30 May 2011

When you are king, dilly dilly

This all started with rose cream. One of my bezzie pals mailed to say that she'd celebrated her birthday with petit choux à la rose and I was instantly enchanted: what more romantic and feminine way to indulge your special day, a fete for the most fabulous femme?!
So anyway, that wee gem of a thought wormed its way into the recesses of my brain, and then a few days later I found myself in the midst of  a flower festival at my local botanical gardens...

Peony sugar there was not, but I found some rose sugar made with rose petals and strawberries and that sent me hankering after that other most quintessential of English aromas: lavender. 

The best place for lavender in Japan is Furano (they make pretty good wine by all accounts, too), but that's in Hokkaido and much as I yearn to visit the northern isle that isn't going to happen any time soon, so I settled for the "Herb Island" on the Chiba peninsula.

Chiba is one of the places that was hit by our recent earthquake/tsunami; it's also a place that's way up on the list of principal candidates for the next big one and people are still very lairy, though we used the half tunnel/half bridge that straddles Tokyo Bay without too much forethought or anxiety, even over the tolls, which are steep. 
Anyway the roads were blissfully quiet, despite the fact that we were there on an absolutely glorious day in the middle of May and I found my lavender, and had a divine lunch made from produce harvested exclusively from the fields surrounding us, and that led to this:
What can I say? It seemed like a good idea at the time :)

It's an unusual (understatement?!) combination, but it works, and I for one am enamoured. The lavender sugar I made a few days ahead of time using 1 teaspoon of 'tea' lavender to 300g of raw sugar. That ratio seems to be about right, but feel free to adjust it to your own personal taste - it's quite pungent at this level.

Lavender and Zucchini Cupcakes

2 large eggs
150g lavender sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract 
1/4 tsp salt
220g zucchini, grated
100g all-purpose flour
120g ground almonds
2 tsp baking powder
140g icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 180C (gas mark 4). Line a 12-hole muffin tray with paper cases. 
Using electric beaters, whisk the eggs, lavender sugar, vanilla extract and salt in a bowl for 4-5 minutes until doubled in size.
Add the grated zucchini, flour, ground almonds and baking powder and whisk to combine.
Divide the mixture between the paper cases and bake for 2o minutes.
Meanwhile, make the icing. Stir 2 tbsp boiling water, 1 tsp at a time, into the icing sugar, mixing well between each addition. Set aside until the cakes are ready to ice. 
Cool the cakes on a wire rack, then spoon over the icing and sprinkle with lavender.

All I can say is: knickers.

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