Lavender Cupcakes

I’ve always been intrigued by floral desserts and these cupcakes, inspired by the Hummingbird Bakery, have been on my to-bake list for years. With socially distanced spring picnics all the rage at the moment, I thought now was the perfect time to give them a try. I admit, I was a little worried that they might taste like Grandma’s soap, but I’ve made sure the lavender flavour is subtle, resulting in a delicious vanilla cupcake with a floral back note. If you’re keen to up your picnic game and try something new, give these a go!

I bought my dried lavender flowers from the Essential Ingredient online store, but it’s available at many gourmet and specialty food stores.

Ingredients (makes 24 cupcakes)
1 cup milk
1½ tablespoons dried lavender flowers
2¾ cups plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
200g butter, softened
1 ¾ cups caster sugar
4 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Icing
¼ cup milk
¼ tablespoon dried lavender flowers
100g butter, softened
¾ tablespoon vanilla extract
4 cups icing sugar
A few drops of purple food colouring
24 small sprigs of fresh lavender (to decorate)

Method
Put the milk and dried lavender in a jug, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for 2 hours. Repeat with the milk and dried lavender for the icing (in a separate jug/bowl).

Preheat the oven to 170°C (150°C fan forced). Line two 12-hole muffin trays with patty pans. Strain the lavender infused milk (for the cupcakes, discarding the dried lavender) and allow the milk to reach room temperature.

Sift together the flour and baking powder. In a different bowl, cream the butter with an electric mixer for 1-2 minutes. Add the caster sugar about a third at a time, beating for 2 minutes after each addition. After the last of the sugar has been beaten, beat until the mixture is light and fluffy and the sugar has dissolved. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition or until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and beat until just combined.

Add approximately a third of the flour mixture to the creamed mixture and beat on a low speed until combined. Add half of the infused milk and beat until combined. Repeat this process until all of the flour and milk is just combined.

Spoon mixture into the patty pans (filling each about ¾ full) and bake for 18-20 minutes or until the top springs back when touched. Remove the cupcakes from the trays immediately and cool on a wire rack.

To make the icing, strain the remaining lavender infused milk (once again discarding the dried lavender). Cream the butter for 1-2 minutes in a large bowl using an electric mixer. Add the infused milk, vanilla and half of the icing sugar and beat for at least 3 minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the remaining icing sugar and beat for a further 3 minutes or until the icing is a spreadable consistency. Add the purple food colouring a tiny bit at a time until the desired colour has been achieved. Add extra milk (plain/not-infused is fine) if too dry or extra icing sugar if too wet.

Once the cupcakes have cooled completely, use a spatula to apply a generous layer of icing to each cake and top with a sprig of fresh lavender. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from the Crabapple Cupcake Bakery. Flavour inspired by the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

Spinach, Leek & Feta Tart

This savoury tart is a delicious and easy way to eat your greens. I always associate it with spring picnics (which it is perfect for!) but it is also a great midweek meal or work/school lunch.

hPXpS5rUTVS%Ya0NrNq0IA_thumb_1ba6

Ingredients (Serves 4-6)
200g Greek feta, crumbled
1 leek
20g butter
160g baby spinach leaves
½ cup sour cream
½ cup thickened cream
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons shredded basil leaves
2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed

eFkSKhIjQrWiHxRw2gSSjg_thumb_1ba9

Method
Preheat oven to 200ºC. Cut the leek in half and thinly slice the white and pale green part to achieve 1 cup full.

Melt the butter in a saucepan and lightly sauté the leek over a medium heat for 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Add spinach to the saucepan, cover and cook until wilted. Take off the heat and then press leaves into a strainer to remove excess moisture.

In a bowl, combine sour cream, cream and eggs. Add the feta, leek, spinach and basil. Stir will and season to taste.

Line a non-stick rectangular quiche pan (35cm x 13cm) with the two pieces of pastry, overlapping slightly, and gently push the pieces together in the middle to seal the pastry case. Trim excess pastry. Lightly prick the pastry base with a fork and place the quiche pan onto an oven tray.

Bake the pastry case for 50-10mins until it has started to colour and puff.

Pour in prepared filling and bake for 30-35mins until firm and golden in the centre.

Remove from baking tray and allow to cool slightly before serving. Enjoy!

0fs7PRL6RoiuX5S%TaJ9Bw_thumb_1bad

Adapted from Baker’s Secret