It was the Saturday before Valentine's Day and my mind was set on creating some beautiful heart shaped lemon tea cookies, with a lovely lemon-lavender glaze, that I had spotted online. They were so unique, I just had to make them! I imagined how I was going to dress them up in individual cellophane bags with a pretty pale lavender checkered ribbon, and set one on each of my co-worker's desks on Valentine's Day morning.
I went out on my merry way, with a smile, thinking how this was going to feel like putting those adorable little Valentine's cards on each one of my classmate's desks as a young schoolgirl. After going to every supermarket in Northern Virginia, I couldn't find culinary lavender anywhere! I drove home extremely frustrated and decided to check the internet and start calling around, since I had already wasted over half my day driving from place to place.
Several phone calls later led me to an herb store that suggested a local lavender farm that was literally 10 minutes from my home. Huh? Why did I not know about this?!? A beautiful lavender farm right around the corner! At this point it was 6:00 p.m., on a dark, cold Saturday evening in the middle of February, and I was listening to the phone ring at a Lavender Farm, whose seasonal time is normally June and July. Surely this would be another dead end. An answering machine came on, and sounding rather ridiculous telling my story to the answering machine, I hung up with very low expectations of hearing back.
I couldn't have been more wrong! Within the hour, I had a return call from the lovely owner of Seven Oaks Lavender Farm. She had exactly what I was looking for, and offered to meet me first thing on Sunday morning at the farm's little shop, so I could pick up my culinary lavender buds for the tea cookies. Seven Oaks Lavender Farm obtained a new, very grateful, loyal customer that early Sunday morning - and that's where my new love of using the fragrant ingredient, lavender, began. By the way, my cookies turned out beautiful, and I'll feature the recipe, freshly baked, at a later date.
Fast forward to the first Saturday in June. I was one of the first customers to arrive at the lavender farm, camera in hand, to catch the bright, early morning sun. What an absolutely lovely experience! The light breeze was blowing the aromatic scent of lavender throughout the air. Rocking chairs, picnic tables to enjoy breakfast or lunch, baskets piled high with flower shears, and the beautiful vibrant shades of purple, surrounded me. After taking lots of photos, cutting a basket full of Provence lavender, and buying some lovely gifts, I headed home. What a splendid morning it was!
A couple weeks ago, the pound cake was created! This scrumptious lemon poppy seed pound cake is very traditional - with a pound of all the main ingredients. As always, I like to suggest reading through the entire recipe before beginning to bake. It always makes the process flow much easier. You will need a kitchen food scale to be sure you have good measurement weights, and if you don't have one, buy one - you will never know how you managed without one! I have the Oxo Good Grips food scale, and love it! I used a Bed, Bath and Beyond 20% off coupon and bought it a few years ago, and use it constantly.
I love lemon anything, all year, but especially in the summer. This cake is summer citrus and fragrance at its' best! It's simple and versatile. Put together a bowl of fresh, chilled, seasonal fruit, this divine cake, and enjoy it with friends on a weekend afternoon - out on the deck or by the pool. Perfect!
Until next time…mangia! xox
Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake with Lemon-Lavender Glaze
for the pound cake:
1 lb. unsalted butter
18 oz. superfine sugar
18 oz. eggs (weighed with shell, about 8)
1 lb. cake flour (all-purpose can also be used)
1 teaspoon baking powder
zest from 2 lemons
2 tablespoons triple sec / orange liqueur (I used Grand Marnier)
1/2 cup poppy seeds
for the glaze:
1 tablespoon culinary lavender (if you can't find it locally, you can purchase from the Seven Oaks Lavender Farm)
juice of 2 lemons
1 cup confectioners sugar
Create the pound cake:
Have all ingredients at room temperature. Preheat oven to 340 degrees. Butter your pan (or spray with baking spray) and line the bottom with a ring of parchment. Set aside.
Sift the flour, salt and baking powder together at least once. If you are using all-purpose flour, sift twice.
Separate the eggs. Place the whites into a medium/large (spotless) mixing bowl and the yolks into a smaller bowl. Beat the egg whites until light and foamy, slowly add 2 oz. of sugar, continuing to beat until they can hold their own peaks, but are not too glossy.
Beat butter in a large mixing bowl until pale and fluffy (20-30 seconds) then add remaining 16 oz. sugar. Cream butter and sugar. This will take about a minute.
Lightly beat the egg yolks with a fork to break them up. Pour egg yolks in a slow and steady stream into the creamed butter while beaters are running.
Sift the flour into the bowl and, using a large spoon, gently fold the flour and butter together. Add the lemon zest and orange liqueur and fold into the batter.
Fold the egg whites into the batter. Be gentle but thorough and fold the spoon from the bottom of the bowl up and over. You will lose some volume but do not worry; you should have trapped enough air pockets in the batter for the cake to rise.
Add the poppy seeds and stir lightly through the batter.
Pour batter into prepared cake pan and bake for about 1 hour 15 minutes. The cake will rise above the cake pan, split along the top and brown. Test by inserting a tooth pick into the top of the cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is baked. Cool for 5-10 minutes in pan and then invert onto a wire rack. Use another rack or a plate and carefully turn the cake over again so that it is right side up. Don't worry if the top flattens or curls when doing this - it adds character!
Create the glaze while the cake is cooking:
Put the lavender in a clean bowl, squeeze the lemon juice over it and heat in the microwave for 30 seconds. Allow to cool and infuse for 5 minutes.
Add the confectioners sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Taste. You can add more lavender or lemon juice to taste. You can strain through a sieve or leave as is, and drizzle over the warm cake. (I wanted the pretty culinary lavender buds on my cake, they are completely edible, so did not strain them.)
The cake will stay fresh and delicious covered with saran wrap for at least 5 days. This lovely pound cake was adapted from The LoveBite.
I find mixing the lemon zest into the 16 oz. of sugar before creaming with the butter, keeps it from clumping together if adding at the later stage. I have been doing this with all my recipes recently. Try it, you may like it too!
The trick to pound cakes, is to get some air into the ingredients, so sifting is important.
Although the lavender adds so much to the glaze, it is always optional, and the pound cake will be just as yummy without it!