simply beat the butter and confectioners sugar together. Slowly add the honey and mix until completely smooth.
If too thick to spread, add a splash of milk and beat well.
Spoon a tsp of buttercream into the centre of your cake board or stand and place your bottom cake layer directly on top.
Add roughly 1cm layer of buttercream before adding your second layer.
Add another 1cm layer of buttercream before adding your third and final layer.
Use a thin layer of buttercream (or a crumb coat) to completely cover the top and sides of the cake - this is your crumb coat.
Place in the fridge for 20-30 minutes until it hardens slightly.
Once the crumb coat has sealed, completely cover the cake with the remaining buttercream.
Sprinkle fresh lavender around the base of the cake.
Place the cake into the fridge or a cool, dry place until ready to add the drips.
In a heavy bottomed pan, warm together the caster sugar and honey on a low - medium heat until the caster sugar has dissolved completely.
Continue to heat until it starts to go darker in colour and bubble a little, but avoid stirring the mix and swirl the sugar syrup occasionally to ensure it doesn't catch.
Once bubbling, add in the cream and stir until smooth.
Next, add the butter, again stirring until smooth.
Take the pan off of the heat and allow the glaze to cool completely.
Once at room temperature, gently pour over the cake encouraging drips down the side of the cake.
Note 1: to make your own lavender sugar add a few tbsp of dried lavender in to a food processor with a few tbsp of sugar. Blitz until the lavender is in small pieces. Whisk the blended lavender and sugar with the rest of the sugar until the lavender is well dispersed. Store lavender sugar in a jar in a cool place for up to 6 months.
Honey and lavender is a classic flavour combination so you really cannot go wrong with this cake. The splash of lilac food colouring won’t be for everyone, but I love that when you cut it open, you see the lilac inside and the pretty purple of the lavender flowers contrast against the honeyed cream of the icing. Come on, you can’t tell me that’s not one good looking cake! Let me know what you think in the comments below.
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