For our ancestors the blossom of the elder tree has been a magical powerful symbol of the change of season.
To celebrate the summer elderflower harvest when Britain’s hedgerows are heavy with frothy white blossoms, leading soft drinks producer Belvoir Fruit Farms has teamed up with celebrity cook Sophie Conran to develop some magical elderflower cordial children’s recipes, and with the help of the Elder Fairy, hopes to encourage little chefs to roll up their sleeves and do some baking.
Inspired by a little help from the Elder Fairy and Belvoir’s elderflower cordial, Sophie Conran has conjured up two easy-to-make recipes for elderflower fairy cakes and spell binding wand biscuits which are just perfect for introducing children to the magic of cooking.
Sophie explains: “Belvoir’s elderflower cordial is a delicious summer drink but I love using it as a cooking ingredient too. It adds a sweet, subtle floral flavour that’s irresistible. It’s really important to encourage our children to cook and baking is such an easy introduction for them. In the past my kids and I have made thousands of cakes together. It is a lovely rainy afternoon past-time and they are made in moments. Licking the bowl, spoon and whisks is a sticky delight. Children love baking, but keep a close eye on them. Otherwise you’ll find your kitchen redecorated in a sticky, eggy mess.”
Belvoir was the first UK company to recognise the commercial potential of elderflower cordial, a drink as quintessentially English as vicars’ tea parties and village fetes, and this summer celebrates its 30th anniversary producing the ‘original’ elderflower cordial. Today it is a multi million pound brand but the recipe remains the same as the one that MD Pev Manners used to make as a young boy with his mother and sisters in the family kitchen. Key to their success has been the decision to only use natural ingredients with no artificial colourings or preservatives.
To mark their anniversary and the six week annual elderflower harvest, Belvoir will stage the first ever Elderflower Festival, to be held at Belvoir Cricket Club in Knipton, Lincolnshire, on 13 July. Open to everyone, this fun-filled, family event will also play host to Frances Quinn, BBC Great British Bake-Off Winner, who happens to be a local. She’ll not only do a cookery demo but will judge the cake baking competition too.
So, if your youngsters are interested in entering or simply want to give cooking a go, just grit your teeth, prepare for chaos and a coating of flour but remember ‘you’re doing it for the kids’ and let them bake!
Sophie Conran’s Elderflower Fairy Cakes for Belvoir (recipe reproduced courtesy of Belvoir Fruit Farms)
“These fairy cakes are basically quite a simple sponge mixture”, says Sophie. “As fairy cakes use the same ingredients as any sponge cake, most cake recipes can be used to make fairy cakes. You can try adding other things to the mixture, like spices, raisins, cocoa powder, broken up pieces of chocolate, mashed banana or even grated carrot to make mini carrots cakes.”
Makes 8 - 10 Fairy Cakes
100g butter, softened
100g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 200C/ 180C for a fan oven
It is so simple to make these fairy cakes:
Put the butter and sugar in a bowl and use a wooden spoon to beat together until pale, light and fluffy.
Beat the eggs in a jug then gradually add to the butter mixture, beating well between additions.
Sift over the flour and baking powder then gently fold in along with the vanilla extract.
(If all that mixing by hand looks a bit too much like hard work simply put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix with a hand-held blender although you may need to do this bit if you have very young children)
Line a cupcake tin with paper cake cases and half fill each case with the cake mixture.
Bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until the cakes have risen and look golden. Cool on a rack then decorate.
Decorating your fairy cakes
“Frosting and decorations are defining characteristics of a fairy cake. There are different ways of icing your fairy cakes but I like to ice them with either simple sugar icing, or butter icing better still try this delicious elderflower caramel icing which is also great on ice cream or pancakes”, says Sophie.
For the caramel
100g caster sugar
25g unsalted butter
25ml Belvoir elderflower cordial
100ml double cream
Heat the sugar, butter and a tablespoon of water in a small pan on a medium/high heat. Stir a little until it starts to brown. Stir in the double cream and allow to bubble for another 5 minutes or until all the sugar has dissolved and you have a smooth sauce. Lastly, add the cordial and stir through. Keep warm until needed.
The next recipe would appeal to Ben and Holly's Little Kingdom's fans. My younger son loves to watch their antics, and enjoys pretending to be Ben Elf, King Thistle or even Big Bad Barry.
Sophie Conran’s Elderflower Wand Biscuits for Belvoir (recipe is reproduced courtesy of Belvoir Fruit Farms)
This makes roughly 40 biscuits, depending on the size. We only used half of the mixture and froze the other half to use on another occasion.
400g Plain Flour
150g Caster Sugar
150g Butter (Cubed)
2 tbsp Golden Syrup
100ml Elderflower cordial
Pre heat the oven to 220°C.
Sift the flour into a bowl and add the cubed butter. Use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour until it looks like breadcrumbs.
Heat the elderflower cordial and golden syrup in a small pan. Pour into the flour and butter mixture and add the sugar.
Continue to mix all the ingredients together with your hands until it comes together in a ball.
Remove and divide into two balls and place on a floured surface.
Butter a large baking tray.
Roll out the first ball of cookie dough and using a cookie cutter of your choice cut into shapes.
Wrap the second ball in cling film and freeze.
Place on the baking tray and cook for 8 minutes. Cool on a rack before decorating.
4 heaped tbsp icing sugar
2 tbsp elderflower cordial
Mix the ingredients together in a bowl. Feel free to add a little colouring, depending on how you plan to decorate your biscuits.
Sophie says: “Decorate your biscuits to your heart’s content! I like edible glitter, candied lemon, edible flowers and jelly tots. Cookies are great to decorate with children, just fill bowls with lots of different things to decorate with and have fun!”
To coincide with the elderflower season, Belvoir Fruit Farms have kindly offered a lovely baking set as a giveaway for my blog readers.
One of my lucky blog readers will receive a 20-piece baking set including a rolling pin, oven gloves, moulds, baking tins, cookie cutters, a wooden chopping board, measuring spoons, wooden utensils, a jug and a cake slice.