The stories of my life on a little island in the middle of the Mediterranean sea ... and my occasional adventures beyond these shores.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Kitchen tales: Almond lavender cake

While Christmas is a time when I invariably indulge in my love for chocolate when searching for the perfect dessert, at Easter I usually give chocolate a miss and try to make something lighter. Something which is more in keeping with the pastel colours that are generally associated with this special time of year. So when I came across a recipe for Almond Lavender Cake on Folk Magazine's Instagram feed quite a few months ago, I knew that this would be the cake I would be making for Easter dessert.

Lavender (8)

My husband, who has a much more adventurous palate than I do, had been urging me to cook with lavender ever since he had eaten lavender ice-cream at Margo's restaurant. It took me a while to get used to the idea that lavender isn't only used in body lotions and other random potions and that it is actually edible. But once my brain had accepted the fact, I was determined to give lavender a try.

This almond lavender  cake is quite easy to  make and , although it took me a bit longer than the 25 minutes stipulated in the recipe (it took me around 40 minutes), the end result was worth it. This cake is moist and fluffy, with just a hint of lavender - so it doesn't taste like you're eating your body lotion. Most of the lavender flavour is actually concentrated in the drizzle, so although you might be tempted to decrease the calorie count by omitting it, I would not advise it since you will lose some of the cake's magic.

Lavender (10)

Here's the recipe, reproduced entirely from Folk Magazine's blog:

Almond Lavender Cake Recipe (serves 12)

For the cake:

  • 2 cups sugar, divided*
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds (or whole ones, you have to grind them in the food processor anyway)
  • 1 tablespoon dried lavender flowers
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
  • 1/4 cup half and half cream
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For the drizzle:

  • 4 teaspoons boiling water
  • 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried lavender flowers
  • additional dried lavender flowers, optional


  1. Grease a 10-in. fluted tube pan and sprinkle with sugar*; set aside.
  2. Place 1/2 cup sugar, almonds and 1 tablespoon lavender in a food processor; cover and process until finely ground.
  3. In a large bowl, cream butter and remaining sugar until light and fluffy; beat in almond mixture until combined.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.
  5. In a small bowl, combine sour cream and half-and-half.
  6. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; add to the creamed  mixture alternately with sour cream mixture, beating well after each addition.
  7. Pour into prepared pan. Bake at 350° for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the drizzle:

  1. In a small bowl, combine the boiling water and 1 teaspoon lavender. Cover and steep for 5 minutes. Strain, discarding lavender.
  2. In another small bowl, combine confectioners' sugar and enough infused water to achieve desired consistency; drizzle over cake.
  3. Garnish with additional lavender if desired.


I am not sure why the recipe requires the pan to be sprinkled with sugar. It did not seem to add any value to the cake itself and the sugar made it very hard for me to remove the cake from the fluted pan. Next time I make this, I will either not use a fluted pan or I will omit the sprinkled sugar and add it to the rest of the cake batter. I think removing the cake from the pan might work better if the pan is sprinkled with flour after it is greased. Alternatively, I may have waited too long to remove the cake from the pan. Anyway, I just wanted to give you a head's up that you may encounter some issues removing the cake from the pan.

Almond lavender cake (4)

I do hope that you will try this delicious lavender cake recipe. I found others out there and next time I might try a different one. This recipe is definitely a keeper, which is why I have pinned it to one of  my Pinterest boards.

With regards to the lavender, I am sure that most of you will have no trouble finding it. I would have encountered a bit of a problem finding it here but we had purchased some from World Market  the last time we were in the US.To remedy that, we now have three different varieties of lavender growing in pots in our little yard. I simply adore it's unique scent. One of the plants is flowering right now and I hope we will be able to dry the flowers to use in recipes and in other things such as body scrubs or simply in sachets to fragrance closets and drawers.

Lavender (9)

Have you ever cooked with lavender? If you have any special recipes using this fragrant herb, please share them as I would love to give them a try.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

The lost art of letter writing

I was rummaging through one of my rarely-used craft drawers the other day and came across an old, dog-eared cardboard file. I smiled as I lifted it out of the drawer because I had not forgotten what was in it: notepaper. But it wasn't just any notepaper. Back when I was in school, it was the 'in' thing to do to buy a pad of decorated notepaper and then exchange sheets with friends. Some designs, like Holly Hobbie and Betsey Clark, were especially coveted and what was even more special about these notepapers is that we actually used them. To write letters. To real people. Isn't it amazing how things change? Apart from Christmas cards and the occasional 'thank you' card, I cannot remember the last time I wrote a letter to anyone. It is sad that we are constantly in contact via social media but not really connected.

Maybe it was fate or simply just one of those coincidences, but shortly after I discovered my old notepaper I stumbled across two wonderful blogs dedicated to snail-mail: Naomi Loves by Naomi Bulger and Letters of Note by Shaun Usher. Naomi Bulger, the author of Naomi Loves, creates the prettiest  mail art and sends it to anyone who stops by her blog and requests a letter. Her husband recently gifted her 1000 vintage postcards and she has pledged to send one to any reader who would like to receive one. I thought it was a splendid idea and signed up to The Thousand Postcard Project.

Just a couple of weeks after discovering Naomi Loves, I somehow ended up on Letters of Note where author Shaun Usher is collecting and reproducing letters written by prominent people from the 16th century to the present day. I have to admit that I was immediately hooked. The beautiful sentiments expressed in some of these letters made me wish that people are still writing to each other in such an eloquent and, often heartfelt, way. I am sharing extracts from some of my favourites (and there were so many beautiful ones that it was really, really hard to narrow them down to so few) with you.


From Roald Dahl to a seven-year old fan who sent him a painting of one of her dreams contained in a bottle:

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From Johnny Cash to his beloved June:

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From Ludwig van Beethoven to a woman known only as his Immortal Beloved:

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From Henry Miller to Anais Nin shortly after the start of their affair in 1932:

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From Leonard Cohen to his  muse Marianne Ihlen who was dying of leukemia, written just a few months before his own death:

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What do you think? Now I will admit that we don't all have the gift of flowery prose and some of us will cringe at the thought of expressing ourselves so openly and with so much passion, but don't you wish we could, at least, revive the art of letter writing?

So I wanted to ask whether any of you would be interested in receiving a letter or a note or even just a postcard from me. I would be extremely happy to send out some snail-mail and would be delighted if you would reciprocate. So I am channeling Naomi and also Jeanne (from Collage of Life) and taking the plunge. If you would like to receive anything from me, drop me an email (technology does have its uses) at: stories(dot)scribbles(at)gmail(dot)com

Let's see whether we can slowly bring back this beautiful form of communication that has existed for hundreds of years and that, in just a couple of decades, has almost completely died out.


If you feel inclined to find a pan-pal, here are some useful links:


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