Cakes, bakes & flowers
Flowers and cakes make fine friends. Use fresh or crystallised flowers to create works of art.
Fresh flowers can be used to decorate cakes by placing them directly on top of the cake, or with a thin divider to keep the petals from sinking into your creation. Use a food safety barrier like Ingenious Edibles Safety Seal on the stems – you simply dip the stems into the melted Safety Seal and they are coated with a wax-like food-safe material.
Or practise the Victorian art of crystallising whole flowers and petals for decorating cakes and cupcakes (see right for instructions). Because roses are most fragrant when they are on the verge of wilting, they are extra special when crystallised. Avoid white petals – they tend to turn grey.
APRICOT DOUGHNUT TRIFLE WITH ROSEMARY PRALINE Serves 8-12
“Doughnuts instead of sponge – need I say more?” says recipe creator Fiona Smith.
As you will no doubt be purchasing your doughnuts a few days before serving this trifle, make sure they get nicely coated with the liquid to allow them to soften. The praline really needs to be made on the day as it gets sticky quite quickly in our summer weather.
Crystallising flowers is easy. Choose your flower – roses and pansies are great – and carefully brush whole flowers or petals very lightly with beaten egg white. Dust painted petals with caster sugar and leave in a warm place like a hot water cupboard to dry for several days.
Ingredients: • 1 cup chopped dried apricots • 400ml whole milk • 300ml cream • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise • 6 egg yolks • 3 tablespoons caster sugar • 1 tablespoon cornflour • 6-8 cinnamon-dusted doughnuts • 800g bottled or canned apricot halves • cup brandy (optional) • 300ml cream, whipped • Rosemary praline (recipe follows) and crumbled freeze-dried cherries to serve • Rosemary flowers to serve Method: Put dried apricots in a saucepan with cup water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Drain and process to a puree. Set aside.
To make the custard, put the milk and cream in a heavy-based saucepan with the vanilla bean and set over a gentle heat. Bring to just below a simmer; do not allow it to boil.
Beat yolks, sugar and cornflour in a large bowl. Remove vanilla bean from the hot milk, scraping the seeds back into the milk. Pour milk onto yolk and sugar mixture, stirring all the time. Turn heat down to very low and pour custard back into saucepan. Stirring constantly, cook until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Transfer custard to a bowl, cover with a piece of greaseproof paper to prevent a skin forming and chill in fridge.
To assemble, halve the doughnuts crosswise (save one whole to garnish) and spread with apricot puree then put back together. Break the doughnuts into pieces and put in bottom of a trifle dish. Strain bottled apricots, reserving liquid. If using brandy, add enough apricot juice to bring the total liquid to 150ml. If not using brandy, use 150ml apricot juice. Pour over doughnuts and top with apricot halves. Spread custard over, cover and refrigerate until needed. Before serving, whip cream and slice reserved doughnut. Top trifle with cream and garnish with the sliced doughnut, freeze-dried cherries, praline and rosemary flowers.
For the praline:
• 3 sprigs rosemary • cup sugar
Line 2 baking trays with baking paper. Put rosemary sprigs on one tray in one layer. Have a pair of tongs and a fork ready. Put the sugar in a saucepan with 2 tablespoons water and bring to the boil, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves. Boil for 7-8 minutes, without stirring, until mixture turns golden. Working quickly, pour toffee over rosemary then using the tongs, grab the rosemary and move to the second tray, using the fork to unstick. Leave for 5 minutes to harden and cool. Smash the toffee into pieces.
ELDERFLOWER SYRUP CAKE
Homemade elderflower syrup has a reputation for its delicate, floral flavour. This almost-vanilla flavour is loved by foodies, who add it to everything from cordials to pancakes and desserts. But gardeners are divided on elders due to their weedy tendencies. They are not such a problem in the North Island, but in the South these suckering, shrubby trees grow wild, and are forever spreading due to their seed-laden berries beloved by birds. Which does mean that South Island foodies could probably forage for the flowers essential to make this charming cake (although do confirm any flowers you find have not been sprayed before using). Ingredients for elderflower syrup: • 20 elderflower blossoms (trim off branches and leaves) • 3-4 lemons • 2 litres of water • 1.5kg sugar
Ingredients for cake: • 100g brown sugar • 200g butter (softened) • 2 eggs • 200g self-raisingcon flour
Ingredients for icing: • 1 cups icing sugar • 1 tablespoon milkodit or water • 25g butter (softened) To make the syrup: Combine lemon juice and water in a big pot. Put in elderflower blossoms, then cover. Leave in the fridge for 2-3 days. Strain and discard blossoms. Over low heat, stir in sugar until dissolved. To make the cake: Preheat oven to 170°C. Whisk together butter and sugar. Whisk the eggs with 2 tablespoons of elderflower syrup then add to the butter-sugar mix. butter-sugar mix.
Gently fold in the flour, and stir until smooth. Pour the mix into a well-greased cake tin. If you have an extra sweet tooth, sprinkle the top with a little more brown sugar. Put it in the oven for 30 minutes, or until a knife or skewer stuck into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Drizzle more elderflower syrup over the cake while still hot. To make the icing: Using a wooden spoon, mix all ingredients in a medium bowl until smooth. You can add extra milk or water for a glossier shine.