My inaugural Hikes for the Soul hike last weekend called for a brand, new hiking snack. I ignored the sound left-brain voice telling me to bake a sure thing for this special occasion, following my curiosity instead with an experimental ‘bit of this, bit of that’ meets ‘what would Belinda Jeffrey do?’ (my baking queen) approach. I wanted something fresh, lemony and silky, with a hint of lavender, which I’ve been adding to all manner of foods in recent months.
Back in November, I procured a small bag of lavender from which to create honey and lavender madeleines for my son’s birthday party. I have been enamoured by lavender-infused sweets since making my first trip to Lavandula Swiss Italian Farm in Hepburn Springs many years ago, gazing upon the rows of lavender as I savoured a fluffy lavender scone in the trattoria. My well-established scone love had been elevated by the aromatic and earthy sweetness of the lavender. Such was the hold of this scone over me that it featured in my 40th birthday celebrations, my family making the trip to Lavandula to indulge me in my lavender scone wishes. I’ve dragged a few friends and lovers there over the years, caring far less about the romance and beauty of the place and much more about the scone experience that awaited. Having said that, it is a rather picturesque spot.
Back to the cake. The addition of the lavender in this recipe makes for a more subtle lavender flavour, given there is some strong flavour competition from the lemon and olive oil/yoghurt combo. Texturally, this cake is as light as a sponge cake, without the gluten that would constitute a sponge, thanks to the whipped egg whites and silkiness created by the yoghurt. And it’s not too sweet, leaving the lemon and lavender to gently provide interest, the juicy blackberries adding another layer of natural sweetness. Of course, if sweet sweets are your thing, by all means add more sugar.
There may be a ‘sure thing’ snack at the next hike because a successful sequel to an original is highly unlikely, but I was happy to see this cake enjoyed by those who joined me on Sunday. Aside from the snack stop with a view, meditations among the trees in the company of wonderful humans made for a truly beautiful morning out. Can’t wait for the next one!
1 1/2 cups almond meal
1/4 cup fine desiccated coconut
pinch of salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2/3 cup caster sugar
1 tablespoon culinary lavender (plus a little extra to finish), finely chopped*
4 eggs, separated
1 tablespoon lemon rind
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup natural or Greek yoghurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
handful fresh or frozen blackberries, halved lengthways
Preheat your oven to 180°C. Grease and line a 20–23 cm cake pan. I used a rectangular slice/brownie pan for this cake.
Place the almond meal, coconut, salt and baking powder in a medium bowl and whisk vigorously for about 1 minute until well combined.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, lavender, lemon juice, zest, oil, vanilla and yoghurt, adding one ingredient at a time and whisking well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients to this bowl and whisk until combined.
Beat the egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff peaks form, then gently fold the whites into the batter, ensuring this mixture comes together but without over-mixing.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and give the pan a little shake to even out the mixture. Add the blackberry pieces on top in any pattern you wish. Sprinkle the extra lavender over the top and place in the hot oven. Bake for about 25–30 minutes, depending on your oven, until the top is golden and a tester comes out clean.
Allow the cake to cool before transferring it to a wire rack to cool fully. Dust with icing sugar and serve as is, or with a little cream or yoghurt on the side.
*I used organic lavender flowers (the edible variety, lavandula angustifolia) from the local organic foodstore.