Many people, including me, use these fragrant flowers to make Elderflower Cordial but they can also be used to make beautiful floral-flavoured Elderflower Gin. Unlike some flavoured gins, such as Rhubarb Gin, which take a number of weeks to mature before they can be drunk, Elderflower Gin is ready the next day! It is great on its own or with a mixer, such as tonic, or with sparkling wine.
Elderflowers are a good starting point for new “foragers” as they are so widely available and easily recognisable. They are the blossoms of the elder (Sambucus nigra) which is a small tree or shrub commonly found in woodlands and gardens throughout the UK. The small creamy-white flowers are arranged in big clusters and bloom in late May or early June. In autumn, they turn into purple elderberries which also have a range of culinary uses.
These Elderflower and Lemon Cupcakes are the perfect easy summer baking recipe. The sponge is light and buttery. The use of fresh lemon makes them fresh and zesty and perfectly balances the floral flavour of the elderflower. The flavour of the cakes is echoed in the buttercream which is flavoured with fresh lemon juice and elderflower cordial.
Over the past few years, elderflower has become a very popular flavouring for all kinds of cakes and desserts. I first made these Elderflower Cupcakes a number of years ago at the request of my daughter for her to share with her biology class. Each week a member of the class brings in cakes to share – school doesn’t sound so bad nowadays – and she specifically asked me not to make cakes with an unusual flavour. Her exact words were “don’t make the flavour too ‘out there’, mum”. After a focused discussion, during which various flavours were discounted – lilac? (No), Lady Grey tea? (No!), dandelion? (Seriously?!!) – we agreed on elderflower.
Although I love elderflower and use it in desserts regularly, this was the first time I had tried it in Elderflower Cupcakes. I am not really a big cupcake maker! I made two batches – one with just elderflower and one with elderflower and lemon. When I tasted them, I understood immediately why it is usual to include lemon as an additional flavouring. The cupcakes made just with elderflower were far too sweet for my taste but those made with elderflower and lemon were just right – floral but zesty!
What you need to know about these cupcakes
You don’t need access to fresh elderflowers to make them. In England, elderflowers are in season in May and June and are very common in hedgerows and the edge of woodland. I use fresh elderflowers to make many recipes including Elderflower Cordial. I really love making my own cordial but you can make these cupcakes using store-bought cordial and they taste just as good.
Cupcakes are very easy to make and quick to bake. Therefore, you can whip up a batch in under half an hour. However, you need to allow them to cool completely before you add the buttercream icing otherwise it will just melt into the cakes. I generally make these cakes the day before I plan to eat them so they have plenty of time to cool down.
I am not a brilliant icing piper. When I make these cupcakes, I generally simply put a teaspoon of icing onto each cake and smooth it down. I will always add some additional decorative element to make up for my lack of icing skills. If fresh elderflowers are in season, I will add a sprig to each cake. If not, I will add a little grated lemon zest as I think it is helpful to give a clue to the flavour of the cakes.
Make the cake batter by creaming together the 250 g butter with the 250 g sugar. Add the eggs gradually to ensure the mixture does not curdle. Then add the 250 g self-raising flour.
Add the grated lemon zest and the 4 tbs of cordial to the mixture and stir to combine.
Put a dessert spoon of the cake mixture into each of the cupcake papers.
Put your cupcake trays into the oven and cook for around 15 minutes. The cakes will be done when they are golden brown and springy to the touch.
Remove the cupcakes from the trays and put on a rack to cool.
Make the icing by putting the 500g icing sugar, 250 g butter, lemon juice and 3 tbs elderflower cordial in a mixing bowl and beating until they form a pale, smooth icing. Ice the cooled cupcakes and decorate as you wish!
Keywords: elderflower and lemon cake, elderflower cupcakes