There's something about London that emulsifies, for me, fashion and food. As Henry James wrote of Isabel Archer, "She would be what she appeared, and she would appear what she was." A form that follows its function: a cupcake that tastes as good as it looks. And this is a mean yellow sponge—laced with the delicate whir of lavender and lemon, a duvet of royal icing. 👑
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons dried lavender
1 stick butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 lemon, zested and juiced
3/4 cup self-rising flour
3 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon dried lavender
2 fresh, organic egg whites
3 cups confectioners' sugar
5 drops red food coloring, optional
5 drops blue food coloring, optional
In a food processor or spice grinder, break up the sugar and lavender until fine. Cream the butter with this lavender sugar, either with a fork or in a stand mixer. When pale yellow and fluffy, add the eggs, one at a time until each is incorporated. Toss in the vanilla, salt, and lemon zest. Then, slowly add the self-rising flour, mixing until everything just coheres. Spoon (or ice cream scoop) into a lined cupcake tin. Bake at 400 degrees F for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Set aside to cool completely.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring the juice of that zested lemon and the teaspoon of dried lavender to a quick simmer, then turn off the heat. Let steep for 5 minutes, strain, and transfer to the fridge to cool.
In a clean stand mixer or with an electric mixer (or with the fervor of a strong whisk in hand), whip up the egg whites and salt until frothy. Add the confectioner's sugar, lavender–lemon juice, and red and blue food colorings, whisking vigorously until lighter and increased in volume. Spoon over the cooled cupcakes and watch as it falls over the edges in suspended animation. Edible flowers, though maximally fussy, provide a warm sense of self-adulation.