Each time I start writing a new blog post, I’m always tempted to say that the current season is my favourite one, or that it’s all about this ingredient or another. However, if I did that it would soon be very clear that all of the seasons are my favourite, and that within each one there’s an array of beautiful ingredients to enjoy! There are the ingredients that hog the limelight, and then there are those that perhaps get overlooked, and so I’m hoping to address that over time by celebrating all sorts of seasonal ingredients and help us all to appreciate each of the seasons as they roll around. However, today we’re talking about the poster child of spring – elderflowers!
During lockdown, there have been a lot of people getting more and more curious about nature, getting outdoors, and appreciating our outside spaces if we’re lucky enough to have gardens or able to go for a walk in a local park. A few people have reached out to me online about how to learn more about foraging or where to start. There are a few ways to get started with foraging, one is to join an experienced forager on a guided walk, but obviously that is not possible with the current restrictions, but it will be again at some point. Another is to start with what you already know how to identify. Nettles and dandelions are familiar to most people and not that easily confused with other plants, certainly not any deadly ones. Elderflowers are another that most people already know, and if not, they’re easy to identify by their smell. If you’ve ever had elderflower cordial the smell will be instantly recognisable. Obviously, if you’re not sure – leave it alone.
My pro tip would be to pick them early in the day before the sun has gone to work on them as they will have a fresher scent, and less of a cat-wee tinge that is particularly problematic at the end of a hot day, or when the blooms are starting to get past their best.
I love to make elderflower cordial each year, and I’ve always used the River Cottage recipe for elderflower cordial which has never let me down. I’ll be making it again this year, and perhaps trying elderflower champagne for the first time, although I’ve always been a bit nervous about bottles exploding! Thankfully, it’s just elderflower cordial that goes into these yummy lemon and elderflower fairy cakes and a few fresh flowers to decorate. The combination of lemon and elderflower is a lovely meeting of floral and gentle with zesty and summery, and the drizzle of cordial over the baked cakes makes a perfectly moist sponge. The elderflower flavour is subtle, but it’s definitely there, and especially with the fresh flowers on top. These cakes were simple to make and very simple to eat – they didn’t last long in our house!
Lemon & Elderflower Fairy Cakes Recipe
Makes approximately 9 fairy cakes
For the fairy cakes:
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 125 g self-raising flour
- 2 eggs
- 125 g unsalted butter
- 125 g caster sugar
- 1 tsp whole milk
For the icing:
- Juice of half lemon
- 1 tbsp elderflower cordial
- 120g icing sugar
- Preheat your oven to 180°C/160°C fan and prep a muffin tray with about 9 cake cases.
- Cream together the softened butter and sugar until smooth.
- Beat in the eggs one at a time followed by the milk.
- Add the lemon zest followed by the flour.
- Divide the mixture between the cake cases and bake for 20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Once cooked place on baking rack and poke each cake with skewer a few times. Drizzle each cake with about a teaspoon of cordial and allow the cakes to cook completely.
- While cooling, combine the ingredients for the icing. Decorate each cake with icing and fresh elderflowers.
Do you like to gather elderflowers? What do you like to make with them?