Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A bit of Springtime Sunshine...

Yes, while the Northern Hemispherical blogging world buzzes with pumpkins and falling leaves, down here in Australia we are halfway through Spring, and the weather is glorious!

As I look out my window, I see our lime trees springing once more into flower (seriously, these things do not let up - anyone have any New And Interesting ideas for using up lots of limes??). I see our rhubarb plant growing stronger, leaving behind the puny, spindly stalks that freaked me out so much in the chilly days of Winter. I see the dove that has its egg-filled nest in our kaffir lime tree, picking its way around the base of the tree for seeds (or bugs?) to eat. I see sunshine, blue skies, and butterflies. And dancing joyfully in the breeze, sending its heady scented invitation out to all the butterflies and bees that frequent its plentiful blossoms, I see this:

Lavender. Lots and lots of beautiful French Lavender. It looks beautiful, it smells wonderful - and if you're thinking dry, dusty pot pourri, that's not what I mean at all. You haven't really smelled lavender until you've smelled it growing in full flower on the bush, bathed in sunshine. It also attracts a delightful number of bees, and we love bees, not only for their cute fuzziness and lovely buzzy humming, but also for the work they do in producing the warm liquid gold that is honey. I loooove honey.

Which brings us, funnily enough, to Cupcake Hero: October. Melissa of I Dream in Buttercream is this month's host, having won the Caffeine contest. And she has chosen Honey as this month's theme ingredient.

Well, what could I do? Who am I to argue with an army of bees? Lavender and honey it is!


Cupcakes (adapted from this recipe by Chockylit)

1 1/2 cups caster sugar
1 1/2 tsp dried lavender flowers
125g butter
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup honey
300g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 egg whites
1 fresh lavender flower head (optional - it gives the syrup a nice freshness, but isn't 100% necessary, so don't panic if you don't have it growing)

Modus Operandi
Process sugar with lavender flowers in a food processor until lavender has been powdered and dispersed amongst the sugar.
Cream butter with 1 1/4 cups lavender sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla and egg yolk. Add honey and beat well.
Sift flour, baking powder and salt together, and add this and the milk to the butter/sugar mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk and mixing after each addition.
In a clean dry mixing bowl, whisk egg whites to soft peaks.
Fold egg whites gently into cake batter until incorporated.
Scoop batter into cupcake papers, and bake at 175 degrees Celsius for 15-20 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Meanwhile, place the remaining 1/4 cup of lavender sugar into a small saucepan with 1/4 cup of water, and bring to the boil, stirring. Add the fresh lavender flower, if desired, and remove from heat. Allow to cool until cakes are out of the oven but still warm, and then brush a little syrup over each cupcake. Note: this recipe makes MUCH more syrup than you will need. How much syrup you use will determine how prominent the lavender flavour is in your finished cupcakes, so if you're not accustomed to using lavender in cooking, go easy the first time (or even better, do one and eat it to test how lavender-y it is, before going ahead with the others!) Reserve the leftover syrup as some will go into the frosting, and the rest you can use for something else. Hmm... lavender sorbet? Ooooh, now there's a thought...

Allow cakes to cool completely before frosting.

Lavender & Honey Buttercream (all mine)
250g butter
250g icing sugar
2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp milk
Lavender syrup, to taste.

Modus Operandi
Cream butter and sugar until very pale. Add honey and continue to beat well. Add milk and a couple of spoonsful of lavender syrup, and beat until fluffy. Taste and add more syrup if desired, remembering that you want the lavender flavour to be subtle in the frosting, as you already have it in - and on - the cupcake.
Pipe a swirl of frosting onto each cupcake, and sprinkle with picked lavender petals if desired.

Et voila!

Now, it might seem I've been going on about lavender a lot, and you might well be thinking "yeah, but the theme ingredient is honey". But the truth is, these cupcakes would make Winnie the Pooh proud. They are a very honey-ey affair indeed: warm and sweet, with the lavender playing a lovely fresh floral counterpoint.

To me, they Taste Like Sunshine.


Bake Up, Little Suzy said...

Wow - these are beautiful! What a fantastic idea. :)

C&C Cakery said...

I'm so glad that someone did the Lavender/Honey combo for this month's cupcake hero. It's perfect! And yours look amazing! Good luck!

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