It is exactly 20 days until the official first day of spring, and while I know this winter has been very mild as a whole, spring cannot get here fast enough for me! With just a few recent days of warm weather, my gardener’s thumb is already starting to twitch, and I am daydreaming of this summer’s garden.
While the winter temperatures may not have been as severe as the Farmer’s Almanac predicted, it did feel like we passed around a different kind of perpetual cold — the one that is accompanied by a series of unwanted symptoms. With two children under two, one being in daycare along with our high school-aged daughter, the flow of germs and tissues seemed never ending this winter.
This summer’s garden will prioritize keeping everyone happy and heathy throughout the year by including a few things I haven’t grown before: elderberry, turmeric and valerian. St. John’s wort and lavender as well as my long list of favorite herbs and spices will round out what I hope will be a beautiful, delicious and health-conscious garden.
The idea of food as medicine has long been apparent to me as the fruits of a summer garden just make you feel good, but I am choosing to add to that idea alongside my usual garden herbs and plants for their strong medicinal properties. Turmeric has a very long growing season, so I plan to start in indoors and use it in a container so that I can bring it in in the fall. Furthermore, the elderberry, valerian and St. John’s wort will serve as garden backgrounds and boarders for the new space where my garden will go this spring, adding visual appeal to the garden as well.
Finally, I look forward to adding more English lavender for its fragrant and calming effects - certainly something every mom needs with teens and toddlers. The recipe below I made for the fist time last July when my lavender was just beginning to bloom, and I cannot wait to make it again from new fresh lavender as its flavor is just not quite as good using the dried version.
Since the countdown to spring is on, my seeds are on order, and my hopes are high that this summer’s garden is going to be the best one yet!
Lemon Lavender Cake
½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature
½ cup vegetable oil
1½ cups granulated sugar
5 egg whites at room temperature
3 cups cake flour sifted
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
1½ cups lavender infused milk (see recipe below)
1 tsp ground culinary lavender
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tbsp culinary lavender
1½ cups whole milk
Lavender Simple Syrup
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup water
1 tbsp culinary lavender
Prepare lavender milk and lavender simple syrup first, then set aside for now.
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Spray two 8-inch cake pans with non-stick spray and dust the bottom with flour. Set aside.
Into the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and oil together for 4-5.
With the mixer on low speed, gradually add sugar into the mixture and beat on medium to high speed until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
With the mixer on low speed, add egg whites one at a time followed by the vanilla. Beat on high until mixture is smooth and light in color. Scrape down the sides of your bowl once again.
While your mixture is mixing, sift cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, ground lavender and salt into a medium bowl.
With the mixer on low speed, add one third of the flour mixture into the bowl and mix until just combined. Scrape down the bowl and add one half of the lavender milk and again mix until just combined.
Repeat this process. Begin and end with the flour mixture. Do not overmix or your cake will become quite dense.
Distribute cake batter evenly between two 8-inch cake pans. I like to use a kitchen scale to ensure batter is divided equally. Bake for 35-38 minutes, or until knife comes out clean. Each oven is slightly different, so I suggest setting your timer to 30 minutes and watching carefully from there!
Cool on cooling rack for 10 minutes before inverting and removing cakes from can pan to cool completely.
Drizzle the cake with lavender simple syrup and ice with Italian buttercream.
Lavender Milk Directions
Use a small pot to bring milk and loose culinary lavender to a gentle simmer. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Be careful not to burn your milk!
Remove from heat and allow to steep for 25 minutes.
Strain to remove loose lavender. Add additional whole milk to ensure there is 1 1/2 cups left to add to your cake. Some may have evaporated off during the simmering process.
Bring to room temperature before using in cake recipe.
Lavender Simple Syrup Directions
In a small pot, combine water, sugar, and loose culinary lavender.
Bring to a gentle boil and then allow to simmer for 8-10 minutes.
Remove from heat and allow to steep for 15 minutes. Strain loose lavender and allow to cool to room temperature before using.
Lincoln Land Community College offers credit programs in Culinary Arts, Hospitality Management and Baking/Pastry, and non-credit cooking and food classes through LLCC Community Education.
Cooking or food questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.