Hi hi! Happy Friday! I am super excited to share this recipe from my amazing friend Tessa’s book - a Lavender Blackberry Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and a Piped Floral Wreath. This is Tessa’s second book, and is called “Icing on the Cake”, and is filled with not only a whole lot of incredible layer cakes, but other amazing desserts - there’s macarons, pies, marshies, eclairs, tarts, the whole nine yards. It’s an incredible go-to book if you need a show stopping dessert, whether it needs to be a quickie to whip up, or a more labour intensive recipe such as this cake!
I taught myself how to make buttercream flowers a while back, and did a quick wee 2 hour course with a friend a few years ago, and they are kind of something that I always forget that I can do, then get excited to make, spend a whole afternoon making them, get mad at myself for not making them more often because they really are learnt by repetition and I need to just sit down and make them more to learn, then do the exact opposite and not make them for ages. However, when I do sit down and take the time to do them, I am reminded how fun they are once you get the hang of them! They can be a teeny bit tricky to start off, but once you get going, they are a really fun and effective way to decorate cakes and cupcakes! I’m definitely going to make them more often if I can! I promise it’s worth all the little piping bags and couplers and tips. Tessa has a whole section in her book about how to make the different flowers, and how to pipe them directly onto cupcakes!
The flowers are great and pretty, but the cake underneath also deserves some spotlight time - it’s so, so good! It’s a pretty simple vanilla cake, but the milk in the cake is infused with lavender, giving it a super subtle floral taste. The lavender is then emphasised in the lavender syrup which is brushed on the layers, then the whole thing is stacked up with a cream cheese frosting and a blackberry jam filling. Lavender and blackberry go so beautifully together, and cream cheese icing is just the best in literally any occasion. There’s a fine line between not being able to taste lavender in desserts and accidentally adding too much and it tasting like hand cream (I’ve done both before), but when it’s good it’s AMAZING, and Tessa has absolutely nailed this one. Congrats lady - I’m so proud, and I can’t wait to bake my way through this bad boy! x
A few wee tips:
I’m not going to lie, the buttercream flowers on this take bloody ages. But, they are so, so worth it - It’s amazing seeing how you get better with practice, and I think that it’s a really fun thing to know how to do!
Tessa has a great tutorial on her instagram of how to make the flowers she used for this cake! I pretty much just followed that.
If you don’t want to pipe the flowers, Tessa has another cake topped with buttercream swirls and blobs that I love, that would also be perfect for this!
You need the Swiss buttercream to be slightly on the firm side for this - to help with this I kept the whisk attachment on my mixer and the bowl of buttercream in the fridge until I was ready for it, then gave it a quick whip to help smooth it out. I worked with one colour at a time. AC in your house will help too if it’s summer, but our foster cat has her bed on the AC, so we are still kinda working out how to let her know that she’s going to have to move. We aren’t there yet.
I made the cake and the lavender syrup the day before, which really helped to break up the process a bit.
Buy yourself a copy of Tessa’s book. Just do it - there’s so so many beautiful things in there!
Lavender Blackberry Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and a Piped Floral Wreath
- Makes one Three Layer, 8” cake -
Reprinted with permission from ‘Icing on the Cake’ by Tessa Huff
1 cup (240ml) whole milk
2 tsp dried culinary lavender
¼ cup (60ml) sour cream
2 ¼ cups (325g) cake flour
1 ½ cups (300g) granulated sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks / 225g) unsalted butter, diced, at room temperature
1 ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs
½ cup (100g) granulated sugar
1 ½ tsp dried culinary lavender
Cream Cheese Frosting
1 cup (2 sticks/225g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 oz (115g) cream cheese, at room temperature
5 to 6 cups (625g to 750g) powdered sugar
3 to 4 Tbsp heavy cream or whole milk
2 tsp vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
4 large egg whites
1 ⅓ cups (265g) granulated sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups (4 sticks / 450g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ to 1 cup (120ml to 240ml) blackberry jam
Gel Food colouring
- PROCESS -
In a small saucepan, slowly bring the milk to a simmer over low heat. Add the lavender and remove from the heat. Let steep for about 20 minutes. Strain the milk through a fine mesh sieve set over a bowl and discard the lavender. Let cool completely.
Preheat the oven to 350°f / 180°c. Grease and flour three 8-inch (20cm) cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, stir together ¾ cup (180ml) of the lavender milk and the sour cream.
Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, beat the ingredients on low speed until just combined. Add the butter, vanilla, and about ½ cup (120ml) of the lavender milk mixture. mix on medium until evenly distributed and the dry ingredients are moistened, about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
Add the eggs to the remaining lavender milk mixture and stir to combine. With the mixer running on medium speed, add the egg mixture in three additions, mixing for about 15 seconds after each addition and stopping the mixer between additions to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
Evenly divide the batter among the prepared pans. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean. Let the cakes cool on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes before removing from the pans. Allow the cakes to cool completely, right-side up, on the wire rack before removing the parchment. Level the tops of the cakes with a long serrated knife as needed.
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and ½ cup (120ml) water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and add the lavender. Simmer the syrup for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let steep until cool. Strain the syrup through a fine mesh sieve set over a bowl and discard the lavender.
CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a large bowl using a handheld mixer), beat the butter and cream cheese on medium until smooth. Meanwhile, sift the confectioner’s sugar. With the mixer running on low, gradually add 5 cups (625g) of the confectioner’s sugar, 3 Tbsp of the cream, and the vanilla and mix until incorporated. Turn the mixer to medium high and mix until fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the remaining 1 cup (125g) confectioner’s sugar, ½ cup (65g) at a time, and / or the remaining 1 Tbsp of cream until the desired consistency is reached. It should be spreadable and creamy, not runny.
ASSEMBLE THE CAKE
Generously brush the cake layers with the lavender syrup. Place one cake layer on a cake board or serving plate. Place about ⅓ cup (80ml) of the cream cheese frosting on top and spread it with an offset spatula. Fill a piping bag fitted with a plain round tip with some of the cream cheese frosting. Pipe a ring around the outer top edge of the cake to create a “dam”. Pipe a second ring of cream cheese frosting a couple of inches in from the outer ring, to create a “bulls-eye”.
Use a spoon to fill in the gaps between the rings of the cream cheese frosting with ¼ to ⅓ cup (60 to 120ml) of the blackberry jam. Top with a second cake layer and repeat; place the final cake layer on top.
Crumb coat the cake with the cream cheese frosting and chill for 15 minutes. Frost the cake with the remaining cream cheese buttercream.
SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM
Put the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Gently whisk them by hand to combine. In a medium saucepan, bring an inch or two (2.5 to 5cm) of water to a simmer over medium-low heat. Place the mixer bowl on top of the saucepan to create a double boiler (be sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water). Heat the egg mixture, whisking intermittently, until it reaches 160°f / 70°c on a candy thermometer.
Carefully affix the mixer bowl to the stand mixer (it may be hot) and fit the mixer with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg white mixture on high speed for 8 to 10 minutes, until the mixture holds medium-stiff peaks and the outside of the bowl has cooled to room temperature.
Turn the mixer down to low and add the vanilla. Add the butter a couple of tablespoons at a time, mixing until each is incorporated before adding the next. Stop the mixer and swap out the whisk for the paddle attachment.
Turn the mixer to medium high and beat until the buttercream is silky smooth, 3 to 5 minutes.
Note - If your buttercream is a little soupy, refrigerate for 15 minutes then re-whip. You need it to be firm enough to pipe with.
DECORATE THE CAKE
Tint a small amount of buttercream green for the leaves. Tint the remaining buttercream the colors of your choice for the flowers. Cut about 30 2-inch (5cm) squares of parchment paper. Dab a small amount of buttercream on a flower nail and secure a square of parchment on top. Fill piping bags fitted with various piping tips with the tinted buttercream (I like to use a coupler so that I can switch out the tips). I used a petal Wilton #103 and #104 tip, a Wilton #81 tip for the Mum flower, and a small round tip for the little blobby flowers. Tessa has a great tutorial , and there are lots online!
Pipe various buttercream flowers on top of the parchment squares, then transfer the flowers to a baking sheet or cutting board. Chill the piped flowers in the fridge until firm, at least 15 minutes.
To create the flower crown, pipe a ring of buttercream around the top of the cake, about 1 inch (2.5cm) from the edge. Carefully peel the chilled flowers off their parchment squares and use a small offset spatula to arrange them on the ring of buttercream, angling them slightly in and away from the center of the cake.
Fill a piping bag with a leaf tip with the green buttercream and pipe leaves to fill in any gaps between the flowers.
Chill in the fridge until 30 minutes before serving. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge.