Diana Henry’s recipe for Lemon Lavender Cake calls for dried lavender buds to be whizzed with sugar in the food processor, while yogurt and olive oil add fat and moisture. Below, I’ve got some useful tips on baking substitutions, ideas for using dried lavender, and information about cake soaks if you decide to make the recipe.
YOGURT SUBSTITUTION IN BAKING
Diana Henry’s lemon lavender cake recipe calls for 250 grams of yogurt, however, I say feel free to use sour cream or buttermilk if you have it on hand. I’ve used the three interchangeably in recipes and have never had a problem doing so. Simply measure out your substitution at a 1:1 ratio.
OLIVE OIL SUBSTITUTION IN BAKING
I’m just going to throw it out there that oil is often superior to butter when it comes to baking cakes or cupcakes. I love butter, however oil adds a lasting moisture that butter only dreams of. Diana Henry calls for olive oil in her lemon and lavender cake recipe. I chose to substitute vegetable oil as it has a milder flavour and allowed the lemon and lavender to really shine.
WHAT IS A CAKE SOAK?
One of my favourite ways to moisten a cake is to use a cake soak. All you need is your liquid of choice, and a skewer, or a pastry brush. Either skewer small holes all over the top of your cake and slowly pour your cake soak over the top, or brush it onto each layer of your cake gently with a pastry brush. The amount of soak you use really depends on the cake, but I find I generally use anywhere between 2 tablespoons and ¼ cup of liquid per layer. Here are three of my favourite cake soak options -
Simple Syrup - Think of simple syrup as a blank canvas. Boil and simmer a 1:1 ratio of sugar and water, then add ingredients like cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, orange peel, fresh mint leaves, Earl grey tea, cranberries, fresh ginger, vanilla beans, or anything else you can think of that might taste good. Once the syrup is cool, strain out the solids, and store the syrup in a jar with a tight fitting lid for one week and up to one month in the fridge.
Alcohol - With Baileys and Kahlua being my favourites, you can use any liqueur or liquor (hello rum cake!) as a cake soak.
Vanilla Milk - Mix 1 teaspoon of vanilla per ¼ cup of milk and use it as a cake soak. If brown liquid is an issue on a light-coloured cake, use clear vanilla extract.
IS ALL LAVENDER EDIBLE?
Yes and no. Classified as part of the mint family, some people say some of the varieties of lavender are for decorative purposes only. That being said, i you’ve grown the lavender yourself, or have procured fresh or dried lavender buds from someone you trust, I wouldn’t hesitate to use them for culinary purposes. You can also buy dried lavender buds that are deemed specifically for culinary use.
WHAT CAN I DO WITH DRIED LAVENDER BUDS?
Here are five great ways to use fresh or dried lavender buds:
Use it in Diana Henry’s Lemon Lavender Cake Recipe - Seriously. The cake I baked from Diana Henry’s recipe was delicious and I’d make it again in a heartbeat. I also think it would make a great base for different flavour profiles, such as rosemary and orange, grapefruit and ginger, or raspberry and rose water.
Lavender Sugar - Place 1 cup of white sugar and 1 tablespoon of dried lavender buds in a Mason jar. Close the lid tightly and shake it every couple of days for one month. Sift out the buds and use the lavender sugar in your favourite cake, cupcake, cookie, or other baking recipes.
Homemade Lavender Ice Cream - Choose a basic vanilla ice cream recipe, I like this one, and before you do anything, heat your whipping cream and add a teaspoon or two of dried lavender buds. Heat the cream gently, then cool, allowing the lavender flavour to infuse in the cream. Strain out the buds from the cooled cream and proceed with the recipe as written.
Lavender Infused Butter - Use this method to infuse butter with the flavour of dried lavender buds and then make this eggless blueberry bread pudding recipe, substituting your lavender-infused butter for the tea-infused butter.
Lavender Simple Syrup - You can use lavender syrup as a cake soak or in cocktails or mocktails - it is especially good with gin! In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup of water, 1 cup of white sugar, and 2 tablespoons of dried lavender buds to a light boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the dried lavender buds to steep in the syrup for one hour to overnight. Strain the buds from the syrup and discard. Syrup will keep in a bottle or jar with a lid in the fridge for one week and up to one month.
EGG-FREE ICING FOR CAKE
Diana Henry’s recipe for lemon lavender cake includes a cake glaze recipe with egg white, icing sugar, and lemon juice. If you’re looking for an egg-free icing option, try 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice mixed with ½ cup of sifted icing sugar (also called confectioner’s sugar). If the glaze is too thick, add more lemon juice, and if it’s too runny, add more icing sugar until it’s thick enough to pour.
HOW MUCH IS ¾ OF A TABLESPOON?
A pet peeve of mine is when a recipe states to measure an ingredient - in this case, dried lavender buds - in a weird measurement like ¾ of a tablespoon (by the way it’s 2 ½ teaspoons). Though ¾ of a tablespoon may be the correct way to write an ingredient in a recipe, why make us go through the extra steps to figure it out? Why not just say 2 ½ teaspoons? Ok, maybe this is my pet peeve alone, but there it is.
If you use any of the other tips or recipes I’ve mentioned, comment below, or tag me @baconandbaileys on social media and let me know!