Summer has finally found its way to us, bringing us golden sunshine, the heavy fragrance of roses on the warm evening breeze, and, of course, the berry season. June, especially here in England, is quintessentially associated with the arrival of strawberries, something I have always eagerly anticipated, particularly as a child. Nothing else, I believed, while lying deep in the long daisies, clothes stained red by the strawberries I had smuggled out of the kitchen when they were still warm from when we had picked them out in the fields that afternoon, could ever proclaim the arrival of this glorious season like the humble strawberry. However, with every passing moment I feel that limited perspective I held as a little girl broadening, even more so now, as I gaze out of my window to admire the sight of elderflowers adorning the thickness of dark green hedgerows with its white lacey blossoms.
Elderflowers have always been a part of the English Summer, particularly in the form of elderflower cordial. However, I have often felt that it has had to remain in the shadow of the blushing strawberry, the prima donna of the summer recital. The blossoms themselves, make no mistake, are much loved, with their refreshing, floral flavour; but I have found that, generally speaking, apart from its use as a flavour for cakes, ice-creams and jellies (one of which I will be sharing on this post today), elderflower still seems to be considered a somewhat elusive ingredient for use in the common kitchen. After some contemplation, I thought it would be a rather fun to dedicate some recipes to the ingredient that showcase the delightful presence these beautiful blossoms can bring to sweet dishes. Equally as important to mention, today is the birthdate of my late paternal grandmother, who I have often considered the patron of my blog, and it seemed rather fitting to celebrate the occasion with a cake (something she, with her extravagant sweet tooth, would have approved of wholeheartedly). Happy Birthday!
As mentioned before, one of the recipes I will be sharing today is as simple as it is classic: elderflower and lemon cake. Not only is this a childhood favourite, it is also one in which elderflower is truly appreciated as a flavour, with the elderflower + lemon cordial, which is used as a basis for this cake, brought centre stage to really highlight the fragrant shyness of the flower. The balance of sweet, floral and citrus, I feel, is truly magical, and one of which I admire and did not wish to adulterate, at least not in this post.
As a side note, cordials, jams and other forms of preservation are wonderful methods that can be used to conserve the delicious flavours of the season for later in the year, when the land lays fast asleep and you simply want to reminisce. Apart from the elderflower cordial, I am planning to use the blossoms to flavour honey as well. This, however, is something that I hope to use for a later recipe, and I only outline it here now so that you can join in on these preparations whilst the elderflowers are at their peak, if you wish to try that future recipe, of course.
Fermented Elderflower Honey
adapted from: Aorta
Like a number of people, I had always believed that fermented honey was mead, however, it does not seem to be as simple as that. The recipe in which this was adapted from highlights how, through fermentation, the true flavours and characters of honey can be explored and enjoyed. The entire notion of adding flowers, herbs and other spices to the honey intrigued me and I could not help be attempt an experiment of my own.
As this is simply an experiment, I will be updating this recipe as soon as I have infused the honey.
Cooking time: 20 minutes, + 2-3 months infusion time
600ml raw, local honey
50ml warm water
8-9 head of elderflower
Collect and shake the elderflowers gently to remove any debris and insects and fill as much elderflower as you can into a sealable jar. Place the honey into a bowl with the warm water and stir until mixed well. Pour into the jar full of elderflowers and seal tightly. Store at room temperature in a dark, dry place. (Note: it is essential to ensure that you open the jar once a week or so, as the fermentation process could potentially cause the glass to crack due to the pressure build-up in the jar).
A Simple Elderflower + Lemon Bundt Cake
Makes: 12 servings (tin size 25cm x 11cm)
Cooking time: 1+ hour
300g butter, room temperature
300g caster sugar
300g plain flour
zest of 1 lemon
300ml of elderflower cordial, + 3-4tbsp for the glacé icing (recipe to follow)
2tbsp baking powder
5tbsp whole milk
150g confectionary sugar
Preheat the oven to 180c (fan 160c) or 350f. Butter the bundt tin generously before leaving it to the side.
Cream the butter and caster sugar together in a bowl until there are no lumps and it becomes a somewhat sticky paste with a white buttery colour. Add the eggs, lemon zest and milk to the sugar and butter and stir.
Meanwhile, sieve the plain flour and the baking powder together before adding to the batter, a small amount at a time. Pour the contents of the bowl into the bundt tin and place in the over for 25-30 minutes or until the cake is golden brown and a skewer comes out clean (Note: if the bundt cakes needs some extra time in the oven, but has already turned a golden colour, simply place baking parchment or aluminium foil over the cake and reducing the temperature slightly to stop it from burning).
When the cake is ready, take out of the oven and immediately turn over on to a cooling tray with a plate placed underneath it (Note: this to ensure that any liquid that may permeate through the cake will be caught). Pour the elderflower cordial over the cake evenly. Allow to cool.
When ready to ice the cake, mix 3-4tbsp of the cordial, one tablespoon at a time, with the confectionary sugar to form a glacé icing and until desired thickens is reached. Pour over the bundt cake and serve immediately.
Elderflower and Lemon Cordial
adapted from: The Herb Society
Makes: approximately 2.2 litre
Cooking time: 20 minutes, plus overnight
5 1/2 cups caster sugar
3 lemons, unwaxed
18-20 heads of elderflowers, cleaned
To begin, shave the skin of the lemons with a vegetable cutter and cut the lemons into slices. Place these into a large bowl with the elderflowers. Over a medium heat, stir the sugar into the water in a saucepan and stir until the sugar is dissolved and the the syrup begins to boil. Pour this into the bowl with the flowers and lemons and place a plate into the bowl to ensure that the contents of the bowl are submerged. Cover and allow to cool and infuse overnight.
When ready, pour the cordial through a cheesecloth or other fine cloth to catch lemon slices and the elderflowers (Note: this step may need to be done twice to ensure that there are no flowers or small pieces in the liquid). Pour into sterile bottles or jars (tip: ensure that they are freezer safe) and seal. Can be frozen for later in the year, or stored in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks.
Thank you for reading.