You may have noticed a trend in my posts over the last couple of weeks – my oven has been getting quite a workout. It’s that time of year: stress baking time. The latest attempt to calm my nerves about law school finals yielded a seriously delicious lavender-lemon tea bread.
I’m actually not too stressed about finals this term. I’ve done my reading, I got my hardest exam over with already, and I have a job lined up for the fall at a great law firm. The whole “finishing school” business, though, is pushing me into the kind of transition period that tends to freak me out. In two weeks I’ll be packing up and moving out of the apartment where I spent the last three years. All my stuff is going into storage (including most of my cookbook collection) and I’m going to live at home with my dad, stepmom, and stepsisters while studying for the bar exam this summer in a Boston suburb. Now, not only am I repeatedly getting Ben Folds’ “Rockin’ the Suburbs” stuck in my head, I’m leaving my city and many of my friends, and I don’t have an apartment lined up for when I get back. I know I’ll find one, but…I really just hate limbo.
The stress baking thing began when I was working as a paralegal before law school, and became a regular exam-time occurrence during my first year. I loved that the carefully controlled processes of baking let me regain control in the face of things – like law school exam grading – which make no sense. My law school friends and I have a “finals listserve” on which we send around dumb Youtube videos and Sporcle games for procrastination; at one point, I set up a fake Gmail account for the baked good I happened to make that day: Mango Mini Muffins. Through my MMM alter-ego, I started spamming everyone regularly and advertised cinnamon buns, scones, cookies, and other sugary treats. This became kind of a running joke, so of course when the talented Wilde in the Kitchen posted a recipe for Mango-Lime Muffins right before I started finals, I just had to make a mini version and resurrect MangoMiniMuffins@gmail.com one last time.
Because I’ve been looking to baking for soothing, I decided to try to incorporate some lavender into my experiments: baking meets aromatherapy. Lavender pairs well with lemon, so I started poking around for a lemon cake recipe in The Collection. I found what I was looking for in New Southern Baking.
This book, you may notice if you visit my [recently revamped] Collection page, was published only 6 years ago (in 2005). I have two types of books in my collection, though: serious vintage, and vintage recipes collected by other authors. Damon Lee Fowler’s baking book is one of the latter type. I think this divide actually maps nicely onto true archaeology, where you can dig things out of the ground yourself, or you can do research on already-excavated pieces in museums. Fowler already dug up an awesome tea bread recipe (apparently from someone named “Candy”): I’m adding to it and adapting it…
I started with the basics – lemon and butter – but added some in-season lavender. I chopped up the lavender buds and added them, at the very beginning of this recipe, to the dry ingredients I whisked together. Chopped lavender will make your kitchen smell absolutely amazing. And possibly a little like your grandma’s bathroom.
From here we go back to conventional tea bread land: first we cream butter and sugar.
Then beat in the eggs. Look at that mixer go! I feel it worthwhile at this point to mention that I did eventually decide to name my Kitchenaid “Buttercup.” Often when I’m in the kitchen I’ll hear her calling, “Celia! Make a cake with me!” And I just say “As you wish,” and start baking…
Getting back to it…we add flour and milk and flour and lemon juice and zest…
…And finally finish up with flour, and lump the thick batter into a greased and floured loaf pan.
When the batter is smoothed out, you can see bits of lavender in it.
Whisk confectioner’s sugar and lemon juice together to form a simple glaze, and pour it over the cake when it’s still hot from the oven: the sugar melts and sinks into the cake, so when it dries and cools there’s just a thin lemony crunch to the crust.
Mmm. I feel more relaxed just looking at this. Nothing like a nice, simple, floral loaf cake to take things down a notch. Maybe I’ll brew up some Earl Grey to go with…
Lavender-Lemon Tea Bread (Makes one 9-inch loaf)
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. dried culinary lavender
9 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 c. granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 c. milk
2 tbsp. lemon juice
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 c. confectioner’s sugar
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch loaf pan.
2. Chop the lavender finely and whisk it together with the flour, salt, and baking powder. Mix the lemon juice and zest together in a small prep bowl.
3. Using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fully, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat about 30-45 seconds on medium after each addition, until the eggs are just blended in.
4. Add one-third of the flour mixture, and beat until incorporated. Mix in the milk. Add another third of the flour, then the lemon juice and zest, and finally the last of the flour, mixing about 30 seconds after each addition.
5. Pour the batter into the floured pan, smooth it down, and bake for 50-55 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. While the cake is baking, whisk the lemon juice and confectioner’s sugar together to form the glaze.
6. Remove the pan from the oven and, while the cake is still hot, pour the glaze over the top and brush it around with a pastry brush to distribute evenly. Let the cake cool about ten minutes in its pan as the glaze sets, then pop it out and cool it down the rest of the way on a rack before serving.
This looks really good, and I would love to try it. I have been very curious about lavender.
Wow! That looks rich and sinful in the best of ways, though I imagine the lavender and lemon balances out the richness beautifully. And I hear you with the stress baking, though I feel like some of my best creations have emerged that way.
Nice Princess Bride reference! Makes me dig your blog even more. Awesome recipe as well, I can practically smell it through my laptop. I’m all about your stress-baking if it yields these kinds of yummy treats but I’m sure you’ve got not reason to worry.
‘Unless I’m wrong. And I’m never wrong.’
I am making Lemon Bread this week and am really wishing I had some lavender now. What a great recipe!
Gorgeous bread! Congrats on getting a job lined up! I feel you with hating the limbo … I’m moving to DC for work and have yet to find an apt. Like you, I know I will, but the whole not knowing thing is so frustrating!
This bread sounds absolutely wonderful with the lavender and lemon flavors! Nice!
I have never cooked with lavender before, this looks delicious! Good luck with finals and the summer!
mmm i can almost smell the lavender from here! =) the batter looks so delish!
aww we’ll miss u in nyc for the summer… have fun in boston – i’m sure you’ll hit up all the tasty spots there and share with us. 😉
I’m def going to have to try this! I’ve tried lavender and chocolate combos before, but never lavender and lemon, so def saving this one. Thanks for sharing!
I have been loving all things lavander lately! Especially the combination of lemon and lavander! Your bread sounds absolutely delicious, and I bet it smelled wonderful while baking :)!
Oooh, another lovely quick bread flavor combo that I’d love to try. My that glaze just makes it extra wonderful. Good luck with your finals…and your transition. Sorry about the stress…but us lucky readers get to see the fruits of your worries…
I am definitely going to start looking for some culinary lavender so that I can try this. It really sounds like you have all of your ducks in a row and have a wonderful future ahead of you. Sometimes you have to sacrifice in the short term to reap the rewards in the long term. Good luck when you take the bar exam. In the meantime keep baking when stressed. I always find that I am happier when baking.
Hi Celia, I don’t know where to start, but first congrats on your jobs lined up! I love the combination of lemon and lavender. Your tutorial looks easy with the pictures. If you bake because of stress, then I eat because of stress. Too bad you are not neighbor. I would just come over to your house as soon as you bake something! Lastly, I wonder if you are going to be too busy with job and bar exam in summer. I love coming here and I hope you will keep blogging. 🙂
Yum, this sounds like glorious bread. Congrats on being in the home stretch of law school. Hopefully you will keep baking and cooking in your parents’ house too!
I think this will solve my gardening stress! That’s what you get when you get older just in case you think school is the worst… All those flats to plant before they wilt away.. heading for the baking pans right now! Wonderful writing never mind the recipes! I will try the loaf without the lavendar, maybe sit next to a bush and inhale with every slice!
I definitely need to incorporate more lavender into my baked goods! This sounds incredible! =)
This tea bread look amazingggggg and very tasty! I love it!!!
Great photos too!!
Lavender is supposed to sooth the nerves…I would eat so many of these I’d be pretty chill. =)
Oh goodness… That looks absolutely amazing! Love it!
I love the idea of lemon and lavender together, and the glaze looks delicious. Good job on the bread, and on having a job lined up for fall!
My sister has taken two BAR exams this past year. One in Arizona, which she passed, and one in LA, which she’ll find out about on friday, and I think I’m stress baking enough for the two of us! This recipe just might be next on my list- the crust looks incredible!
Such a nice looking bread ..
Celia, this looks really wonderful and you make me feel brave enough to attempt lavender-flavoured foodstuffs. (As a child I used to earn pocket money by cleaning my aunt’s house – generally just spraying lavender polish around the place – and have always associated lavender with cleaning products.) I recently had a lavender pannacotta which was amazing and I think your cake is in this realm. Earl Grey sounds like the perfect tea to accompany this floral treat.
Mmmm…the perfect end to a cold, rainy Colorado spring day! I just put the pan into the oven and can’t wait – thanks so much for sharing the recipe!
mmm celia, looks amaaazing! i just discovered the lavender table at columbia’s greenmarket – it helped me procrastinate while studying for finals on campus 🙂 i want to stop by and pick up some lavender for baking! congrats on the end of law school, see you soon!!
Oh, I can relate to stress-related cooking! I had a restaurant job years ago that really stressed me out…I’d open *and* close the place and when I got home at 11 or 12 would sometimes tear into the kitchen and cook my little heart out! (I mean, who cooks after working in a restaurant all day?) The second year of the M.A. just about did me in, but I got through it. And, believe me, once it’s done you’ll be tickled pink 🙂 The tea bread sounds wonderful. I’m tempted to grown some lavender now! -Jennifer
I love lavender. 🙂 Saving this and making it sometime. Beautiful.
I just made your lemon-lavender bread and it is absolutely delicious! I love how the glaze hardens on the warm bread 🙂
I have been wanting to bake with my lavender for a while, but have always been a little hesitant! But this was amazing…thanks for sharing!
Ceclia, making this right now and cannot wait for it to come out of the oven. However, where is the 1/4 cup milk supposed to be added? Did it without it and hoping for the best.
Thanks for pointing that out! In the future you can add the milk between round of flour – hope the milkless bread came out alright!