This weekend we harvested the apricots that grow on the tree behind our house. Last year was a bumper crop but sadly there were very few this year, most likely due to the unseasonally cold and wet conditions during May. So the only option was to make them into a cake, adding a handful of the the plums that were just starting to ripen on the tree next door and some beautifully scented lavender. This is the first time I’ve tried cooking with lavender which I’ve always been slightly wary of due to its association with the lavender bags of my childhood that were typically used in the underwear drawers of older (female) relatives! But actually the smell and taste was really good, the sweetness toned down by the addition of ground walnuts which gives this cake an earthy flavour. If you don’t have apricots you could use any other soft fruit such as peaches or nectarines.
8 large apricots (or a couple of peaches or nectarines) A handful of ripe plums A bunch of fresh lavender 4oz butter 4oz sugar 3 large eggs or 4 smaller ones 4oz flour 4oz walnuts 1tsp baking powder 1tsp ginger
I’m not a big cake maker so my method is a bit slap dash. Luckily with this cake you can get away with it! I was taught to make cakes by my mum the old fashioned way which is a bit more laborious so you might prefer to throw everything into a food processor…
First cream the sugar with the butter until the mixture is light in colour and texture. The longer you can do this the better as it gets more air into the mixture and will make the cake ‘spongy’. Next, whisk the eggs and then beat into the mixture a few tablespoons at a time. Against the idea is to get as much air into the cake as possible but if the mixture starts to separate (as mine did) you can just add a sprinkle of flour and carry on. Then switch spoons (this is important) and gently fold in the walnuts – which you will need to grind in a processor or else finely chop with a knife – and the flour together with the ginger and baking powder. Again, do this a little at a time and try to gently cut through the air bubbles rather than squashing them. Finally, mix in the lavender petals – I used 10 heads – and tip the mixture into a cake tin that has been well greased with butter. I used a loose bottom tin to reduce the possibility of the cake sticking.
Now its time for the fruit!
Chop your apricots (or other soft fruit) into wedges and slice the plums in half. Lay the fruit on top of the mixture, pushing it in slightly. I finished my cake with some more lavender and a sprinkle of caster sugar.
And that’s it! The cake takes longer to cook than you might think… I set my oven for about 200 degrees and it was in there for around 40 minutes. Serve hot or cold with coffee or sparkling wine!