Tuesday 29 May 2018

Elderflower, lemon and mascarpone cake

I've been away from my oven for the last month and haven't been baking but one sunny Saturday in Glasgow, staying with a friend, we went all out for the Royal Wedding. Neither of us are monarchists by any means (though my Princess Diana scrapbook from childhood would tell a different story) but it was impossible not to get caught up in a cultural moment that really did capture the public imagination, even in anti-England Scotland. My contribution to our high tea - in addition to scones - was a stab at the bride and groom's chosen cake - lemon and elderflower. While I couldn't compete with elderflowers harvested at the Queen's estate in Sandringham or the 200 Sicilian lemons reportedly flown in for the occasion, I made do with the very best M&S had to offer, cake tins that didn't fit the brief (see recipe note below), a lack of kitchen scales and an unfamiliar oven and it was still spectacular. For all of you who've purchased a bottle of elderflower cordial from IKEA and haven't got around to using it yet, here's your excuse. Other than that particular ingredient, the cake itself is very simple. All the usual suspects - butter, sugar, flour and eggs - beaten into a batter, baked in two tins, each cake cut in half to form four layers, each layer drizzled with sweet syrup, then the whole lot sandwiched together with elderflower-infused icing. The end result is light and summery, and altogether elegant. The two flavours - the delicate floral and the bright citrus blend together beautifully. Not your traditional wedding cake but then this was not your traditional royal wedding. And all the more delicious because of it. Long live elderflower and lemon.

Elderflower, lemon and mascarpone cake
Adapted from a recipe by Cygnet Kitchen

The original recipe recommends wrapping the cakes in clingfilm (once cooled) and freezing for ten minutes to make them easier to cut. I skipped this step as I was less concerned with perfection (read: lazy) and it turned out just fine but if you want to do things more professionally, then this seems like a good tip. Ideally, two six inch cake tins are what you want for this but I only had access to eight inch ones. The layers were slightly thinner but the cooking time was the same.

220g unsalted butter, softened, plus a little extra to grease the tins
220g caster (superfine) sugar
zest of 1 lemon
4 eggs (weighing a total of 220g in their shells), lightly beaten
220g self raising four, sifted
pinch of salt
3-4 tablespoons undiluted elderflower cordial

Lemon & elderflower syrup
freshly squeezed juice of ½ lemon
100ml undiluted elderflower cordial
2 tablespoons caster (superfine) sugar 

500g mascarpone
200ml double cream
3 tablespoons undiluted elderflower cordial
250g icing sugar, sifted to remove any lumps

Pre-heat the oven to 160 deg C. 

Grease and line two cake tins (see recipe note above).

Beat butter, sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy. Gradually add the beaten egg, a little at a time, beating well in between each addition.

Gently fold in the sifted flour and salt, adding enough undiluted cordial (3-4 tablespoons) to create a dropping consistency ( the mixture should drop off a spoon when lightly tapped). Divide the batter between the two tins.

Put in both tins on the middle shelf of the pre-heated oven and bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cakes comes out clean.

Leave in the tins to cool for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to to cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the syrup by combining the 100ml undiluted elderflower cordial, lemon juice and sugar in a bowl.

Then make the icing by whisking the mascarpone, 3 tablespoons undiluted elderflower cordial, double cream and icing sugar together until thick and smooth.  

Once cakes are cooled completely, use a bread knife level the tops of the cakes if necessary and cut each cake in half evenly. With a pastry brush, brush the syrup on the cut side of each layer (or just drizzle it on with a spoon). 

Place the base of one of the cakes on a plate or cake stand and spread with mascarpone icing. Add the next layer cut side down. Repeat with remaining layers, ensuring that the top layer is placed cut side down. For a 'naked' look, thinly spread the rest of the icing thinly around the sides of the cake and then add on the top a thicker layer.