Elderflower Glazed Lemon Loaf Cake

The elderflowers are blooming and I like to make cordial at this time of year. I love to smell the fragrance of elderflowers drifting on a summer breeze and a great way of using them is in cakes and icing. The flowers are abundant in early June, just remember not to take too many as they turn into lovely elderberries later in the year.

We love Starbucks lemon loaf cake in this house, but its so easy to make at home and the addition of elderflower syrup really makes for a lovely summer dessert.

This was also a great excuse to use my lovely new Nordic Wear fluted loaf pan – the latest addition to my collection!

The cake itself is a moist pound cake, flavoured with lemon juice, zest and a little of the elderflower syrup. The glaze is simply icing sugar, lemon juice and elderflower syrup mixed together which is both sweet and tart.

Ingredients:
170g butter at room temperature
250g caster sugar
250g plain/all purpose flour, sieved with 1tsp baking powder
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1tbs vanilla extract
1tbs elderflower syrup
1/2tsp salt
Zest of one large lemon and half the juice (save the other half for the icing)
60g sour cream

Glaze:
Approximately 150g icing sugar (sieved)
Juice of half a lemon
1-2tbsp elderflower syrup – find a recipe for the cordial/syrup here

Method:
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F and brush your loaf pan with melted butter and lightly dust with flour. The Nordic Wear pans are non-stick anyway, but I usually butter them too

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, you can do by hand or in a mixer with the paddle attachment. Then add the eggs a little at a time until fully incorporated, scraping the bowl as needed.

With the mixer on slow, add the vanilla, lemon zest and then alternatively add the juice, flour elderflower syrup if using and sour cream until everything is just mixed together.

Put the batter into the prepared baking tin and bake for 15 minutes, before lowering the temperature to 160°C/325°F for 50 to 60 minutes – check with a toothpick after 50 minutes, if it comes out clean, its ready.

Leave to cool in the tin for around 10 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack over a tray to catch any icing run-off!

When the cake is quite cool, make the glaze – simply mix the sieved icing sugar with the lemon and elderflower syrup until you have a smooth glaze that you can spoon over the cake. Not too thick and not too runny, you want it to sit on the cake.

Leave to set before serving with berries, cream or ice cream

Elderflower Cordial

You know summer has arrived when the elder is in bloom.  You can often smell the sweet, pungent flowers carried on the warm June air well before you find the tree itself.

ElderflowersThe flowers are easily identified by their heady scent, but if you’re not sure, look out for the flat topped heads that appear in abundance at the end of May and into June in hedgerows, woodland and scrubland.  Lots of people have them in their gardens too and according to folklore, an elder planted by your home will keep the devil away.

The flowers don’t last for long and so now is the time to gather them to bottle a taste of summer.
Elderflower Basket
You can make lots of things out of the flowers – sorbet, fritters and champagne, but old fashioned cordial is super easy and tastes much better than the stuff you can buy year round in the supermarket.

The flowers are easy to harvest if you take a pair of sharp scissors or some secateurs out with you on your walk, and a basket to carry them in.  They wilt really quickly, so make sure you pick them on your way back home and choose a warm, sunny day when they will be at their very best.

Also, make sure you don’t pick too many flowers all from the same tree, or there won’t be any flowers left for the bees, or any berries – we will be back for you later…!

The following recipe makes around 2 litres, but can easily be sized up for a bigger batch and the sweetness adjusted to taste.  I think you need a jelly bag to make this as you need to strain the infusion, but you could use muslin and a sieve too.

Elder basket
Ingredients:
Around 30 heads of elderflowers, picked on a warm, sunny day
6 unwaxed lemons
1kg of sugar, or 800g sugar and 4tbs of runny honey
1tsp citric acid
1.5 litres of water

Elderflower cordial prep
Method:
Before you start, you have a choice, to wash the flowers, or not!

Lots of people think if you wash the flowers, you wash away the pollen and lots of the flavour and fragrance.  However, the flowers are usually full of thrips, also known as thunderflies or thunderbugs, so some people prefer to wash the flowers to remove them.

You will be straining the final product, but if you prefer to not see your lovely elderflower infusion teaming with hundreds of insects, then wash them!  I washed mine and still found a few in the jelly bag.  The final cordial was still full of flavour and fragrance too, so the choice is yours.

Snip the flowers into a clean bowl with the grated zest of 4 lemons and 2 sliced lemons.  Boil the water and pour over the flowers and lemons, stir, cover with a tea towel and leave overnight to infuse.  Reserve the zested lemons as you will need the juice.

Elderflower infusion
The next day, when you are ready to make the cordial, sterilise the bottles by washing in hot soapy water and then placing them in the oven at 140°C/210°F for up to 20 minutes.

Strain the infusion through a scalded jelly bag into a large pan and add the sugar (or sugar and honey), juice of 4 lemons and the citric acid.

Heat gently, stirring until the sugar has dissolved and bring up to a simmer but don’t let it boil.

Using a funnel, or very carefully, pour the hot cordial into the hot, sterilized bottles and seal using screw tops or swing-top stoppers like I used.  Leave to cool and store somewhere cool or the refrigerator for up to 4 months.

Elderflower cordial

The cordial can be diluted with water and ice for a refreshing drink on a hot day or added to prosecco, cocktails and a couple of tablespoons added to icing sugar makes a lovely summery frosting for cakes too.

If you have any cordial left over that doesn’t fit in the bottles, you can freeze into cubes to add to a gin and tonic, or add a little water and make ice lollies.

Elder cordial

 

 

Asparagus and Hot Smoked Salmon Puff Pastry Bundles

These are a delicious combination of asparagus, hot smoked salmon, cream cheese and lemon zest, all wrapped in buttery puff pastry. I’ve used 4 asparagus spears per bundle here, but it really depends on how thin your asparagus is – you could get away with more, if using the very thin ones. I wouldn’t use the very thick spears for this.

Salmon and asparagus bundle

I think puff pastry – especially ready-made puff pastry is one of the most versatile ingredients you can have on hand. I love homemade puff pastry too, but it’s super time consuming and the all-butter pastry you can get is really very good. The ready rolled stuff – even better!

These asparagus bundles are really delicious to eat and are nice served warm from the oven as an appetiser with salad, cold on a buffet table and make a great portable snack to take on a picnic. Like all things made with puff pastry though, they will lose their crispness, so they are best eaten within 24 hours of making them.

Salmon asparagus parcels

Leave the puff pastry in the fridge until you have all the other ingredients ready to assemble.  It can behave badly if it gets too warm and not puff up as much as it should do.

Ingredients:
1 sheet of ready-made, ready-rolled, all-butter puff pastry
150g (approx) cream cheese – I used Philadelphia, full fat
24 (approx) trimmed asparagus spears – I used 4 per bundle
2 fillets of hot smoked salmon – I used honey roasted, ready to eat
Zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
Salt and pepper
1 little olive oil
1 egg, beaten

Salmon and asparagus parcels

Method:
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F and line a baking tin with parchment or a non-stick liner

On a lightly floured surface, cut the rectangle of ready-rolled puff pastry into 6 equal squares. I used a pizza cutter to do this.

Then, on a diagonal, spoon a little cream cheese onto each square and flake the salmon on top.  You really don’t need a lot, or you won’t be able to close your parcel.

Rub a little oil onto the asparagus spears with your hands, just enough to help it cook in the oven.

Season with salt and black pepper and then sprinkle over the lemon zest.  This really helps lift the flavours.

Brush the visible edges of the pastry with beaten egg and draw up two opposite corners to form a bundle, press the edges together to seal.

Salmon & asparagus parcels

Place the pastry bundles ontp the prepared baking sheet and brush the tops with beaten egg and sprinkle over a little extra salt and pepper if you like.

If it’s a very warm day and the parcels have warmed up too much, put them in the fridge to chill out and firm back up for 10-20 minutes.

Salmon & asparagus bundle1

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until puffed and golden.  Serve warm from the oven as an appetiser with salad, or cold for a buffet or picnic