The combination of courgette, lemon and elderflower in a cake is one that I hope will appeal to gardeners!
I grew up on an organic farm and the realities of seasonal foods were an everyday normality for me. More than that, the relationship between the soil and the land around me with the food I ate was a natural and obvious connection. I believe that my interest in cooking stemmed at least in part from a desire to find ways to use up a glut of that eggs or make something of the crab apples growing in the hedgerows.
More and more people seem to be seeking out a way to connect their kitchen table with their garden, whether it is by growing some herbs, keeping some chickens or moving towards self sufficiency with an allotment. For me there is also something about the visual qualities of nature that connect the fork with the soil. I learnt to cook from Maura Laverty’s ‘Full and Plenty’ (1960) . All these years later I still recall a passage in one of her chapter introductions that described chopped parsley in mashed potatoes as echoing tips of grass poking through a January falling of snow. Poetic and delicious.
This recipe is my way of bringing the produce of the garden; that glut of courgettes that many gardeners lament, and making into an absolute treat. Combined with the hedgerow delight of elderflower cordial and the beauty of a crystallised rose, I think that it achieves that balance of the look and taste of nature.
In this recipe I used a rose, as other edible flowers are not easily access at this time of year. A rose, while pretty, doesn’t add much in terms of taste. However the lovely Janice from Greens of Devon kindly offered ideas and reminded me of beautiful pansies and violas, the gingery flavour of chrysanthemums and the peppery tang of nasturtiums as other options. Using flowers to add another layer of flavour to this cake would really take it to another dimension. Their website has lots of other ideas for edible flowers too!
This cake is really moist and delicious. It is also adaptable. You could leave out the drizzle and the frosting or just use one of them. If you leave out the frosting this cake is also lactose free. Honestly though, the drizzle and frosting are so quick and easy that they are worth the extra little effort. As you can see in the pictures, the courgette makes the cake rather green but other varieties of courgette such as yellow ones could add an additional ray of sunshine. I made this cake gluten free for a celebration in a theatre local to me, the Moat Club, and it went down very well. You can, of course, use wheat flour to make it, but gluten free flour has a great lightness that adds to the texture.
For some people the idea of courgette in cake might seem unusual, but is really just adds the same kind of moisture to cake as carrot does. Crystallised flowers are best made a few hours or even the day before they are needed so that they can dry out fully. This means that they won’t absorb the moisture of the frosting as quickly so they can sit for longer. Make sure any flowers you use are clean and dry, and have been grown in area that is protected from lots of pollution and chemicals and any potential animal interference! Also, the egg white remains uncooked so use an egg from a hen you trust!
I hope you’ll give this recipe a go and maybe check out my blog www.TheSearchForDelicious.net for other baking ideas!
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CRYSTALLIZING YOUR FLOWERS
What you need:
1 egg white lightly beaten
50 grams of caster sugar (this will vary depending on how many flowers or petals you are doing).
A pastry or artist’s brush
Set yourself up with your petals/flowers clean and ready to go. (I recommend sitting down for this job!) Get a bowl with your egg white, a plate/bowl with your caster sugar and a large plate to dry the petals/flowers. Put them all in a row.
Use a pastry brush or a new artists brush to paint egg white all over the petal/flower.
Lie it immediately on the sugar and gently heap sugar on top of it so that it gets completely covered in sugar.
Lift it out, lie it on the plate and allow it to dry. Depending on the flower it may keep for 2- 3 days in a cool airtight container. However, I like to use them within a day.
Use to decorate everything and anything!
MAKING THE CAKE
What you need:
200 grams of grated courgette
225 grams of flour (I used Dove’s farm Gluten Free white flour)
½ teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda (Check it is gluten free is you wish)
¼ teaspoon of baking powder (Check it is gluten free is you wish)
Grated zest of two lemons (Keep back one teaspoon if you want to frost the cake)
125 ml of vegetable oil or any flavourless oil
124 grams of caster sugar
40 ml of elderflower cordial
Preheat your oven to 170 degrees celcius and line a pound tin with greaseproof paper
Mix together the courgette, egg, sugar, lemon zest and elderflower cordial. Grating the courgette is the hardest part of this recipe.
Sieve or whisk together the flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder in a separate bowl.
Add the flour mix to the courgette mix. Mix until it is all combined but don’t mix it any more than it needs to just get rid of all the streaks of flour.
Pour the batter into the lined tin and bake for about 45 minutes. You can test it with a knife or skewer by sticking in into the centre of the cake. . The cake is very moist so just check to make sure there is no uncooked batter sticking to the knife of skewer.
Allow to cool for ten minutes before adding the drizzle, if using, and allow to cool completely before slathering on the frosting, if using. Allow it to cool in the tin. It’s delicious as it is!
MAKING THE DRIZZLE
What you need:
Juice of two lemons (use the ones you zested for the cake batter)
3 tablespoons of sugar
25 ml of elderflower cordial
Mix the 3 ingredients in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally.
Once the cake is baked and cooled for ten minutes, spoon the warm syrup over the surface of the cake, letting each spoonful soak in before you add the next.
Allow to cool completely if you want to frost it, or enjoy as it is!
MAKING THE FROSTING
What you need:
200 grams of cream cheese or mascarpone (depending on how indulgent you are feeling!)
1 tablespoon of elderflower cordial
2 tablespoons of caster sugar
1 teaspoon of grated lemon zest
Mix together all the ingredients until smooth
Slather all over the top of the cooled cake
Decorate with the crystallised flowers if using
Slice, eat and enjoy!