Tag Archives: lavender

Recipe: Lavender Butterfly Cakes with Blackberry Jam and Whipped Ganache

These are really quite basic cupcakes with a little bit of lavender in them.  If you’ve ever made a plain butter cake, you probably used this recipe, but without the lavender.  The only slightly complex part is the whipped ganache, which is a bit fiddly, but actually very easy. Once you’ve made the ganache once, you’ll probably want to make it again, because it gives you a delicately flavoured cream that holds up much better than whipped cream if it needs to sit around for a few hours.

The only thing to remember is that you need to start the ganache at least 7 hours before you plan to serve the cupcakes.  Making it the day before is fine.

Also, I just love the flavour of lavender, but usually I make it either too strong or not strong enough.  For me, this whipped ganache is in the magical Goldilocks zone – noticeably lavender, without making you think about soap…

Your shopping list

75 white chocolate
125 + 160g cream, both chilled
3 blackberries, crushed
1 tsp dried culinary lavender + 2 tsp for the cake
12g liquid glucose (yes, I know, I know.  This recipe is usually made in a much larger batch.  This is about 1 1/2 teaspoons, I think.  Just think how much worse it would be if I’d only made a dozen cupcakes!)
250g butter, softened
300 g caster sugar
4 eggs
370 g self-raising flour
160 ml milk
500g blackberry jam

Now what will you do with it?

First, make the ganache.  Chop up the white chocolate and put it into a bowl.

Put 125g cream in a small saucepan with the blackberries and 1 tsp of lavender, and heat until boiling point.  Switch off the heat and leave for five minutes.

Pour the cream through a seive into another bowl.  Press the blackberries into the seive with the fork to make sure their juice comes through.  Return the cream to the saucepan.

Add the liquid glucose, which is, yes, a pain to use, but it does somehow make the ganache more stable.  What I recommend doing is rinsing a teaspoon and your hands in cold water, then using the teaspoon to scoop out the glucose and your finger to push it off into the cream – the cold water makes the glucose stick less.  And I’m sorry about the quantities.  This is the halved version of the recipe, and even with 24 cupcakes, you are going to have more than you need…

Bring the cream and glucose back to the boil, and pour the mixture over the white chocolate in the bowl.  Stir until the chocolate melts.  If you’ve made ganache before, you are probably worried about these ratios, because this is a very thin ganache and about to get thinner.  Don’t worry – think of this as whipped cream thickened with chocolate, and it will make more sense.

Stir in the rest of the chilled cream.  You might add a drop of purple colouring to the mixture to make it more inviting if you like, but this is optional.  Cover the ganache with clingwrap, which should be directly on the surface of the cream, and refrigerate for at least six hours or up to two days.

When you are ready to make the cupcakes, preheat your oven to 180°C, and line two twelve-hole muffin tins with paper cases.  (Or do this in two batches, one tin at a time.)

Grind the lavender in a mortar and pestle (you can grind it with some of the sugar if you find this easier) until it is somewhat broken down.

Put the lavender into a medium-sized mixing bowl with the butter and sugar, and cream together.  Add the eggs one at a time, then mix in the flour and milk, alternately.

Divide the mixture between the muffin tins, and put into the oven.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the cakes feel soft and springy when you poke at them gently.  You might want to swap the trays around at the 15 or 20 minute mark, depending on how they are doing.

Remove from their tins, and let cool on a rack.  Get out your ganache, and whip it as you would cream.  The ganache has a higher fat content than cream, though, so it will whip up much faster – don’t put on a stand mixer and wander off to hang out the washing or something, this is probably only going to take a couple of minutes.

Use a small knife to cut a conical circle (I’m sure that is terrible geometry, but the right words escape me) in the middle of each cake – basically, you want a nice, round, section of cake, slightly pointed in the middle, which you are going to cut in half to make the butterfly wings, so don’t eat it!

Place a small spoonful of blackberry jam in the centre of each hole, and pipe or spoon the lavender ganache over the top of it.

Gently place the two ‘wings’ into the cream, pushing slightly inward as you do, to help raise the cream.

Dust with icing sugar or little purple stars.

Feed to the people you love.


Well, there’s no reason this has to be a lavender cake, I suppose, but isn’t that rather a waste? You might make the cakes with raspberry jam and a little rosewater in the ganache (add half a teaspoon with the cold cream, then taste and see if you need a little more), in which case I’d keep the cakes plain vanilla, because it is far too easy to wind up with overly-perfumed rose cakes.

You could replace 50 grams of the flour with cocoa, and then fill the cakes with cherry jam and add kirsch to your ganache.  Apparently, I’ve decided that black forest is the variation I want for every cupcake I’m doing.  Or just go ultra-chocolate – I bet this would be amazing with dark chocolate whipped ganache and a caramel filling, or a raspberry one, or maybe you could add peppermint essence to your whipped chocolate ganache, and have a choc-mint cupcake.  At which point you should probably decorate it with shards of Peppermint Crisp, because that is the law.

In terms of dietary requirements, I don’t think you are going to be able to avoid dairy here, but if you have a good, basic vegan vanilla cupcake recipe you could certainly make this ensemble eggless.  It is obviously free of nuts.  It would work just fine with my gluten-free self-raising flour mix, and the result should also be low in fructose, though certainly not in lactose.

Recipe: Raspberry and Lavender Lemonade

drink2We are having an extended heat-wave in Melbourne just now, with temperatures above 30 for the last week and a bit, and continuing until late next week.  Combine this with grant applications at work, a broken food processor, and the fact that I’ve just been generally unwell this week, and the result is rather unimaginitive cooking by yours truly… when I can bring myself to cook at all.  I’m actually really desperate to do some baking, but I just can’t cope with this heat, and by the time I get home from work, I’m really too tired to consider it.

Hence, drinks.  The drinks section of this website has been a bit scant up until now, because my drink of choice is water, or if pressed, milk or occasionally orange juice.  But in this weather, I’m willing to venture further afield – and drinks, at least, don’t heat the house up too much.  True, this one involves making a syrup, but I promise you’ll only have the stove going for fifteen minutes, and if you do this in the morning, it won’t have much effect on the heat of the house…

Also, this is a lovely variation on lemonade.  For one thing, it’s pink!  For another, it is sweet, but not quite too sweet, and has a lovely herbal perfume from the lavender, which blends brilliantly with the raspberry (I know that sounds like bragging, but I’ve never achieved quite such a good synergy of flavours before).  For another, it’s cold and it’s liquid and have I mentioned that this weather is absolutely ghastly? 

Drink.  And then go for a swim, or find some air-conditioning.  Libraries are often good for this.  So are cinemas.  Even the supermarket will do in a pinch.  Whatever it takes to stay sane…

Your Shopping List (this makes about 2 litres of lemonade)

1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 tsp dried culinary lavender (or fresh, if you have a bush)
2 cups of water, plus 3 more cups later on.
1 cup lemon juice (from 5-6 lemons)
200 g raspberries (frozen and defrosted are probably best here)

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Recipe: Baked Ricotta

Today is horrendously hot, and the next two days threaten to be worse.  I have therefore spent the afternoon… cooking.

No, really, bear with me, it isn’t as mad as it sounds.  Cooking in this weather can only be described as a penance, but one can’t have takeaway every night (or at least, I can’t).  So I have a strategy for these hot days, though I admit it works better when I am organised enough to get started on it before the weather really heats up.  Basically, on the first day, I buy bread and cold meat, and I make a tomato salad, baked ricotta, and roast a lot of garlic  (which I set aside), capsicums, eggplant, and any other vegetables which take my fancy.   We eat these at room temperature.

The next day, we have more bread, baked ricotta, and the roasted vegetables and garlic get mixed in with  tinned chickpeas and herbs and maybe tomato to make a salad. I’ll usually make a cucumber salad, carrot or beetroot salad or similar – basically a salad which is happy in the fridge for a few days.  The day after that, we have the last of the roast vegetable salad, leftover vegetable salad, and the bread gets grilled and added to a fattoush-style salad. And we still have baked ricotta, or if we don’t, I buy some nice cheese.

And so forth – the idea is that I only have to cook a maximum of one item per day, and if possible I do it in the morning, before things heat up too much – the rest of dinner is just a matter of assembling things that are either raw or have already been cooked.  But one still has a reasonably healthy and varied diet and doesn’t wind up eating the same food each day.  Sometimes I’ll mix things up by marinating lamb or chicken for kebabs the night before, or making felafel to cook right before dinner, but basically it’s bread, salad and cheese all the way until the cool change which, Melbourne being what it is, is usually only a few days away, and thank goodness for that.

So here’s the baked ricotta recipe with which I will start my week.  Don’t be put off if you’ve had baked ricotta before and haven’t liked it – mine is, apparently, very non-standard indeed, and people always comment (with some surprise) that it doesn’t taste like baked ricotta and it’s actually really nice.  Which makes me wonder what other baked ricotta tastes like – but not enough to buy any…

Your Shopping List

375 g fresh ricotta from the deli (whole-milk, not whey, and not the stuff you get in a tub, which is far too wet for this)
1 egg
75g parmesan
salt, pepper, and herbs of your choice – I like rosemary, oregano and dried lavender, and I probably use 2-4 teaspoons, depending on how I feel
breadcrumbs (from a packet is fine)
olive oil

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Recipe: Summer Apricot and Lavender Crumble (gluten-free!)

I am such a lunatic right now.  I’m bouncing off the walls and giggling madly at the completely insane set of tasks ahead of me this month.  And then someone sends me an email mentioning shiny metallic food paint and I want it right now!  I don’t need red food colouring – this is all natural.  Lucky Andrew… But December is never for sleeping if you’re a choir person, so it’s really hard to convince myself that this is a bad idea.

I’m also bouncing off the walls because I made a really, really delicious dinner, which included perfectly cooked steak (always surprising, since I make steak very, very rarely) on a lovely salad with asparagus and roasted peppers and and homemade roast garlic aioli, just in passing, because I had roast garlic and an egg yolk to use up, and it was all *really good* and the flavours balanced perfectly, but alas, I’ll never be able to replicate it, because I made it up as I went along.  So that’s not the recipe you’re getting.

Instead, you are getting the one which I actually bothered to measure and photograph as I went.  I even dictated all the quantities to my long-suffering Andrew.  I haven’t actually eaten this yet, because we only had dinner half an hour ago, but I know already that this is going to be one of the good desserts.  The apricots are beautifully fresh – my former boss’s wife has a cherry and apricot farm, and she brings produce into work to sell (I swapped a bag of jellies for a kilo of apricots), and I couldn’t resist using the lavender sugar I bought yesterday.  And then I thought, I haven’t done a gluten-free recipe for a while, so it’s gluten-free, too.  It’s a close relative of the Spring rhubarb crumble, but we’ve moved on from spring now.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we’re going to.

Your shopping list

1 kg apricots
2 tablespoons lavender sugar (or just add a teaspoon or two of dried culinary lavender to the rest of the sugar)
1/4 cup caster sugar + 50 g sugar for the topping
75 g butter or nuttelex
150 g coarse almond meal
50 g popped amaranth (it was in the pantry)
25 g shredded coconut (and I didn’t even know I had this, but why not?)

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Recipe: Coburg Garden Cake

Brunswick and Coburg, the suburbs in which I have lived most of my adult life, were both settled from the 1950s onward by working class immigrants from Italy, Greece, Turkey and other parts of the Mediterranean.  The proof of this is in the architecture (lots of brown brick, pillars, lion statues, and yellow glass windows – though also enormous kitchens, and often an extra kitchen in the garage) and in the back gardens, which tend to be full of vegetables and fruit trees.  Sometimes, the front gardens are also planted full of vegetables, all in neat rows and shaded from the heat of summer by carefully draped sheets.

Of course, not everyone has time to grow vegetables.  And some people have moved out of their Italian palazzi and left the garden to less-motivated Anglo buyers.  But there are a few hardy Mediterranean plants which, though they may not be found in every Coburg or Brunswick garden, are found in so many of them that one is surprised to see a garden without any.

Olive trees are the first of these.  We don’t have one ourselves, but our neighbours do.  I think, actually, our neighbours on both sides have them.  Lavender is another very popular Coburg choice.  It may not be Mediterranean but it does seem to turn up a lot in Mediterranean gardens of the Melbourne kind. Rosemary, of course, is vital.  You see it in hedges (you see lavender hedges too, but much less often), and in herb patches and as groundcover.  Rosemary loves the Australian climate and is virtually unkillable here.  There is a lot of rosemary in Coburg.

Last, and most iconic of all, is the lemon tree. Everybody has one.  You don’t need much space for it, and you can use lemons in everything.  When I was househunting, even the tiniest gardens and the gardens owned by people who clearly weren’t that interested in gardening had, as a minimum, a stretch of lawn with a lemon tree out the front and a clothesline out the back.  You mightn’t grow anything else, but you grew lemons. 

I’d be hard pressed to think of a house I’ve seen in my area that didn’t have at least one of these bushes or trees.  Most have two or three of them.  We have everything except the olives (we make up for the lack of olives with self-sown fig trees).   This cake, then, is the essence of Coburg gardens.  It tastes like our garden smells in summer, of lemons, lavender and rosemary, with a hint of olive oil in the background.  It’s dense and sweet and aromatic and full of yoghurt and ground almonds (two more very Coburg ingredients), so it will keep for daysI’m actually really proud of this cake – it’s based on a Diana Henry recipe (for rose and lime syrup cake), but the flavour profile is utterly different – completely unrecognisable.

Also, it’s dead easy to make.

Your Shopping List

zest and juice of 1 1/2 good-sized lemons, preferably from someone’s back yard
175 g + 150 g caster sugar
275 ml water
3 small sprigs of fresh rosemary
200g self-raising flour
115 g ground almonds (the coarse type which still have some of the skins are good here)
1 – 1 1/2 tsp dried lavender, pounded in a mortar and pestle (or a teaspoon of lavender water, or replace some of the sugar with lavender sugar)
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
2 large eggs
250 ml Greek yoghurt
150 ml olive oil

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Recipe: Croissant and raspberry pudding with lavender

This is something I basically made up last night, having foolishly let some croissants go stale, and being in need of things to make with that raspberry and lavender butter.  It’s related to bread and butter pudding, and I actually used raspberry and lavender butter in the custard and a very small amount of it shaved over the bottom layer of croissants, so by all means do this if you have raspberry and lavender butter on hand.  If not, though, the following recipe should work as well, if not better – it’s squishy and hot and comforting, with crusty bits, a good amount of sharp, sweet raspberry to cut the richness of the custard, and a hint of lavender throughout.  A nice way to bring summer back into your kitchen as the winter Solstice approaches.

Your Shopping List

4 large or 6 small croissants, stale
3 tbsp sugar + 1 tbsp for the custard
150g frozen raspberries (approx)
2 eggs + 1 yolk
1 1/2 cups milk
20g butter
1/2 tsp dried lavender buds

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