Sweet and Savory, the delicate scent of lavender enlivens food dishes with its fresh enticing flavor. Many people have experienced lavender only in the classic herbs de Province mixture, but there are many more uses for this versatile herb.
Although some chefs prefer to use angustifolia, the lower camphor and resin content of ‘Provence’ makes it the most appealing culinary lavender
Here is a family favorite recipe from Northern Colorado. For best results, use a natural-process cocoa powder, such as regular Hershey’s. You need the extra acidity to react with the baking powder and give the cake more rising power. If you don’t own a spice grinder, you can use a mortar and pestle.
MAKES 8 – 12 SERVINGS
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- ¼ cup unsweetened natural-process cocoa powder
- ‘Provence’ lavender buds, finely ground in a spice grinder.
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup buttermilk or sour milk (see note)
- ¼ pound (1stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 cups sugars
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Cocoa Filling (recipe below)
- Chocolate lavender Frosting (recipe below)
- 1 cup pecans
Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Grease two 8-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
Sift the flour, cocoa, lavender, and baking soda into a medium bowl.
In a small bowl, mix the water and the buttermilk or sour milk.
Combine the butter and sugar in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Beginning with the dry ingredients, alternately beat in the flour and milk in three additions.
Bake on the center rack for 35 – 40 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean and the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.
Cool on wire racks for 5 minutes. Run a thin knife around the sides of the pans and invert the cakes onto wire racks. Peel off the paper. Cool completely.
Prepare the cocoa filling (see below)
Prepare the frosting. (see below)
Place one cake layer, flat side up, on a 10 inch cardboard round. Spread with the filling. Top with the second cake layer, flat side down. Spread a thin layer of frosting over the top and sides to seal in any crumbs. Spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake. (If the frosting becomes stiff as you work, stir gently with a spatula.) Decorate the sides with pecans. Add a ribbon, fresh lavender, flowers…
Cover with a cake dome and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days. Let stand at room temperature before serving.
Note: To make sour milk, stir 1-1/2 teaspoons vinegar or lemon juice into 1/2 cup of warm milk. Let stand for 5 minutes, until the milk looks curdled.
HOW TO MAKE THE COCOA FILLING
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 4 teaspoons all purpose flour
- 1 Tablespoon un-sweetened cocoa powder, sifted
- 1/2 teaspoon dried culinary Provence Lavender buds, finely chopped in a grinder
- 1 cup water
- 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar, flour, lavender, and cocoa. Slowly whisk in the water. Keep whisking to work out all lumps. Add the butter and place over medium heat. Bring to a boil and whisk constantly. Boil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the mixture thickly coats the back of the spoon. Stir in the espresso powder and vanilla, remove from heat. Let cool to room temperature.
HOW TO MAKE THE FROSTING
- 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
- 1 cup heavy cream
Using a serrated knife, finely chop the chocolate into 1/4-inch pieces.
Place the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl. Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Boiling means the cream will actually rise up in the pan and threaten to boil over.
Immediately pour the boiling cream over the chopped chocolate. Tap the bowl on the counter to settle the chocolate into the cream, then let it sit for 1 minute. Using a rubber spatula, slowly stir in a circular motion, starting from the center of the bowl, and working out to the sides. Be careful not to add too much air to the ganache. Stir until all the chocolate is melted, about 2 minutes. It may look done after 1 minute of stirring, but keep going until it is emulsified.
Let the ganache sit at room temperature until it cools to 70°F. In a 65° F room this will take 4 hours or 2 hours in the refrigerator. Once the ganache reaches 70°F, it is ready to be used. At this point it can be covered to be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.