The spaces between are filled with a different kind of light, an ethereal magic, a hidden portal. Think of an elderflower bush twinkling mischievously on the edge of a meadow, gatekeeper to the mysterious dark woods that huddle behind it. Think of the tidepools, constantly adapting to the crashing waves or beating sun, teeming with an unbelievable amount of eager life. Think of that space between fully awake and asleep, that twilight filled with lucid dreams and new ideas and the feeling of flight. Perhaps that’s why we find sunsets so particularly bewitching - they, too, are another space between. They are more than the sum of their parts; as the high golden heat turns into the indigo darkness of night, we are treated to a dancing and diverse display of colors. Flashes of the brightest oranges and pinks are highlighted with cotton candy clouds and mercurial waves like liquid metal. The whole world looks gold for a few brief moments, then into the dusky purple twilight we settle. (A recipe inspired by the gorgeousness of the twilight realm is coming soon too, by the way.)
The ancient Celts believed in an “otherworld,” a supernatural realm that existed in the same time and place as our own but in a different dimension. This mysterious land had its own rules and laws, its own communities, its own landscape. It was a representation of the true wild, an idealized land full of magic. It was said that you could see glimpses of it out of the corner of your eye in the right conditions - during the golden hour of sunset, on specific magical days like the Solstice, tucked into flowers or deep underwater. The fabric of reality sometimes folded, showing a glimpse of a space both here and somewhere else. Humans would stumble upon entrances in those spaces between: the caves that were between air and earth, the waves between land and sea, the dream space between awake and asleep. Time moved differently in this otherworldly realm and tales told of men stumbling into that land for 3 days and returning to their own world only to find that 300 years had passed and everyone they’d known and loved was long gone.
If there is one plant that, to me, represents those ethereal spaces-and-times-between, it’s elderflower. The scent of elderflower blossoms is unlike any other smell: floral, uplifting, utterly bewitching. I’ve always thought that if one was looking for an entrance into the fairy realms, an elderflower bush on a midsummer night would be a pretty good place to begin. This cake is a celebration of those spaces between: the glowing sunsets, the strange dreams, and those invitations to the fairy realms. Fluffy elderflower cake is sandwiched between layers of rich tart rhubarb curd, strawberry jam, and elderflower whipped cream, then topped with edible butterflies and lots of fresh fruit and edible flowers. I have it on good authority that this cake can take you places.
This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled to make plenty of extra cordial to mix into other baked goods or top with sparkling water for a delicious summer beverage.
10 elderflower heads (or 1/4 c. dried elderflowers)
2 c. water
2 c. granulated sugar
2 tsp. citric acid powder (15 grams)
1 unwaxed lemon
1 unwaxed orange
3 c. cake flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1 2/3 c. sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 c. softened unsalted butter
3/4 c. yogurt (try lemon for extra yumminess)
1/4 c. elderflower cordial (homemade or store-bought)
1/2 c. fresh elderflowers, removed from stems
2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 large eggs
3 Tbs. lemon juice
Strawberry Rhubarb Curd:
2c finely chopped rhubarb, as pink as possible
1/2 c. chopped strawberries
2 Tbs lemon juice
3 large eggs
3/4 c. unsalted butter
1 tsp. corn starch
1 c. granulated sugar
2 c. heavy whipping cream
1/2 c. powdered sugar
3 - 4 tsp elderflower cordial, syrup, or liquor to taste
1/2 c. strawberry jam, softened on the stove
Fresh elderflowers, wild roses, and other edible flowers
Edible berries (strawberries, gooseberries, golden currants, etc.)
Edible butterflies, optional.
Bamboo skewers, optional
These are easy to make but do take a bit of time and concentration. Note: ingredients marked with an (*) are part of my Amazon affiliate program, which helps to fund the cost of sharing posts like this with you! You can read my full disclosure here.
4 sheets of edible rice paper *
2 Tbs. vodka
big pinch saffron threads
1/4 c. dark chocolate
1/2 tsp. butterfly pea flower powder *, optional
piping bag with very fine metal tip (tip: I use plastic bottles with small metal tips from the ceramic supply store; you can find similar products in most craft stores in the paint section. Just be sure to use a clean bottle that has never been used for paint or glaze.)
Enjoy the magic of early summer and this invitation to the fairy realms!
As always, this recipe is free to you thanks to the contributions of my patrons. These lovely people donate a set amount every month to support my mission of sharing magic with everyone. You can join their ranks on my Patreon page!
Not that I am going to bake, but it looks so lovable that I wish somebody would do it for me.
I gave up baking, when my face broke up with pimples, from all the sugar I was using on the cakes...
But it looks so beautiful, that one could use it as a decoration, if it did not melted away...
Very interesting. Multifunctional recipe.