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Lavender and Vanilla Bean Cake

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It’s here! It’s here! Spring is here!

Today is officially the first day of spring. We’re finally on the edge of warmer months and blooming flowers and baby chicks and bunny rabbits oh my! Over the weekend I saw absolutely gorgeous flowers at the Farmer’s Market while picking up the dried lavender for this cake, and knew a few bouquets were coming home with me.

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I’ve been eyeing this Vanilla Bean Cake from Kristin at Pastry Affair for a while. It’s been perched among the many other desserts that fill my Pinterest board, just waiting to be the best of friends. But the problem is this: chocolate always wins.

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When I ask someone what their favorite cake flavor is, 9 times out of 10 it’s chocolate. The other 10% say something along the lines of: “I don’t really have a favorite… But I like chocolate!”

This is what I mean, no one ever asks for a vanilla cake–even though almost every cake I’ve ever made usually calls for vanilla extract. Oh, the irony.

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Vanilla is so underrated. It’s like the backup dancer of flavors. Like, yes Beyoncé is so amazing she might not even be human, but you also gotta give those girls in the back some love for dancing their hearts out! Vanilla is such a staple flavor when it comes to baking and goes well with almost everything. Now don’t get me wrong, if you handed me a piece of chocolate, I’d eat it immediately and crave more ASAP. To be fair, chocolate is also delicious and goes well with a whole bunch of things too. But vanilla also deserves a little spotlight action every once in a while!

Today is Vanilla’s turn to take the cake!
(Pun intended)
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Can I also take a moment to say that I love lavender. First of all, the color is one of the prettiest on the planet. I’ve secretly wanted to dye my hair that gorgeous light pastel purple color… but let’s be real–my Mom would surely have a heart attack and all my hair might fall out from the bleaching. But besides the color, the smell is equally as gorgeous (Can smells be gorgeous? Is this an incorrect use of adjectives?) !!! Lavender also has great health benefits. The essential oil can be used as a bug repellant, sleep aid, and can even help with acne. Gosh, what can’t lavender do!

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This cake is simple. It’s not an immediate explosion of flavors, but a cake with soft and delicate notes, which sit on the tip of your tongue and beg you for another bite. It’s slightly denser than a typical cake made with cake flour, but that texture helps to bring a better base to such light flavors of lavender and vanilla. Many times, I’ve found the need to bake with a big and bold combination of flavors, but sometimes it’s good to keep things nice and simple. Sometimes, less can most definitely be more.

Lavender and Vanilla Bean Cake

Adapted from Kristin @ Pastry Affair
*This recipe makes two 9-inch cakes, but can also fit into two 6-inch cake pans with a bit of leftover batter

For the cake:
4 tsp dried culinary lavender
1 1/2 cups (350 ml) whole milk
2 2/3 cups (300 grams) cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
6 tbsp (85 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups (280 grams) granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1/3 cup (75 grams) vegetable oil
1 tbsp vanilla extract

1. Add the milk to a saucepan and bring to a boil.
2. In the meantime, use a mortar and pestle or spice grinder to crush the lavender and release its oils.
3. After the milk has just started to boil, stir in the crushed vanilla. Cover the saucepan with a lid and remove from the heat to steep for 30 minutes.
4. Preheat your oven to 350F. Grease two baking pans and dust lightly with flour.
5. In a bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
6. In another mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the eggs one at a time, making sure to beat well after each addition. Beat in the vegetable oil and vanilla extract, then slowly add in the dry ingredients to the wet mixture.
7. Making sure the lavender milk has cooled, strain the lavender out with a sieve and add the milk to the batter. Mix together until well combined and there are no lumps.
8. Split the batter evenly into the two baking pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes if using 6-inch pans, or 35-40 minutes for 9-inch pans. When the cakes are done, remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.

For the frosting:
1 cup (115 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups (312 grams) powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp milk

1. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until light and fluffy (about 1 minute).
2. Add in half of the powdered sugar. Starting on a low speed and increasing to high, beat until the butter and powdered sugar are well combined and have turned a white color (2-3 minutes). Repeat with the second half of the powdered sugar.
3. Add in the vanilla bean paste, salt, and milk. Beat again for another minute. If the frosting is too wet add more powdered sugar. If it is too dry, add a little more milk.

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  • What a pretty cake! Lavender is a terrific dessert flavor, I’ll bet it’s awesome in this springy cake 🙂

    • It definitely is, June! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  • That looks absolutely beautiful! I have cake craving now 🙂

  • Oh my GOD this is just SO beautiful.

  • Beautiful Courtney this cake looks so special and your photos are wonderful. Also I love how you compare vanilla to Beyonces backing dancers!

    • Haha! Thanks, Rebecca! Glad you liked that reference. Thank you for sharing this post on Twitter as well 🙂

  • What a totally gorgeous cake! I’m a total chocoholic but I agree, vanilla cakes are delicious too and sometimes a simple cake is perfect.

    • Yay, Maya! This cake is quite the vanilla lover’s cup of tea 🙂

  • WOAH the cake + flowers all look so lovely together! thank goodness spring is in the air xx

    • Hi Akina, thanks for stopping by!! So glad spring is finally here!

  • That cake looks so elegant! And I love the lavender and vanilla bean flavors, that sounds like it would taste SO amazing together!! Pinned 🙂

    • Hi Christina! The two flavors really work well together, especially since they’re both so light neither feels like it’s overpowering the other 🙂