Sunday, July 1, 2007

Cherry Lavender Harvest Cake


Luke and Paul at the River Garden greenmarket stand have the most decadently fragrant bunches of lavender right now. And, as they told me last week, it’s a good time to stock up, because the harvest is almost over. There’s a second cutting in August, at which point I’ll buy more to dry and store away for the long months ahead, but on Friday, I brought home a couple of bunches to use this summer.

I adore lavender in food, both sweet and savory, and it’s a thrill to have such high quality blooms in my pantry. As Luke explained to me, all that’s involved in drying your own lavender is laying the blooms out in a thin layer, away from direct sunlight for a couple of days. I used the tissue that Luke had wrapped the flowers in, but a clean tea towel or two would work just as well. Once dried, the tiny buds can be gently pulled off the stems, and they keep for a year or more if stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. Not to mention the free aromatherapy session you get into the bargain.


It’s something I urge you to consider doing yourself if you happen to have access to culinary-grade lavender. Even if you don’t enjoy the flavor in your food, you could follow Susan of Porcini Chronicles’ lead and make some lovely sea salt scrub infused with the soothing aroma. And I imagine it could be a real treat, if you have a fireplace, to stash the dried stems and throw them on the fire the next time you get a chilly night...Don't you love how I romanticize the life of anyone not living in a Manhattan apartment?

There’s a harvest cake I bake, fruity and moist with good olive oil, that varies with the seasons. The cherries have just arrived in full force, and I love the way the earthiness of the lavender underlines their bright sweetness. This cake celebrates summer – perfect for early July before the heat’s completely wilted our spirits and turned our thoughts longingly to crisper weather.



1 1/2 cups sweet cherries, halved and pitted
extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
pinch of table salt
1 egg
1/2 cup granulated sugar
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp lemon juice
1 scant tsp lavender
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup milk
extra granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F

Brush the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with olive oil. Cut a circle of parchment paper to cover the bottom of the pan, and then brush that with olive oil too.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. In an electric kitchen mixer, beat the egg and sugar for 5 minutes or until pale and fluffy. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, lavender, ¼ cup olive oil, and milk. Beat until combined.

Fold in the flour mixture with a spatula until just combined. Be careful not to over-stir.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Top with the cherries. Sprinkle with a little more sugar.

Bake for 45 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 5 minutes. Remove the springform and continue to cool. Once the cake’s completely cool, store in an airtight container.

16 comments:

Lucy said...

Lavender - such a fragrance! Instantly transports you, doesn't it? With cherries? How divine...

Anonymous said...

mmmm lavender and cherries - never had it before - sounds delicious

Joanne Rendell said...

my granny used to make those little lavender bags which you put in drawers to make your clothes smell fresh. i never knew it could go in food. the pie looks so delicious!

Figs Olives Wine said...

Hi Lucy! What is it about lavender? I think it would be a powerful sensory memory for me even if I'd never seen a field of it in person! It's obviously a balm of some sort.

Hi anonymous - so glad you like the combination. Enjoy your cake!

Hi Jo - LOVE those little sachets. I have something similar I brought home from France in my pants drawer. It's pretty old and I find small twigs in my underwear now and then, but it's still so worth it!

baylah said...

and i'll be trying this very soon. one amateur question though from someone who has never baked with cherries: any secret techniques for getting the pits out of them?

leigh said...

i was looking for a cherry recipe on friday! unfortunately i ate all the cherries this weekend :( but i will definitely make this in the future.

Figs Olives Wine said...

Hi Baylah! You know they sell cherry pitters (also very useful on olives - Crate & Barrel and Williams Sonoma both have them), and it might be worth investing the $12 in one. I just used a knife and my fingers - worked fine, but the kitchen looks like a crime scene.

Hi Leigh, I have a hard time keeping cherries around too! Hope you enjoy the cake should you ever manage to accrue the necessary quantity!

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

Wow, this looks great Amanda! I don't cook much with Lavendar, except for in drinks, like lemonade, but this looks amazing!

Anonymous said...

I love lavender in my lemonade too! I've gotta try the cake though - looks great.

Figs Olives Wine said...

Hi Jenn! Lavender's in Herbs de Provence if you ever use that. It's surprisingly nice for both sweet and savory as long as there isn't too much. LOVE it in drinks too, by the way!

Hi anonymous! I hope you enjoy the cake!

I am Jen said...

Oh yum, what a combination. Never thought it would work, but then I have been shown wrong before with feta and avocado together. Can't wait to try this!

Figs Olives Wine said...

Hi Jen - Hope you enjoy the cake! I'm afraid it didn't last very long in our house at all...

christine p said...

I made this cake and it was delightfully aromatic. However it was also very flat. Unlike the picture, it was almost like a thick pancake. Should the recipe be doubled to achieve a thicker cake?

Figs Olives Wine said...

Christine P - I assure you this recipe is tried and true. This is not a very high cake at all, but do remember that baking is unlike most other facets of the culinary arts in that it is chemistry, pure and simple. You must be vigilant in the measurement of your ingredients, and then success will be yours. To double the recipe would assure nothing but a burnt exterior or a raw center. Best of luck with your cake!

Susan in Italy said...

Lavender is so wonderful in sweet things and sounds like it would be a delicious foil to cherries. I used to make lavender ice cream before moving to Italy and now in the world capitol of gelato, that's the only ice cream I miss.

Figs Olives Wine said...

Susan, I love lavender ice cream too! I bet lavender gelato would be delicious -- there must be some way to try that out...hmmm....

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