We made this cake at Nadia’s pretty house in Brunswick. Her backyard has a rusting claw-foot bathtub full of herbs, a huge pumpkin patch, fruit trees and a waist-high lavender bush. The sun was shining and the purple blooms were buzzing with bees. We picked sprigs to make lavender syrup and Nadia was terrified we would be stung. We survived, sting free, and simmered the flowers in sugar on the stovetop. The kitchen filled with perfume that mingled with the golden cake smells from the oven.
Such a plain cake, it certainly doesn’t look astonishing, but it’s damp and lemony in your mouth. Perfectly satisfying. The lavender shouldn’t be overpowering, it should add a hint of floral – a beautiful complex flavour and pretty scent.
Nadia had pulled the last of the summer vegetables from the patches and was planting a bed full of broccoli and some winter greens. She braided the ends of the pumpkin tendrils, pulling them from an old bicycle they were claiming, and away from the freshly planted beds.
We sat in the sunshine chatting, listening to a Dan Savage podcast, looked over the vegetable patch and took great big bites of cake.
(We doubled this recipe and made two cakes. The second Sarah converted into a trifle with home made custard, raspberries and pomegranates with a rosewater toffee top. Recipe for this soon.)
Lavender Almond Cake
(The cake section is adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Domestic Goddess, Damp Lemon and Almond Cake)
225g soft unsalted butter
225g caster sugar
4 large free-range eggs
50g plain flour
225g ground almonds
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 cups caster sugar
¼ cup fresh lavender blossoms, washed (best to use a bush you know has not been sprayed in any way)
Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a 21-23cm springform cake tin, lined on the bottom. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy and white. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, adding a quarter of flour after each addition. When all the eggs and flour have been incorporated, gently stir in the ground almonds, then lemon juice and zest. Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for about one hour. Check at 50 minutes. If it looks like it’s burning on the top, cover with foil. The cake is ready when the top is firm and the skewer comes out cleanish – we want damp but not goo. Take the cake out and let stand.
Meanwhile have the sugar, water and lavender simmering, to create a lavender syrup. Remove from heat when the sugar is dissolved. Strain and set aside to cool slightly. It won’t taste soapy, but rather beautifully floral.
While the cake is still warm carefully remove the cake from its spring form on to a serving plate. Pour the syrup over the cake slowly, concentrating on the edges of the cake so as not to soak the centre and let the syrup well up there. It’s such a plain cake sieve a little icing sugar over the top to pretty it up.