Lacy elderflower is springing forth from hedgerows in large frothy clusters. Their bursting into bloom seems to herald the arrival of summer (when the Irish weather would appear to have forgotten its designated season). The tiny, creamy-white blossoms grow in somewhat sturdy flattened framework — a suitably structured upbringing for a delicate flower. The heady fragrance runs rampant through the countryside, as they are very prolific growers. But do not mistake their vigour for dependability — they won’t stick around for long. The season is short, usually June to July, so time is of the essence — go raid those blooms! A little Bloomsday bloom raiding is good for the spirit, and fun to say.
It has long been customary in Ireland to use the flowers and shiny black berries of elder to make summer drinks; the flowers must be infused for some time in order to coax out delicate flavours. The process is easy, however, and certainly worth it — captured seasonal flavours live long in the mind, marinated by time. To make this easy cake I made a small amount of syrup, which I infused for about 5-6 hours, but ideally you should leave it overnight (or longer) for the floral elder perfume to really shine through.
Elderflower has an affinity with tart citrus, so I decided to add yet more tartness in the form of my all-time favourite — rhubarb. Rhubarb is also in season right now, so it makes for a natural cake partner. You can also make this cake in the absence of elderflower, and I’m sure it will be lovely, if missing that ethereal je ne sais quoi.
This cake is grain-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, and paleo and diabetic-friendly.
For the cake
2 large stalks of rhubarb, cut into thin strips — enough to layer the top of your loaf tin diagonally
4 medium free-range eggs
100g ground almonds
40g coconut flour
100g erythritol + approx 10 drops liquid stevia (or sweeteners of choice)
30g coconut oil
¼ tsp cardamom (optional)
2 tsp vanilla extract or bean paste
¼ tsp salt
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice)
½ tsp baking soda
For the syrup
10 clusters of elderflowers
Juice and zest of 2 lemons
Sweetener of choice (I used erythritol)
1 tbsp whiskey (optional)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Elderflower & citrus syrup (make ahead — ideally the day before)
1. Remove any insects from the elderflowers, and place them in a bowl.
2. Add the lemon zest, juice, sweetener, whiskey, and vanilla to a saucepan and add 1 cup of water. Bring to the boil, then allow to simmer down gently for about 10 minutes.
3. Pour the mixture over the elderflowers. Cover and leave for a few hours/overnight to infuse. Strain.
Rhubarb cake (makes 6-7 servings)
1. Preheat oven to 180C and line a loaf pan with parchment paper.
2. Add all wet ingredients to food processor, and then add in dry.
3. Scoop mixture into cake pan, and then line with the rhubarb, diagonally.
4. Pour elderflower syrup over the rhubarb, before drizzling with honey (optional).
5. Bake for approximately 35 minutes, or until an inserted knife comes out clean.