Nigella Lawson | Forever Summer | Hyperion, 2003 | Makes 10 to 12
There was a fashion, some time ago, for lavender-scented custards and creams. I always resisted it. But I made these a while ago, for auction to raise money for the Lavender Trust which is the British charity for young women with breast cancer, set up in memory of Ruth Picardie, and — you know — the lavender works: it immediately evokes the musky scent of summer without filling the mouth with soapy perfume. Of course, in Provence lavender is routinely used in the most savory of cooking, much as rosemary is, but I have yet to embrace my inner Peter Mayle. This, though, may be my first small step. To make lavender sugar, just cut up a few lavender sprigs and keep them in a jar of granulated sugar for a few days. Or you can buy it, in jars, ready concocted.—Nigella Lawson
1 cup self-rising flour
1/2 cup very soft unsalted butter
7 tablespoons lavender sugar, sifted
2 large eggs
Few tablespoons milk
For the icing
9 ounces instant royal icing
Violet icing color
Handful of real lavender stalks
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C), line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners and get butter, eggs and milk out of the refrigerator in time to get to room temperature before you start.
2. Make the cupcakes as usual: put all the cake ingredients, bar the milk, into the food processor and combine, adding milk to bind. Using spoon and rubber spatula fill the cake cups equally and bake for 20 minutes or so, until cooked. Remember the cakes rise as they bake: there is enough mixture to fill each cup adequately even if you panic when you first look at it. The cake should be cooked through and springy to the touch. Remove from the oven, leave for 5 minutes or so and then arrange the cupcakes in their paper liners on a couple of wire racks to cool.
3. Cool the cupcakes as for the lemon cupcakes, and slice off any humped top.
4. Make up the icing according to package instructions, dyeing the mixture, faint lilac with a spot or two of food coloring: I like to use the solid pastes, for which you may have to go to a specialist cake decoration shop, I’m afraid; the color you’ll want here is generally labeled “grape violet.” Go carefully, though: we want pastel serenity here, not seventies record-sleeve murk.
5. Top each pretty-pale cupcake with a little sprig of lavender before the icings set dry.
Recipe © 2003 Nigella Lawson. Photo © 2003 Petrina Tinsely. All rights reserved.