At this time of the year many gardens are looking really great. Colour is finally spreading through the borders and gardens seem to be exploding with vibrancy. Interestingly many of the flowers in the border are actually edible. Flowers can be used to make all sorts of delicious treats from lollipos to lemonades and even for savoury cooking. This month I decided to use some edible flowers to decorate a lovely white-iced sponge cake.
I am always drawn to colourful mixes of flowers and the plants I have chosen for this cake decoration are a really vibrant mix of shades. We have deep oranges of calendula petals, striking violas ranging from an almost black purple to light violet shades. The deep maroon red tones and oranges in nasturtiums are offset by the lovely blue of the cornflower and small dots of lilac purple are brought by tiny buds of allium.
Here are the plants we used to decorate the delicious cake
One of my favourite plants to use, particularly in baking, is the pretty little viola. This delicate plant, which is considered a good luck gift, has pretty heart shapes leaves and has many uses in the kitchen and beyond. The plant in its simplest form, can be picked and just added to salads, onto soups or on cakes. There are so many varieties and colours to choose from, making them the perfect finishing touch to any homecooked meal.
The wild growing purple Viola odorata, which is native to Europe and Asia, can even be used to make candied sweets, such as the famous Violettes de Toulouse as well as syrups and delicious purple liquors.
Violas are also very healthy and are used in many medicinal cures. Many contain anti-oxidants and are said to strengthen blood vessels. Viola herbal remedies stimulate the immune system and they are used to make cough syrups, their anti-microbial properties making them useful in the treatment of acne.
Historically the Greeks and Romans treasured violets and made wine out of the flowers. There are some wonderful recipes out there for making your own violet syrups and wine if you fancy getting creative. If you do decide to make the wine then it will be handy to know that the Romans also believed that the flowers could prevent drunkeness and even cure hangovers!
Cornflowers is a common wildflower that is originally native to the Near East but has naturalized in many European, scandinavian and North American regions. The common cornflower, Centaurea cyanus, is an annual plant which can be grown as an ornamental plant in gardens. It is widely used in florist bouquets and is grown in many colours in pastel shades such as pink, white and lavender but also in striking shades such as black.
Cornflowers have been used for centuries to create a deep blue dye and you can even make a homemade food dye out of them as they are edible. The taste of the pretty common cornflower is a very delicate sweet spicy mix that goes well in salads for both taste and visual appeal.
The Centaurea cynus is also used as an addition to some tea blends such as fine Earl grey teas and the petals can be picked and added to salads, the colour creating a tasty visual feast. As a herbal remedy the cornflower is used by herbalists to treat eye ailments.
These flowers originally from South America are very peppery in taste-almost like watercress. Both the leaves and the flowers can be eaten and the unripe seeds can be put in spiced Vinegar to make delicious Nasturtium capers. The flowers of this plant are so pretty and are amazing in salads and stir fries. They have very large amounts of Vitamin C so are incredibly healthy. They are also often used in herbal medicine due to their antiseptic qualities. We have used just the petals of the flower for this cake and they give such a great pop of colour.
The calendula, or marigold, is another edible plant that is very useful in salads. These pretty flowers are native to southwestern Asia, western Europe, Macronesia , and the Mediterranean. The petals of these flowers are perfect on this cake to give a touch of that deep orange. The colour, when extracted from these flowers, has even been used to dye cheese!
The romans and Greeks used to wear the Calendula as crowns and garlands and in India they are considered sacred and are used to decorate the statues of Hindu gods. Calendula are often used in beauty products aswell and you will find the ingredient of c.officinalis, which is healing and detoxing in many creams and potions.
This beautiful limited edition cake is available to order from Shells Surf Cafe in Strandhill throughout the month of July.