As you can probably tell, I get much of my inspiration by seasons. Right now, New England is transitioning… slowly… into spring. I’m beginning to put away my down feather parka and pull out my Barbour, and trade my leather boots for converse. When I decided to bake a dessert for Easter this year, I wanted to incorporate the light, floral feel of spring. Lavender was the perfect infusion match for the cupcake that I had in mind. I looked at several Pinterest recipes, but couldn’t find one that exactly fit my vision. So, for the first time ever, I (kind of) made my own recipe. These cupcakes are absolutely delicious, light, and have a touch floral. I have to admit – I was nervous to bake with lavender because I didn’t want the cupcakes to taste like soap! But if you love to bake and take small steps to try new things, this is a great spring recipe for any occasion.
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla bean paste
2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 tablespoons dried lavender
2/3 cups milk
1/2 cup butter
8 oz cream cheese
4 cups confectionary sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
2 tablespoons honey
Begin by taking out the eggs, butter, and cream cheese so that they have time to come to room temperature. This is very important and I always forget this step! Warm the milk in a small pot over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and drop lavender buds in the warm milk (Note: I went to three stores to find dried lavender buds, and ended up finding them at a small, local, organic store. I didn’t go to Whole Foods, but that would probably be your best bet). Allow to steep at room temperature for 30 minutes, then, with the lavender buds in the milk, cool in the refrigerator for at least one hour. The longer you steep, the stronger the lavender taste will be. I only allowed my lavender to steep for the minimum time, because this was my first time baking with lavender so I did not know what to expect. After steeping, strain out the lavender buds. Measure the milk to make sure that you still have 2/3 cup. If you lost some, just add some more milk. (The straining is optional and you can leave them in, but I decided I just wanted a faint touch of lavender essence, and I think the flowers in the cupcakes would have freaked out my family!)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, beat butter for a minute by itself. Add sugar, and beat until well incorporated. Add eggs, one at a time. Then add vanilla bean paste (I prefer using this over vanilla extract because it gives a more natural flavor, and has the tiny bean specks that look nice and professional) and 2 tablespoons of honey. You can add as much or little of the honey as you like. The best kind of honey to use is natural, local honey, because it will give your cupcakes an authentic flavor and not be overly sweet. Additionally, if you are able to find honey made from lavender flowers, that would be perfect! Beat into butter mixture until combined.
In a smaller bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking powder. Add this in parts to the butter mixture, alternating with the cold lavender milk. I used an electric mixer on low speed, but you can also just use a spoon or whisk.
After the batter is all combined, now comes the coloring! The best kind of food coloring to use is gel, but unfortunately I couldn’t find any. So, I ended up using about 12 drops of red food coloring and 8 drops of blue to achieve a light lavender color. You can make these as bright and colorful as you like, or leave out food coloring all together., especially if you left in the buds. Please note that the camera caused the batter to look grey, but in real life they were a lovely light purple.
Next, line cupcake tins. I found both of my cupcake liners at Michaels, and I think they are so cute! You can also find similar styles on etsy.com if you prepare ahead of time. For the picket fence liners, I baked the cupcakes in regular white liners then placed them in the picket fence liners once cooled. For the paper cups, I placed these on a cookie tray and filled them up directly with the batter. This recipe allowed for 9 regular cupcakes plus 9 cupcakes in the floral cups. The cups held much more batter than the regular sized cupcakes. The regular cupcakes baked for about 16 minutes, and the larger cupcakes baked for about 22 minutes. Check regularly with a toothpick, and try not to over bake because these can quickly become dry if left in the oven for too long!
Once baked, remove from trays to cool completely. For the icing, begin by beating room temperature butter with an electric mixer for about a minute. Add room temperature cream cheese and beat until combined. Add honey and vanilla bean paste. One cup at a time, add confectionary sugar. That is it! I piped these onto the cooled cupcakes with a pastry bag and tip, but just using a knife would look nice and elegant as well. Optionally, drizzle honey on top and sprinkle with lavender buds. Voila, you have beautiful, easy, and sophisticated cupcakes!