And just like that, winter is over. I feel a sense of relief this time every year, like I’ve jumped a hurdle. While I’ve realised that there are things I do love about winter – buying new coats and scarves, seasonal fruit and vegetables, comfort food – I always look forward to spring when we can shed the coats and wear short sleeves again. Also around this time of year, I get a rush of inspiration from nature, and it makes me want to grow things and be outside. I remember that there is beauty in the simplest things, like a bunch of gorgeous lilac flowers, lavenders and sweet pea, which christened my Urban Outfitters bottle vases and really liven up my bedroom.
The lavender smelled so beautiful, like my Grandmother’s garden used to in spring. It reminded me that I had some dried lavender flowers that I’d picked up at Essential Ingredient. Add a little bit of honey you have the perfect combination for a sunny spring day. I based the cupcakes on a honey cake recipe, and added dried lavender and vanilla, with a delicious honey and cream cheese icing that complemented the flavours perfectly.
The cake was delicately flavoured with a subtle hint of lavender, which I prefer. Sometimes when people go overboard with flowers in food, the result can be reminiscent of Grandma’s soap, and not entirely pleasant. I think the honey and lavender flavours work amazingly together, and I can imagine the combination would also be lovely in ice cream form, perhaps served with a fruit pie or a chocolate cake.
Honey and Lavender Cupcakes
Adapted from Off the Shelf by Donna Hay
• 2/3 cup sugar
• ½ teaspoon dried lavender*
• 185g unsalted butter
• 3 tablespoons honey (floral varieties work beautifully)
• 2 eggs
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 ½ cups plain flour, sifted
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
Honey and Cream Cheese frosting
• 250g cream cheese, softened
• ¾ cup icing sugar, sifted
• 2 tablespoons honey
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F). Place sugar and lavender in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until combined. In a large bowl, beat butter, lavender sugar and honey until light and creamy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time and then the vanilla extract.
Fold the flour and baking powder into the butter mixture. It should be moist/stiff but not wet. Spoon the batter into 12 x muffin papers and bake for 15-20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool completely.
To make the cream cheese icing, place cream cheese, icing sugar and honey in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix until smooth and blended, scraping down the sides to incorporate all the ingredients. Add vanilla and beat until smooth. Use a palette knife to smooth icing onto cooled cupcakes and sprinkle with dried lavender flowers, if you like!
*Available from Essential Ingredient, David Jones Food Hall and other gourmet grocers.