It’s no news that I enjoy floral flavours all year round, but I’m drawn to them even more so at this time of year – especially when it’s grey and dreich as it has been in Edinburgh of late. I made homemade parma violets a few months ago, and as I had the natural violet flavouring in the cupboard, I knew it wouldn’t be long before it made its way into a cake! One of my favourite weekend haunts back when I lived in London (three years ago now – eek!) was Broadway Market in East London for its variety of savoury and sweet treats, vintage and retro homewares. The Violet Bakery, which has a regular spot there as well as a shop of the same name nearby, was always a highlight. Owner Claire Ptak penned a book filled with treats from the bakery; after sampling her namesake violet cupcakes at the market I had to recreate them at home, balancing the fragrant icing with light chocolate sponge (my go-to recipe from my retro Be-Ro book). To make the cakes, you will need:
100g caster sugar
75g self-raising flour
25g cocoa powder
2 medium eggs.
Heat the oven to 180C/ 350F/ Gas 4. Line a bun tin with paper cases. Cream the margarine and sugar until light and fluffy.
Beat in the eggs, one at a time, adding a little flour with each.
Gently fold in the remaining flour and the cocoa powder.
Half fill the cases with mixture and bake for about 15 minutes until firm, then allow to cool a little in the tins before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the violet icing. You will need:
1/2 tbsp violet syrup (you can buy this or make your own – instructions below)
80g unsalted butter, softened
250 – 350g icing sugar
1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
Purple food colouring gel (optional)
Crystallised violets, to decorate (you can find these online or in specialist cake shops – I got mine in the brilliant Finishing Touches in Edinburgh).
To make your own syrup, you need equal parts water and caster sugar, and a few drops of the natural violet flavouring. Bring slowly to the boil then simmer until the mixture reaches a syrup-y consistency, coating the back of a spoon.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and half the icing sugar until smooth. Gradually add the milk and violet syrup, scraping the bottom of the bowl as you go.
Add the rest of the icing sugar and mix on a low speed for at least three minutes. Add the lemon juice, colouring and more sugar until you get the desired consistency.
Once completely cooled, ice each of the cupcakes. Sprinkle with a few crystallised violets if you can find them, and serve.
Perfect for brightening the greyest of Summery days.
What are you baking this weekend? Do you like floral flavours?