lilac-iced rhubarb and tarragon cake

With all the spring lilacs, the city becomes quite nice. They line the boulevards and arch over the sidewalks, bushy-tailed with flowers. You see them a lot in the “older” neighbourhoods (well, for where I live anyways), where the houses look like they’ve been constructed in the 50s and 60s (i.e. mostly charming but inelegant bungalows).I grew up with a lilac bush in the front yard. Nothing really grew there, apart from some overenthusiastic bushes (the lilac was not one of them), grass and snarky dandelions, because I swear, the soil was not soil, but was some kind of dusty concrete in disguise. Are yards always that terrible?

The fact that the lilac bush could grow (and even flowered! …once every few years if we were lucky) is a testament to how lilacs are quite easy to care for and rewarding with bushels of small fragrant purple flowers. It’s probably why all the old lilacs in the inner city neighbourhoods have survived until now.

The cake itself (because why are we really here? Not horticulture, but cake, that is why) is bright and patchwork with rhubarb. Rhubarb was another thing we used to try to grow in the yard, a plant that remained stubbornly small but had the sweetest reddest stalks. I became a bit enamoured with the patchiness and dripping lilac glaze. It resulted in numerous shots of different slices at different angles. Because, as you know, you have to cover all the permutations.

The cake came out very moist. With too much rhubarb, I think the cake could veer into the too moist range, but this amount was alright. Mixing in pieces of rhubarb is much better than using compote (which I did in a cake just prior to this, though being posted out of chronology) as the rhubarb has enough time to cook just fine, and remains in small tender pieces. It makes the inside of the cake so colourful and didn’t all sink to the bottom either!

Not much lilac flavour came out in the icing. The steeped lilac tea is very fragrant and potent, but it was tempered by the fairly strong starchy taste of the powdered sugar. I think it would have also helped to steep the lilac for longer–say 15 to 20 minutes instead of 5 or 10 or so that I steeped for.

It does help having the lilac flowers on top though–they provide the fragrance!

The tarragon flavour came out very well–herby and liquorice, which seemed to work quite well with the rhubarb and floral notes of the lilac.

lilac-iced tarragon and rhubarb cake


Adapted from the tosca cake in Beatrice Ojakangas’s Great Scandinavian Baking Book...sort of an odd choice for a cake base, but I’ve made the Tosca cake before and was looking for the butter enriched sponge type…and the baking powder ensures the cake rises even when I fold out all the air.

65 g granulated sugar

2 large sprigs of tarragon (a good tbsp of leaves)

2 large eggs

50 g spelt flour

60 g all purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

pinch salt

60 g butter, melted and cooled

2 tbsp milk

3 stalks of rhubarb, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter a 7″/18-cm springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Chop the tarragon leaves finely and rub into the sugar. Whisk the eggs and the sugar until the eggs have become voluminous, very fluffy and white, and hold their shape. It took a little while longer than usual–perhaps excess liquid from the tarragon, so be sure to dry the herbs thoroughly.

Whisk together the dry ingredients and fold into the eggs. Mix together the milk and melted butter and fold in. Lastly, fold in the chopped rhubarb. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake until an inserted skewer is removed clean, around 30-35 minutes.


1/4 c lilac flowers, plus additional to garnish the cake

1/4 c water

110 g icing sugar

Boil the water and pour over the lilac flowers. Allow to steep around 15 minutes.

Add the lilac water as needed to the icing sugar to produce a pourable but thick glaze.

Pour over the cooled cake, spreading a bit if needed to cover the top surface. Sprinkle with lilac flowers and allow the glaze to set.


17 thoughts on “lilac-iced rhubarb and tarragon cake

  1. Truly, this is so gorgeous. This is the stuff I imagine in my head that I’ll be making one day; photo style and all. You’re just… so inspirational!!

    Beautiful beautiful beautiful stuff. I have to see if I can find edible flowers anywhere to make something as cute and as pretty as this!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awwawawww!! Thank you so much for such a sweet response!! 🙂 🙂
      I love having edible flowers around–they make everything better with little effort 🙂 (though in that big vase of lilacs? SO MANY little bugs kept jumping out. One fell on its back, which was sort of cute despite my squeamishness). Johnny jump ups/violas are great–they grow like a weed, and are a bit of weed, and will flower all through the summer. I like calendulas too (so many little bugs in those too though, I promise). I look forwards to reading about your edible flower adventures! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Awww Oh my god you’re like a cute perfect gardener baker lady!! 😘 you’re so adorable for growing your own flowers!!

        I’m no green thumb even though I’m the child of a man who grew up on a farm! My grandparents on both sides were farmers! And yet, everything I touch dies 😅

        I’ll just have to buy edible flowers l! I can’t find them at most grocery stories so I think I have to go to Whole Foods. 🤔

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Uwah, this comment made my day!! I am duly impressed by your farming background. I think I have some (distant) farmer background as well…if only it was genetic! As for me, the only reason my plants survive is due to my very hands-off approach to gardening… 🙂 Good luck with finding some edible flowers!!


  2. Beautiful cake, and lilacs are just about the most heavenly of flowers, the smell is intoxicating it’s so beautiful. My neighbor has a lilac tree that blooms every year and I can smell it when I come out my front door. I love your cake. I love rhubarb and the lilac blossoms scattered beautifully on top. Just lovely!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Suzanne!! So true, I love how fragrant lilacs are! (I even eventually set the vase of lilacs outside, the room was becoming as potent as a florist’s 🙂 ). I only wish that I was able to translate more of that into the cake itself!
      I tried another lilac experiment recently, with lilac sugar, but the fragrance didn’t survive baking. It may be that the lilacs are just best enjoyed fresh and in the midst of spring 🙂


    1. Thank you Grace! The tarragon came out quite nicely in the cake, though whether I was tasting lilac from the cake itself or from the large vase on the table is still a question 🙂


  3. Lovely cake with the lilac and the usual great photos Laurie! I’m inspired by your recent cakes to try out some more Northern European cakes too and buy the Great Scandinavian Baking Book on Amazon. Thank you for that! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Lili! I love love love the Great Scandinavian Baking Book–it’s a good one to sit down and read and imagine (as an older book, it doesn’t have any pictures–I always find it a bit unnerving at first before I relax and pay more attention to the recipes themselves). Everything in there sounds delicious–I hope to bake my way through it someday! I can’t wait to hear about the Northern European baking you try! 🙂


        1. Hmm, flavourwise, rose and lavender are quite lovely with rhubarb. But for visuals, I’ve noticed a lot of our herbs flowering, such as the sage and thyme. They’re small and pretty and might look nice scattered overtop of a cake where rose/lavender could be too overwhelming!
          I hope you have fun if you try out a flowery cake!

          Liked by 1 person

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