London is abuzz with the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and I am completely excited too. Apart from the excitement of the show, Chelsea itself is blooming, with virtually every shop front displaying their own mini flower show garden. My personal favourite is outside David Linley's shop where he has very unassuming light wood crates filled with willowy, long stems of hydrangeas and foxgloves that have a definite feeling of blousy, country weekend style. Love it. Or, just a little further away, at Wild at Heart, the entrance has been adorned with a mass of flowers that I can only describe as woodland chic: super stunning and fabulously Snow White-esque.
As if the excitement of the shop fronts wasn't already enough to inspire, the flower show was waiting, awash with visitors. Lots, and lots, AND lots of them. Ladies in floral dresses - inspiration here, think Erdem - gents in beige jackets, all admiring a sea of foliage, flowers, sculptures, waterfalls, driftwood and decking (some a little too tangerine in tone for my liking - sorry Homebase). I did, of course have a few favourite gardens. The Beauty of Islam with Al Barari Firm Management LLC is a stunning balance of greenery and trees with grey, stone architectural screens and fretwork. There are floor cushions covered in pretty, geometric print fabrics, propped up like pyramids that say please come and lean on me. Heaven. The result is entirely beautiful and peaceful, with a design that entices you to walk through to the shade to simply be. All that admiration said, for me though, that garden is far more like something I would admire in a boutique hotel than want at home - but if I ever move to Morocco I might have to rethink that. The Telegraph Garden is a tranquil, ordered space with defined beds of long stemmed flowers. Behind the seating area is a stone wall with slabs arranged like a Mondrian painting. There are canals of clear water that are filled with slate stones (if I had this at home my cockapoos would definitely be on for a paddle) and, I have to be honest, I really want this garden. I want to pick the whole thing up and take it home. I really do. But... then again, I also love the far more naturalistic and free The Time In-between Garden. The bearded iris's, alliums, topiary, calla lilies, magnolia tree (all elements that make me go week at the knees) and giant wooden pegs (I think that's what they are?) behind a seating area created in Cotswold stone. Again, I love it. This one feels more achievable at home but I'm sure it wouldn't be as easy as it looks and the name is spot on... I would love to spend my time in between just being in this garden...
And then, there I was in my kitchen again. Inspired by all that I had seen, I set my sights onto a cake. Not just any cake, a thoroughly Modern (with a capital M) British cake. The fleeting elderflower season is upon us right now and fresh elderflowers are just not available at any other time of year which is what makes them all the more lovely. I've seen plenty of recipes for simple pound cakes with elderflower cordial but where would be the fun in that? I wanted to create a modern version, an almost healthy version, that you can enjoy with a herbal tea and almost feel guilt free about it. I hadn't made anything with buckwheat flour before (wheat free despite the misleading name) so I used it here. It is very light and feels silky to touch, a perfect fill in for the real thing. As for styling my shot? It's Chelsea Flower Show 2015 inspired, all the way.
With hindsight, I wish I had stirred 100g fresh raspberries through the mixture before baking. They would have been a pretty and well paired addition. Next time...
Recipe: Elderflower and honey tea cake - gluten free
50g caster sugar
80g runny honey
80ml elderflower cordial
100g buckwheat flour
100g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
75ml sour cream
1 head fresh elderflowers
100g icing sugar and a splash more elderflower cordial
Preheat your oven to 350f/180c/gas 4. Take a 25cm bundt tin and grease it very carefully in all the corners with butter.
Cream the butter and sugar together. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl and add them a little at a time, beating the cake mixture throughout. Trickle in the honey, followed by the elderflower cordial, only adding more once each addition has been fully mixed in. Put the buckwheat flour, ground almonds and baking soda into a separate bowl and use a whisk to mix it all evenly together, and then add it to the cake batter. Finally stir through the sour cream. Mix well.
Pour the mixture into your prepared bundt tin and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool before drizzling with the icing.
In a bowl, mix the icing sugar with a tiny splash of elderflower cordial, adding more a teaspoon at a time until you have a drizzling consistency. Use a spoon to drizzle it all over the inverted cake and then, if eating that day, scatter with fresh elderflowers.
Serve with whipped cream. I also decorated my tea table with a few colourful macarons.