Outdoor activities with a healthy dose of curiosity, brought to you by Laure Latham
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When the heavenly scent of elderflowers fills countryside trails in late spring, I go hiking with my family and pack a small plastic bag and kitchen gloves along for foraging. You just never know when you are going to stumble upon wild mint, sea samphire ou fresh nettles. However, fresh elderflowers are the real prize when the sun shines and makes they are just perfect for tea time. Back from a coastal hike last Sunday, I saved a bunch of blossoms to create this elderflower pinenut cake recipe. It’s gluten-free too, with a pleasant crunch on the outside and a texture that calls for a spoonful of blackcurrant jam at tea time or breakfast.
As with all foraging, I urge you not to deplete the trees you’ll be picking from as you need to leave enough for the birds–and for elderberries to ripen.
This was our hike, a walk along the coastal bluffs of Sussex with open English Channel views most of the way and brilliantly green vegetation. It was the first day of sunshine after a miserably cold and dreary week and honestly felt like summer. My girls made daisy chains along the way and took tons of pictures of the sea. Had we had more time, we would have ended with our feet in the water by the chalk cliffs, for sure. Elderflower bushes dotted the landscape, sometimes lining the trail, sometimes spread over open hillsides, usually keeping company to glorious stinging nettles. As you can guess, I was very excited to find so many blossoming elder trees along our trails.
This is what elderflowers look like, if you’ve never seen them. They smell of lemon and honey and sometimes (when a bit “old”) of cat pee. It’s the pollen that makes them so fragrant. At home, we’ve made elderflower cordial and used it in lemonades but we hadn’t made a cake out of them yet.
I harvested only fully blossomed flowers and only a cluster or two per tree. To get rid of any undesirables and insects, I shook every cluster before bagging it. On our train ride home, my bag smelled wonderful and I couldn’t wait to make this cake.
As you will see, my recipe is quite unique in that I use fresh elderflowers on the stem directly in the cake, instead of making a cordial first which might make it quite sweet. It’s also like eating your greens but not quite. I hope that you will enjoy it and raise a cup of tea or sparkling water to the quintessential flower of early British summers!