The season of stonefruits started in Cyprus, a mark for the start of summer! I personally love all stone fruits; apricots, plums, peaches, nectarines… They are a source of antioxidants, the kids adore them and their full sweet taste and balanced acidity make them perfect for baking and cooking desserts.
In Cyprus they are grown in abundance. Our local grocery store stacks full crates of them as soon as you enter the door. Even the petrol station in our village sells them by the bag, for a few euros only, brought by locals in their open pick-up trucks.
Last week, we had 20 journalists over to see our newly renovated winery. After an abundant lunch of local Cypriot food and wine, we offered them a barrel sample taste of our 2011 Commandaria. I had to think of a cake, preferably seasonal, that would go nicely with the sweet dessert wine. I immediately thought of my ‘always-a-winner-recipe’, which I baked many times for the winery team during the harvest. The Apricot Walnut Lavender Cake. The cake is perfectly combined with a sweet wine or just very tasty with a cup of coffee or tea.
All ingredients are readily available in Cyprus, and you can even find most of them from local producers.
185g unsalted butter, diced and at room temperature
2 tbsp walnut oil
220g caster sugar
120g ground almonds
4 medium eggs, beaten
120g ground walnuts
90g plain flour
½ tsp vanilla extract
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1½ tsp picked lavender flowers, fresh or dry
600g (gross) apricots, halved and stones removed
For the icing
50g icing sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
Heat the oven to 170C/335F/gas mark 3. Put the butter, oil, sugar and almonds in the bowl of a mixer and beat on a medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs bit by bit, making sure each addition is well incorporated before beginning the next, then fold in the walnuts, flour, vanilla, lemon zest, a teaspoon of lavender flowers and an eighth of a teaspoon of salt.
Line the base and sides of a 23cm cake tin with greaseproof paper. Pour in the cake mix and use a palette knife to level it out. Arrange the apricot halves skin side down and slightly overlapping all over the top of the cake, taking them right to the edge.
Bake for 70-80 minutes – cover with foil if the top starts to brown too much; also, note that when you insert a skewer to test for doneness, it will come out a little sticky because of all the moisture in the apricots.
While the cake is baking, whisk together the icing sugar and lemon juice until you have a light, pourable icing (adjust the amount of sugar or juice slightly, to suit your tastes). As soon as the cake is cooked, remove from the oven and brush the icing all over the top. Sprinkle over the remaining lavender flowers and set aside to cool.
Recipe from: Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi
A Winemaker’s Wife