Almond-based cakes are my all time favourite, perfect as a grown-up pudding with creme fraiche, or for afternoon tea with friends, or even as an indulgent solitary breakfast in the garden. I love the dense, damp eggy-ness you get with almonds and for the baker they are so much more forgiving than the elusive ‘light-as-air’ Victoria sponge, a cake I still feel I have yet to to master.
I am the first to admit that the initial motivation for baking this cake was an aesthetic one, being desperate to capture the gorgeousness of the lavender flowers into something edible. And because they grow in a loose hedge under the peach tree it made sense to me to pair them together in a rich and fragrant cake. As it turned out the flowers, whilst imbibing the syrup with a lovely, almost gingery note, added little in the looks department, darkening deeply on cooking. So the answer was to strain the syrup and sprinkle over a few fresh vibrant coloured flowers at the end. You, and the bees that enjoy them so much, may feel this is a completely unnecessary step, but for me the enjoyment of eating starts simply with the way my food looks.
for the lavender syrup:
180g caster sugar
20g fresh lavender flowers, about 4 tablespoons (pick tight deeply coloured buds)
100ml cold water
for the cake:
225g unsalted butter
225g caster sugar
150g ground almonds
100g plain flower
1 tsp baking powder
500g peach flesh - about 5 large peaches - cut to bite sized pieces
a few extra lavender flowers to garnish (optional)
23-25cm spring-form tin, lined on the base and greased around the sides
Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas 5.
Make the syrup by bringing all the ingredients to the boil in a small heavy based saucepan. Simmer for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and allow to infuse whilst you get on with the cake.
Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. The easiest way to do this is in a food mixer, but a wooden spoon and plenty of elbow grease will do the job just as well for the more energetic.
Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each addition. Tip in the almonds, flour and baking powder and fold together until well combined. Finally fold the peach flesh gently through the cake batter. Pour into the prepared cake tin and bake for about 45-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Remove the cake from the oven and pour over the strained syrup, allowing it to cool in the tin a little before you try to remove it. Decorate with a few fresh lavender flowers scattered over the top, which your guests can eat, or simply admire before discretely picking off…...