grow lavender to please the bees then bake an orange & lavender cake to please yourself

Posted by on Jul 25, 2015 in Home | 34 Comments

I grow lavender to please my bees. Did you know bees prefer purple/ blue flowers? That’s why my French Lavender (Lavandula dentata) is planted within launching vision of the hive. Other than food for bees, lavender boasts an impressive CV including looking pretty, a calming fragrance, ability to repel pests (especially moths hence the pot pourri thing), attracting beneficial insects, hedging uses and a companion plant to practically everything. It loves full sun, well drained soil and grows about one metre. You don’t even need to water it much as it has such a good root system (I find the French variety better for a sub-tropical climate). I don’t bother propagating lavender from seed or cuttings, I usually buy from an organic nursery (mine are from Northey Street). It is essential to buy or grow organically if you plan to eat it. Other culinary associated varieties are English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and Spanish Lavender (Lavandula stoechas). Prune after they flower (mainly winter and spring) if you want to promote compact growth, just don’t cut back too much of the green foliage. Lavender also grows really well in pots and tubs if you have space challenges.

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Some people are a bit funny about eating lavender flowers but it is a herb with a lovely aromatic, floral taste begging for a culinary chance. It can be overpowering so use it sparingly or else you’ll feel like you’re eating a bar of Yardley English Lavender Soap. You can use fresh or dried flower buds but like all herbs, dried is more concentrated than fresh. To dry lavender, pick flower buds when they first start to open and hang in small bunches upside down in a dark, dry and well ventilated place. A good rule of thumb for converting dried or fresh lavender in recipes is 1/2 tsp dried= 1 ½ tsp fresh. Lavender can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes; goes really well in salads, makes a lovely tea and excels in baked goodies. It pairs particularly well with citrus, chocolate, berries, honey, black pepper and other herbs like sage and oregano. You can also replace rosemary with lavender. One way to keep it subtle is to infuse dried or fresh flowers with syrup, cream or sugar to use in cooking for sweet treats and desserts (ice-cream is amazing). Orange and lavender is lovely combo and I love old school orange cake so try my version with a hint of floral goodness :: Jem x

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L O V E L Y   O R A N G E   &   L A V E N D E R   C A K E

1 ½ tablespoons finely chopped fresh lavender (about 3 buds)
½ cup full cream milk
125g softened butter
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
1 teaspoon of good vanilla extract
1 cup caster sugar
3 organic eggs
1 ½ cups plain flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda

O R A N G E   F R O S T I N G

1 ½ cups pure icing sugar
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
Fresh lavender buds

Set oven to 150 degrees and lightly grease a 20cm round cake tin lined with baking paper. Combine the milk and lavender in a small saucepan over medium heat and cover until it simmers, then remove and cool (it will smell divine). Place butter, orange zest, vanilla, sugar, eggs in a bowl and sift over the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add the cooled lavender milk then beat with an electric mixer until combined, gradually increasing the speed and beating the mixture until smooth. Spoon the cake mixture into the tin and bake for an hour or until tested with a skewer. Cool in the tin then place on a wire rack. To make frosting, place icing sugar, juice and zest in a bowl and mix until smooth. When the cake is completely cool, ice with frosting and scatter over lavender.

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34 Comments

  1. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella
    July 25, 2015

    Jem I love that you grow lavender for your bees. They’re so important to the ecosystem. I didn’t realise that they liked blue or purple flowers! 😀

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      July 25, 2015

      They do but any flowers are good! I try and plant a variety of flowers (edible ones of course) to keep them happy. They reward me with pollination 🙂

      Reply
  2. emma
    July 25, 2015

    I grow a pot of lavender on our deck 😀 It’s so pretty and I love that about the bees too. And such a sweet looking/delicious sounding cake, I imagine the orange and lavender would pair so beautifully.

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      July 26, 2015

      I’m so glad you are growing it Emma. I love it when there is a breeze and the fragrance travels in the air. I can sometimes smell lavender at the back of our house from the yard-such a great plant 🙂

      Reply
  3. Dani @ House in Tillford
    July 26, 2015

    Lavendar is such a lovely flower but never tried using them in food but sprinkling them on a cake would be a good starter!

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      July 26, 2015

      It is such a lovely plant Dani and so multifunctional. Lavender is perfect to top cakes and salads-pretty and tasty!

      Reply
  4. Function 9
    July 26, 2015

    We need to please the bees. This cake looks so good!

    Reply
  5. e / dig in hobart
    July 27, 2015

    I’ve never been game to cook with lavender – you hit the nail on the head, i’m worried it would taste like toiletries!!
    I have a lot of dark purply larkspurs growing around my vegie garden – the bees love that too. I have some flowering now, which is a bonus for the bees and the humans at this time of year, to have some colour about.

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      July 27, 2015

      Larkspurs are beautiful, you would be the bees knees with the bees! I might consider planting some of these in the garden as well.

      Reply
  6. sherry from sherrys pickings
    July 28, 2015

    ooh what a gorgeous looking cake Jem! i love lavender. In summer I make lavender sorbet which is delish. I have no probs with eating it as i love the flowery taste and smell. I buy mine from bridestowe in tasmania (either online or in person when i can get there). That is interesting what you say about bees liking purple flowers. for a time we were growing basil bushes, and the native bees adored them! it is really sad that we rarely see bees or snails or ladybirds anymore. i was so excited a few weeks back when i saw a ladybird. red letter day!

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      July 28, 2015

      Thanks Sherry…lavender sorbet sounds amazing! You must share your recipe 🙂 And thanks for the good info for people who are wanting to buy it for culinary purposes only. Ladybirds are one of those beneficial insects I was talking about, they are fantastic for the garden (except the 26 or 28 spotted ones). I always let my basil go to flower as the bees absolutely love it.

      Reply
  7. Gourmet Getaways
    July 29, 2015

    Please the bees and please yourself, that’s nice! The lavenders look cheery on that orange cake. Great job!

    Julie & Alesah
    Gourmet Getaways xx

    Reply
  8. Anna @ shenANNAgans
    August 3, 2015

    You are awesome Jem, I love that you grow Lavender for the bees. We have a couple of bushes in our backyard too. The smell makes me rather nostalgic. Memories of growing up in the country, and those balls you stick in your draws to stop moths or something?! Ha… I digress. LOL! Beautiful cake lady. I shall add to my list of deliciousness to bake.

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      August 3, 2015

      Thanks Anna and I’m so glad you have lavender in your backyard! Yep, lavender certainly has some interesting associations, SO much more than hiding in drawers 🙂

      Reply
  9. Nicole - Champagne and Chips
    August 4, 2015

    I LOVE lavender in recipes. One of my favourite cocktails ever was a creamy lavender one from The Bowery in Brisbane. This cake looks absolutely devine. I might have to request my green-thumb neighbour plants some lavender for me to use.

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      August 4, 2015

      So do I Nicole. I never tried that one from The Bowery but love that place. Great idea to ask your neighbour to grow lavender…you can borrow a cup of lavender instead of sugar 🙂

      Reply
  10. Jan (A gluttonous wife)
    August 7, 2015

    I just adore an orange cake and teamed with this lavender I’m sure it would be yummy. I didn’t realise that bees like blue flowers – I’ll be sure to tell super hubby about that tip!! Always a great wealth of knowledge – thanks lovely Jem x

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      August 8, 2015

      Thanks so much Jan – it is interesting that bees have colour preferences so I try and grow as much as that colour possible. They deserve it with all their hard work!

      Reply
      • Jan (A gluttonous wife)
        August 17, 2015

        I brought a lovely lavendar that’s been placed in amongst the vegies, I’ve thought of you everytime I look at it!! 🙂 Jan x

        Reply
        • lostinutensils
          August 17, 2015

          That’s lovely Jan, thank you! Lavender is a wonderful thing to be associated with 🙂 x

          Reply
  11. Padaek
    August 9, 2015

    Hi Jem! Great post and a lot of really interesting info. Good tip with choosing organic plants for eating purposes. Mum’s front yard is packed with lavender bushes and bees. Sometimes, its quite a challenge to get safely past them. A fresh lavender head is good to keep in the shirt pocket for a comforting wake up sniff. The cake looks so good. Can’t wait to try it.

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      August 11, 2015

      Thanks Padaek 🙂 Organic everything if possible is always best I reckon and I agree, lavender is good for what ails ya!

      Reply
  12. THE HUNGRY MUM
    August 18, 2015

    we just planted some lavender on Sunday! #teamBees This cake looks so delightful.

    Reply
  13. Jess @ whatjessicabakednext
    August 18, 2015

    This lavender cake looks divine! Super light and fluffy! I really love adding orange zest to cakes, adds such a beautiful, fresh flavour. 😀

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      August 19, 2015

      It really does Jess…orange zest is a cakes best friend!

      Reply
  14. Cathleen @ A Taste Of Madness
    September 12, 2015

    This cake looks delicious! I wish we had a yard here. I live in a small apartment. But one day.. I plan to grow lavender 😉

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      September 12, 2015

      Thanks Cathleen, it can be challenging without a yard but it is possible to grow some lavender inside!

      Reply
  15. Nagi@RecipeTinEats
    January 6, 2016

    That cake is absolutely beautiful with that pop of color from the lavender. I sure could use a slice!

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      January 6, 2016

      Thanks Nagi, as long as the bees are happy, I can have my cake and eat it too!

      Reply
  16. leaf (the indolent cook)
    April 10, 2016

    I’ve cooked with fresh lavender before and it’s divine. This cake looks absolutely luscious!

    Reply
    • lostinutensils
      April 11, 2016

      Thanks so much Leaf 🙂 It’s so much fun cooking with lavender.

      Reply

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