Recipe: Elderflower, strawberry and almond cakes

Strawberry, elderflower and almond cakes (3)

As a child, I paired elderflower cordial only with fizzy water and ice. Yet, after posting my recipe for cordial recently, I began to wonder why I have never incorporated an ingredient that I love so much in my cooking. Elderflower cordial’s delicate, citrusy sweetness makes it the ideal accompaniment to tart summer berries and perfect for gently infusing cakes – two elements that are brought together in this recipe.

In the mood for something more robust than a traditional sponge to stand up to the thick, sugary cordial, I took inspiration from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s financiers with their crisp crust and dense, tender crumb. Named after the gold bars they were originally made to resemble, financiers’ ground almonds and browned butter lend them a complex, nutty flavour that works wonderfully well here with an elderflower-infused strawberry compote and fresh strawberry crown.

For the final flourish, a tangy yogurt icing acts as a foil to the rich buttery cake and its sweet fruit centre. I couldn't resist adding a touch of elderflower cordial to the icing, as in all other aspects of the recipe; after all, it’s about time that my baking paid respect to its elders.

Ingredients

Makes 8 cakes, depending on the size of your tin

Compote:

Cakes:

  • 115g unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp runny honey
  • 40g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 125g icing sugar
  • 140g ground almonds
  • 3 egg whites, lightly beaten
  • 100g strawberries, cut into eighths (or smaller)
  • 2 tbsp elderflower cordial, for brushing
  • 1 x 12 hole muffin tin

Icing:

  • 100g thick, Greek yogurt
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp elderflower cordial
  • A handful offlaked almonds, toasted

 

Method

Compote:

  1. To make the compote, cut the strawberries into small cubes and add to a small saucepan with the elderflower and lemon juice.
  2. Place over a low heat for around 25 minutes, occasionally stirring and crushing the strawberries with the back of a wooden spoon.
  3. When the fruit has broken down and you have a thick syrup, remove the compote from the heat. Set aside until ready to use.

Cakes:

  1. Heat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7.
  2. In a pan, warm the butter over medium heat. Use a little softened butter to grease 8 holes of a muffin tin, dust with flour and chill in the fridge.
  3. Heat the remaining butter until the milk solids turn nut brown and the clear liquid is a rich, amber colour. Strain into a bowl using a muslin or tea towel, discard the solids and whisk in the honey. Set aside to cool.
  4. Sieve the flour and sugar into a mixing bowl, then stir in the ground almonds. Stir in the egg whites until well combined, then pour in the browned butter and mix until smooth.
  5. Divide the mixture between the prepared tins, and gently place a few strawberries along the centre of the mixture – the strawberries move outwards as the cakes rise and expand, so it’s best to start with them in the centre.
  6. Bake for six minutes, then turn down the heat to 200C/400F/gas mark 6 and cook for a further six minutes. Turn off the oven and leave the cakes in there for five minutes to firm up.
  7. Remove and, using a fork, gently prick some inconspicuous holes in the cracks of the cake or under the fruit. Brush the top of the cakes with a little elderflower cordial.
  8. Allow to cool for five minutes in the tins, then turn out on to a rack right-side-up to cool completely.

Icing:

  1. While the cakes are cooling, make your icing.
  2. Simply mix the ingredients together until smooth.

Assembly:

  1. If you haven’t already, toast the flaked almonds in the oven at 160c for 5 minutes until golden brown. Keep an eye on these, otherwise you’ll be throwing out burned nuts!
  2. With a chopstick or similar implement, carefully make a hole in the top of the cake to about half way through. Swirl the chopstick around to widen the cavity at the centre, without widening the hole at the top.
  3. Put the compote into a piping bag and fill each hole. You may need to pipe a bit in, push it down with the chopstick, and repeat until the hole is full.
  4. Zig zag each cake with icing and then sprinkle on the flaked almonds (and, if you like, a sprig of elderflowers) so that the chopstick hole is covered.
  5. Enjoy with a cup of tea or a cool glass of elderflower cordial!
Elderflower, strawberry and almond cakes
Strawberry, elderflower and almond cakes (2)