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Strawberry Lavender Cake

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I am still loving strawberry season in Ireland. I love walking into my kitchen every morning and catching a whiff of the fresh, sweet berries that now have a semi-permanent place in a bowl on my counter.

What’s more, I have never put this much thought into baking with strawberries. It was like I was in a 27 year-long groove in which I could only envision strawberries as a garnish or served with cream. My eyes have been opened; I have been enlightened – baking with strawberries is seriously fun and rewarding (read: delicious). Researching and making up some of my own recipes has been fun, too.

The idea for this cake came when I was looking into strawberry upside-down cakes. Inspired, I scattered sliced strawberries and sugar on the bottom of a spring-form cake pan and sprinkled on some lemon juice. Then, I made a simple sponge-type cake batter that I hoped would hold up well but still absorb a lot of the juice from the berries.

In Toronto, if you drive North of the city for about two hours you’ll come across a region called Prince Edward County. The terrain in this county is amazing – ideal for vineyards, cheese-making and growing all kinds of lovely stuff. I used to sell at some farmer’s markets in Toronto and would sometimes have a stand next to this guy, Derek, who owns a lavender farm. I use his Herbes de Provence mix for absolutely everything and love his dried tarragon, but have never gotten around to trying his actual baking lavender. I smuggled some into the country, though, so, thinking of it sitting in my cupboard, I sprinkled some into the cake batter. I mean, strawberries and lavender love each other. It was the right thing to do.

The end result may not have been an exact interpretation of an upside-down cake, but it was absolutely delicious as a cake in itself. The moist, springy base absorbed so much of the berry juice, but the berries themselves didn’t disintegrate – they provide lovely bursts of tart and sweet. The lavender is not overpowering. It works with the strawberries and adds a light layer of flavour.

There is one slice left, which means Patrick and I will have to have a fight to the death after dinner to decide who gets it (or we could just do rock-paper-scissors – I always win).

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Strawberry Lavender Cake

Ingredients:

1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced

1/2 cup sugar

Juice of one lemon

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

1 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp baking lavender

2 eggs, separated

1/2 cup buttermilk

Directions:

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees (180 degrees Celsius, no fan). Grease a spring-form pan with butter.
  • Arrange strawberry slices on the bottom of the cake pan. Sprinkle the berries with lemon juice and 1/2 cup sugar. Set aside.
  • In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  • In another bowl, beat the melted butter with the sugar until well combined. Add the vanilla and lavender. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time.
  • Take turns adding the buttermilk and flour mixture, stirring to combine after each addition.
  • In another bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form (if you’re having trouble with getting your egg whites to stiffen, add a bit of lemon juice to the mix once they’ve gotten to soft peaks). Stir in 1/3 of the beaten egg whites and then gently fold in the rest. Your batter should be slightly thick, like muffin batter, before adding in the whites. It should be lighter and softer after properly folding the whites in.
  • Gently pour the batter over the sliced strawberries in the pan. Bake for 45-60 minutes, depending on your oven. Check after 45 minutes. The cake should rise considerably and a toothpick, when inserted in the center, should come out clean.
  • Immediately after baking, slide a knife along the sides of the cake pan and remove the spring. Place a plate over the cake and flip. The strawberries should be on the top of the cake and there should be a nice syrup created from the juices, sugar and lemon.
  • Serve with Chantilly cream. Keep the cake covered, at room temperature, for up to 5 days (it tastes nicest on days 2 and 3!).

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