Last time I came to Spain and did some blogging I made a wonderful Almond, Orange and Honey Cake, as it was a perfect way to make the most out of the ingredients that surrounded me. I wanted to use the local ingredients in a cake again this time, but I wanted to do something different. Our friend and neighbour here, Tish, came over with some gigantic lemons from her own trees, which were begging to be used in a cake of some kind. I wanted to utilise some of the wild lavender that is all over my mother in law’s garden here, so that was the next thing on my list. I’ve never cooked with lavender before and was keen give give it a try, if a little apprehensive as I wasn’t sure exactly how to use it – turns out you just chop it finely, buds, flowers and all, and pop them into your creation.
When it comes to baking I rarely totally make up a cake from scratch, it’s normally loosely based around an existing recipe just so I know the proportions are going to work. As I had lemons and lavender to hand, the Lemon and Lavender cake in Amber Rose’s Love Bake Nourish book sprang to mind as a possible starting point. Obviously, as I am away from home I didn’t have the recipe to hand so after a quick Google, I found it in this Daily Mail article (forced myself not to get sidetracked from the trash on the right hand side of the page!). This cake is quite different from Amber’s though: the main differences being that I didn’t use any sugar, but all honey instead; I used all olive oil and no butter; I added a honey and lemon syrup at the end when cool, to provide extra moisture and flavour; lastly I added a lot more almonds, hand ground, as you just can’t get them ready ground here. Oh yes, and I replaced her suggested polenta with flour as I didn’t have any polenta to hand.
My cake was a success: moist and fragrant, rustic and summery. The hand ground almonds gave a nutty texture that you won’t get if you use ready ground almonds – maybe do half and half if you want that effect (it is labourious though, I warn you). If you can’t be bothered it will still be good with all ready ground, just different in texture. The flavour of the lavender was very subtle, in fact you could only really taste it when you happened upon a little piece in the cake. This wasn’t for lack of lavender, I whacked a lot in there, about 10 heads of varying sizes! Maybe every species has a different intensity. These were wild. If you make it, maybe pick a few heads and smell how strong they are, if they are very fragrant maybe use less – and be sure that they are untreated and unsprayed too.
To make a large cake that will serve 8-10
About 5-10 heads of fresh or dried lavender, unsprayed and untreated, chopped finely
225g extra virgin olive oil
200g hand ground almonds of varying textures
2 lemons, zest of both and juice of 1 (unwaxed)
110g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
For the syrup:
2 tablespoons of honey
Juice of half a lemon
- Preheat oven to 160C. Grease and flour (never tried this before, but it works well, I normally line) a 20cm springform cake tin.
- Whisk honey, lavender and oil until combined.
- Mix in ground almonds and whisk in eggs.
- Grate in your lemon zest and add juice too.
- Add baking powder and flour, and a pinch of salt.
- Pour cake batter into tin and bake for 40-45 minutes. Let it cool in tin a little then remove carefully and cool completely on a rack or similar.
- Now the syrup. Warm honey and juice in microwave or pan to help mix. Once the cake is cool, using a skewer or similar pierce the cake top about 20 times and then pour warm syrup into the holes. Dust with icing sugar to make it extra pretty. Let it chill for a while then serve with Greek or natural yoghurt, preferably in the sunshine.