Sweet Violets Cake

Luscious lemon cake is layered with violet flavored icing for a unique dessert that is perfect for Mother’s Day or a spring tea. Violet flavoring can be purchased online, or a substitution can be made by soaking violet candy in heavy cream overnight. Top the cake with sugared violets for a simple, stunning presentation. For fun I made petits fours, too. The recipe is just a bit different, since a denser cake is called for; if you’re interested in making them I’ll give you instructions at the bottom of the post.

Sweet Violets Cake
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The recipe will make two 9-inch cakes (split to make 4 layers) or three 6-inch cakes (split to make 5 or 6 layers).
Ingredients
  • 2¼ cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup shortening (or coconut oil), room temperature
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • grated lemon peel from 2 lemons
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ cup milk
  • yellow food coloring if desired
  • 5 egg whites
  • ICING:
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup shortening
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  • 4-5 drops violet flavoring
  • violet food coloring
  • SUGARED VIOLETS
  • Fresh violets (violas, Johnny Jump-ups). Make sure they haven't been treated with any chemicals! Grow them, find them wild, or order online.
  • 1 teaspoon meringue powder (found in cake decorating section of large stores)
  • 4 teaspoons warm water
  • Superfine sugar
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 F.
  2. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans or three 6-inch cake pans. I like to put a circle of parchment in the bottom of each pan. (If you only have two 6-inch pans, bake two cakes and then clean one pan and bake the other cake. The batter will be fine on the counter while the first cakes bake.)
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, cream together the shortening and sugar. Add the grated lemon peel and mix well.
  5. In a small bowl combine the buttermilk, lemon juice, and milk.
  6. To the large bowl with the shortening and sugar mixture, alternately add the dry ingredients and milk mixture, beginning with the flour and ending with the milk mixture, adding about a third of each at a time.
  7. Beat for one minute at medium speed.
  8. In a medium bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold gently but thoroughly into cake mixture.
  9. Divide between the cake pans. Bake for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the middle. Allow to cool for 10 minutes on a rack and then turn out of the pan to finish cooling completely.
  10. For easiest slicing, wrap and freeze cakes for several hours.
  11. ICING: Beat butter and shortening well. Add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time. If mixture gets too stiff for your mixer, add a little of the whipping cream. Once all powdered sugar is incorporated, add the whipping cream and beat well until smooth and fluffy. Add the flavoring and a tiny amount of coloring. Beat until combined.
  12. Slice cake into layers. If making the 6-inch cake, you may want to just use 5 layers. Stack the layers with icing in between, making sure to get the icing all the way to the edge of each layer. For easiest handling, spread a thin layer around the outside of the cake and freeze for at least 1 hour. Ice the outside and top of cake and top with sugared violets.
  13. VIOLETS: Place a piece of waxed paper or parchment on a cooling rack. With a toothpick, poke holes every few inches. This will allow airflow as the flowers dry.
  14. Combine meringue powder and warm water in small dish. Whisk well. Place flower face-down on your hand, and with a soft paintbrush, brush a layer of meringue mixture on the back. Flip the flower over and brush the front. Sprinkle back and front with superfine sugar. Pinch off stem and place flower, stem down, on prepared cooling rack. Let the flowers dry for at least 24 hours. In the oven with the light on is great - the slight warmth from the light helps the flowers dry quickly.

Paint flowers with meringue mixture, then sprinkle with superfine sugar.

Sugared and drying.

Violet everything. If you can’t get the flavoring, drop 12 violet pastille candies into 1/4 cup heavy cream. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Strain and use in the icing.

I graduated the colored icing – but really not necessary.

To make a denser cake for petits fours, increase flour to 2 1/2 cups, decrease baking powder to 1 teaspoon, add 1/2 cup softened butter (in addition to the shortening), and instead of 5 egg whites, add two whole eggs (one at a time, scraping the bowl between each egg) to the creamed butter and sugar mixture, beating well. The remaining three egg whites will be beaten and folded in at the end. Put batter in a greased and floured 9x13x2-inch pan. Bake until a toothpick comes out cleanly when inserted in the middle. Once cool, cut into 1 inch squares. Remember – the freezer is your best friend! For help with icing and technique, here are instructions for Petits Fours

Note: one of my testers suggested a layer of lemon curd in the petits fours. What a great idea! I’ll do that next time, for sure.

I loved listening to this song on YouTube. It says Dinah Shore sang it, but the pictures in the video are of Doris Day. Meh. Whoever sang it, it was a clever little ditty.

Sweet violets, sweeter than the roses,
Covered all over from head to toe,
Covered all over with sweet violets.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Lorinda

2 thoughts on “Sweet Violets Cake

  1. These are so pretty! Any mother would love them. (And what a fun song! [sure sounds like Doris Day to me])

    • Thank you, Mary Rose! It’s sort of an indulgent recipe – strange ingredients, fussy, but it’s been in my head for months, and insisted on its moment in the limelight.

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