It was the cake heard around the world when Meghan and Harry announced that they chose Claire Ptak, of Hackey’s Violet Bakery, to make their royal wedding cake. Rather than a traditional fruitcake, where the first tier can be kept
for decades until their firstborn’s christening, the royal couple opted for a light, bright elderflower and lemon cake.
The choice of Claire Ptak seemed obvious – Meghan had interviewed Claire for The Tig, and with both women coming from California childhoods and settling down in London they must have loads in common.
Although Claire reported that she would stay mum on the official recipe for the royal wedding cake, she can’t deny her love for Fern Verrow’s elderflower and lemon cake. She even helped style the cake for Verrow’s book photoshoot! For many years, Claire Ptak has shared this elderflower and lemon icing cake on her Instagram, blog, and in the shop. It is a favorite option for wedding cakes from Violet Bakery, and now may even be served to the Queen of England!
The cake features fresh elderflowers, homemade elderflower cordial, and freshly squeezed lemon juice to add brightness. The recipe can be found in Fern Verrow’s cookbook, Fern Verrow: A year of recipes from a farm and its kitchen by Jane Scotter and Harry Astley. We share the recipe below:
Heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4/350F. Grease two deep 20cm/8 inch cake tins and line the bases with a circle of baking parchment.
Break the eggs into a large mixing bowl and add the sugar. Whisk with an electric hand mixer (or a balloon whisk and plenty of elbow grease) until the mixture is pale and mousse-like – it should be thick enough to leave a ribbon trail on the surface when the whisk is lifted.
Add the vanilla extract. Carefully fold in about half of the sifted flour with a large metal spoon. Pour the cool melted butter over the surface and fold it in, immediately followed by the remaining flour. Finally fold in the elderflowers. It’s important to do all this as quickly and lightly as possible, so you don’t lose too much air.
Divide the mixture between the prepared cake tins and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the cakes are golden and beginning to shrink from the sides of the tins. Leave in the tins for 5 minutes, then turn out on to wire racks to cool.
Meanwhile, make the buttercream. Put the sugar and water in a heavy-based pan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Turn up the heat and bring to the boil. Continue to boil until the syrup reaches the thread stage (115C on a sugar thermometer). Gradually trickle the warm sugar syrup onto the egg yolks in a bowl, whisking with an electric hand whisk until thick and mousse-like.
Cream the butter until very soft and fluffy. Then gradually beat it into the egg mixture a little at a time. Finally beat in the elderflower cordial. Sandwich the cakes together with the buttercream.
To make the icing, sift the icing sugar into a small bowl and stir in the elderflower cordial and enough lemon juice to make a fairly thick but spreadable icing. Spread it over the top of the cake, letting it run down the sides a little. Decorate with a few elderflower petals.
Makes 2 litres
50 fresh elderflower heads
2 liters of boiling water
1.5kg granulated sugar
Place the elderflower heads in a large bowl. Slice 2 of the lemons, add them to the bowl and pour over the boiling water. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave overnight to infuse.
The next day, strain the infusion through a muslin cloth into a saucepan. Juice the 2 remaining lemons, then strain the juice into the pan. Add the sugar and heat gently, stirring frequently, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Simmer for a few minutes, until the mixture reaches 90C on a sugar thermometer. Pour the hot syrup into sterilised bottles and seal. The cordial should keep for a year.
Our thanks to Michelle for sharing the recipe with us! You can find Michelle on Instagram at @itsallbright