Baking with lavender can be tricky. Even the most perfectly perfumed and slightly floral recipe is just one step away from tasting like fancy hand soap. In this recipe, I’ve gently infused the cake with lavender milk and a bath of lavender simple syrup. Paired with sweet blackberry jam and tangy cream cheese frosting, this cake is fresh, fruity, and floral. Using the reverse mixing method, the cake layers are light, with a tight crumb, yet they hold up to the bold blackberry jam and thick cream cheese frosting. The ingredients can be found year-round, but I especially enjoy a slice of this cake in the late spring or early summer.
The flower crown is completely optional and one of the more complex decorations in the book. Instead of using the cream cheese frosting, the flowers are piped with a batch of Swiss meringue buttercream frosting for better stability. I found the subtle lavender and fruity blackberry filling in this cake to be the perfect match for this buttercream wreath, but simply topping this with fresh blackberries and sprigs of lavender would be equally chic and festive.
Cream Cheese Frosting
Assembly and Decoration
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
In a small saucepan, slowly bring the milk to a simmer over low heat. Add the lavender and remove from the heat. Let steep for about 20 minutes. Strain the milk through a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl and discard the lavender. Let cool completely.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°c). Grease and flour three 8-inch (20-cm) cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, stir together ¾ cup (180 ml) of the lavender milk and the sour cream.
Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, beat the ingredients on low speed until just combined. Add the butter, vanilla, and about ½ cup (120 ml) of the lavender milk mixture. Mix on medium until evenly distributed and the dry ingredients are moistened, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
Add the eggs to the remaining lavender milk mixture and stir to combine. With the mixer running on medium speed, add the egg mixture in three additions, mixing for about 15 seconds after each addition and stopping the mixer between additions to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
Evenly divide the batter among the prepared pans. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean. Let the cakes cool on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes before removing from the pans. Allow the cakes to cool completely, right-side up, on the wire rack before removing the parchment. Level the tops of the cakes with a long serrated knife as needed.
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and ½ cup (120 ml) water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. reduce the heat to low and add the lavender. Simmer the syrup for 5 to 10 minutes. remove from the heat and let steep until cool. Strain the syrup through a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl and discard the lavender.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl using a handheld mixer), beat the butter and cream cheese on medium until smooth. Meanwhile, sift the confectioners’ sugar. With the mixer running on low, gradually add 5 cups (625 g) of the confectioners’ sugar, 3 tablespoons of the cream, and the vanilla and mix until incorporated. turn the mixer to medium-high and mix until fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the remaining 1 cup (125 g) confectioners’ sugar, ½ cup (65 g) at a time, and/or the remaining 1 tablespoon cream until the desired consistency is reached. The frosting should be spreadable and creamy, not runny.
Generously brush the cake layers with the lavender syrup. Place one cake layer on a cake board or serving plate. Place about ⅓ cup (80 ml) of the cream cheese frosting on top and spread it with an offset spatula. Fill a piping bag fitted with a plain round tip with some of the cream cheese frosting. Pipe a ring around the outer top edge of the cake to create a “dam.”
Pipe a second ring of cream cheese frosting a couple of inches in from the outer ring, to create a“bull’s-eye.” Use a spoon to fill in the gaps between the rings of cream cheese frosting with ¼ to ½ cup (60 to 120 ml) of the blackberry jam. top with a second cake layer and repeat; place the final cake layer on top.
Crumb coat the cake with the cream cheese frosting and chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
Frost the cake with the remaining cream cheese frosting.
Tint a small amount of buttercream green for the leaves. tint the remaining buttercream the colors of your choice for the flowers. cut about thirty 2-inch (5-cm) squares of parchment paper. Dab a small amount of buttercream on a flower nail and secure a square of parchment on top. Fill piping bags fitted with various piping tips with the tinted buttercream. Pipe various buttercream flowers on top of the parchment squares, then transfer the flowers on their parchment squares to a baking sheet or cutting board. chill the piped flowers in the refrigerator until firm, at least 15 minutes.
To create the flower crown, pipe a ring of buttercream around the top of the cake, about 1 inch (2.5 cm) from the edge. Carefully peel the chilled flowers off their parchment squares and use a small offset spatula to arrange them on the ring of buttercream, angling them slightly in and away from the center of the cake.
Fill a piping bag fitted with a leaf tip with the green buttercream and pipe leaves to fill in any gaps between the flowers.
Loosely cover with plastic wrap or place in a cake box and chill in the refrigerator until 30 minutes before serving. Let come to room temperature for 30 minutes, then slice and serve. Store leftovers loosely covered with plastic wrap or in a cake box in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 4 days.
Put the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Gently whisk them by hand to combine. In a medium saucepan, bring an inch or two (2.5 to 5 cm) of water to a simmer over medium-low heat. Place the mixer bowl on top of the saucepan to create a double boiler (be sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water). Heat the egg mixture, whisking intermittently, until it reaches 160°F (70°C) on a candy thermometer.
Carefully affix the mixer bowl to the stand mixer (it may be hot) and fit the mixer with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg white mixture on high speed for 8 to 10 minutes, until the mixture holds medium-stiff peaks and the outside of the bowl has cooled to room temperature.
Turn the mixer down to low and add the vanilla. Add the butter a couple of tablespoons at a time, mixing until each is incorporated before
adding the next. Stop the mixer and swap out the whisk for the paddle attachment.
Turn the mixer to medium-high and beat until the buttercream is silky smooth, 3 to 5 minutes.
Swiss meringue buttercream can be made in advance and stored in a lidded container or wrapped tightly in plastic at room temperature up to overnight, in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 weeks, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Bring the buttercream to room temperature and mix until smooth before using.