Lavender Blackberry Cake

Tessa Huff's Lavender Blackberry Cake
Excerpted from Icing on the Cake by Tessa Huff, reprinted by permission of Abrams Books. Photographs by Tessa Huff.
Prep Time
1h 35 min
Cook Time
32 min
12 - 16 servings

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.



Lavender Milk

cup (240 mL) whole milk
tsp dried culinary lavender


cup (60 mL) sour cream
2 ½
cups (325 g) cake flour
1 ½
cups (300 g) granulated sugar
tbsp baking powder
tsp salt
cup (2 sticks/225 g) unsalted butter, diced, at room temperature
1 ½
tsp pure vanilla extract
large eggs

Lavender Syrup

cup (100 g) granulated sugar
1 ½
tsp dried culinary lavender

Cream Cheese Frosting

cup (2 sticks/225 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
ounce (115 g) cream cheese, at room temperature
- 6 cups (625 to 750 g) confectioners’ sugar
- 4 tbsp heavy cream or whole milk
tsp vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract

Assembly and Decoration

- 1 cup (120 ml to 240 ml) blackberry jam
small recipe Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Gel food colouring

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

large egg whites
cup (200 g) granulated sugar
tsp pure vanilla extract
1 ½
cups (3 sticks/340 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature


Step 1

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.

Step 2

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.

Step 3

In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, stir together ¾ cup (180 ml) of the lavender milk and the sour cream.

Step 4

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.

Step 5

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.

Step 6

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.

Step 7

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.

Step 8

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.

Step 9

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.”

Step 10

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.

Step 11

Crumb coat the cake with the cream cheese frosting and chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

Step 12

Frost the cake with the remaining cream cheese frosting.

Step 13

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.

Step 14

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.

Step 15

Fill a piping bag fitted with a leaf tip with the green buttercream and pipe leaves to fill in any gaps between the flowers.

Step 16

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.

Step 17

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.

Step 18

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.

Step 19

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.

Step 20

Turn the mixer to medium-high and beat until the buttercream is silky smooth, 3 to 5 minutes.

Step 21

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.

Rate Recipe

My rating for Lavender Blackberry Cake