Living in Portland is pretty special and it's not just because someone here discovered that everything looks better with a bird on it. It's about discovering our natural surroundings and challenging ourselves to find new and creative ways to feature them. This week, the rich hues of summer grabbed our attention. Oregon’s beloved Douglas fir trees serve as a lush backdrop to the lavender fields that color the landscape and berries that are ripening on their vines.
When summer rolls around, we usually make several trips to a local berry farm. In prime season, picking berries in Oregon is too easy and fruitful to pass up. While filling our baskets, other friendly U-pickers will often ask "What are you going to do with your berries?" "Eat them," is how we usually respond. That answer may sound a bit sassy, but it really is the truth. Although we have the best intentions of making jam and preserving the berries for colder seasons, they are gone faster than we can boil the water to sterilize jelly jars.
This week, we made an extra effort to save a few berries for a dessert. As we considered the fragrant lavender and Douglas firs growing nearby, we imagined a way to bring them all to the table together. After gathering our berries and some snips from a fir tree, we returned to the kitchen. Inspired, we ground dried lavender buds saved from last year’s harvest to make a lavender cake. Tender Douglas fir tips boiled with equal amounts of sugar and water made up a simple syrup to flavor our whipped cream. The young tips have a light, citrusy flavor. Both the cake and the whipped cream are so subtle and delicately perfumed, they allow our cherished berries to remain front and center on the plate.
Raspberries, boysenberries, loganberries, and marionberries are among the varieties of berries grown in Portland and areas throughout Oregon. We picked tayberries, a sweet and luscious cross between a raspberry and blackberry. Since we have been playing around with unique and seasonal simple syrup recipes for an upcoming post, we couldn’t resist using the Douglas fir tips to flavor our whipped cream for this summer recipe. But if you don’t currently have access to Doug fir or even spruce tips, you can use whipped cream with a little bit of vanilla.
Choose culinary grade lavender for this cake. From your garden, English species like Lavandula Augustifolia have a sweet fragrance most suitable for kitchen use. Many specialty food shops carry dried lavender in the spice department. Although we made it for an after-dinner dessert, the early birds in the house discovered that lavender cake is delicious for breakfast the next morning too.
Lavender cake with
Tayberries and whipped cream
(makes 1 loaf, 9x5x3 in.)
1 cup whole milk
1 Tbsp culinary lavender, plus 1 tsp
1 3/4 cup cake flour (plus more for flouring pan)
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups sugar
4 Tbsp butter, at room temperature (plus more for greasing pan)
1/4 cup coconut oil (melted) or olive oil
3 Tbsp whole milk
1/2 tsp culinary lavender
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1-2 pints tayberries (or any type of fresh raspberry or blackberry), sprinkled with a little sugar
Whipped cream (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the loaf pan and dust with flour. Set aside.
Combine 1 cup milk and 1 tablespoon lavender in a small sauce pan. Bring to a simmer over low heat. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Strain milk through a fine strainer. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine cake flour, baking soda and salt. Whisk until well combined. Set aside.
In the bowl of a food processor, process sugar and remaining teaspoon lavender until lavender is finely ground. Add butter and process again until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add eggs, one at a time. With the food processor running, slowly add the oil in a steady stream.
Add flour mix and lavender milk in several alternating batches, starting and ending with the flour. Briefly pulse the food processor with each addition to just combine the mixture. Pour the batter into pan and bake about 40-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into cake comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for several minutes before transferring it to a rack to cool completely.
For the cake glaze, bring milk and lavender to a simmer in a small sauce pan. Remove from heat, cover and let steep for 10 minutes. Strain through a fine strainer. Whisk in sugar and pour over cooled cake.
Serve with a dollop of whipped cream and berries.