Lucy Charles makes the most of spring’s most flavoursome flowers
If you are buying elderflower cordial rather than making your own, go for the best you can afford—the quality will affect the end result. You will need a small paintbrush to crystallise the flowers. At the end you will be left with a naked lime, some cordial and quite possibly some extra fresh flowers. I find the addition of gin, perhaps with some sparkling water, makes very good use of these!
For the crystallised primroses:
Edible primroses, at least 20
1 egg white
For the cakes:
150g self-raising flour
150g butter, softened
125g caster sugar
3 medium eggs
1 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp elderflower cordial
Zest of 1 lime, about ⅓ reserved for decoration
For the frosting:
100g butter, very soft
250g icing sugar
4 tbsp elderflower cordial
At least 1 day ahead of making the cakes, you need to crystallise the primroses so they have time to dry out properly. Make sure the flowers are free of insects. Whisk the egg white gently until it breaks down a little and becomes more fluid—this only takes 1 min or so.
Have a sheet of non-stick baking parchment ready. Then, one at a time, paint all surfaces of the flowers (including the top part of the stem) with egg white and gently dip in caster sugar. Sprinkle more sugar over to ensure a thorough coating, then place the flower face down on the baking paper. It is important to reach all parts of each petal with the egg white and sugar.
Leave to dry for 24 hours. Once crystallised, the flowers will keep in an airtight container for 2 days and are best added to the cakes only once ready to serve.
Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake cases and preheat the oven to 170C.
Put all of the cake ingredients, excluding the reserved lime zest, into a large bowl and mix using an electric whisk until thoroughly, but just, combined. Divide the mixture evenly between the cake cases, making sure they’re no more than about ⅔ full. You may have some mixture left over depending on the size of your cases—this can be used up once the first batch is cooked.
Bake for 18-20 mins until they are risen, lightly golden in colour, and spring back to the touch. Leave in the tin for a few mins, then remove to a rack to cool completely.
While the cakes are cooling, make the frosting. Using an electric whisk, beat together the butter and icing sugar into a smooth mixture. Add the cordial and continue to beat until thoroughly combined in a light and fluffy frosting—this will take at least 5 mins.
Once the cakes are cool, pipe or spread the frosting on top of each one, depending on how artistic you’re feeling. Remove any excess lengths of stem from the crystallised flowers. Top each cake with a sprinkling of lime zest and a flower or 2.
The cakes will keep well for 2-3 days.
Recipe: Lucy Charles