Classic Elderflower Cordial

Bring the spring to any beverage or dessert.

Classic Elderflower Cordial

Any search for the culinary uses of elderflower will pull up elderflower cordial. By cooking the flower head in what is essentially a diluted simple syrup, you can pretty easily preserve its fragrance for future use. Which is great, because elderflower is an amazing, special plant that deserves to be savored. The most common way to enjoy elderflower cordial is by using it in cocktails (gin, elderflower, and lemon, is a tasty simple classic) or adding a bit to sparkling wine or even sparkling water for a nice kid-friendly afternoon refreshment. I also love drizzling elderflower cordial over any dessert for a quick and easy way to make that dessert oh-so-special (such as for my huckleberry-elderflower birthday cake below).

Elderflower cordial: Makes about 1 liter.

  • 20 medium elderflower heads (about 2-3'' across)
  • Grated zest of 2 lemons
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 4 cups water
  • 3.5 cups sugar
  • Note: Some recipes call for citric acid (about 1 teaspoon for this batch), which helps the cordial keep for longer.
Infusing water with elderflower essence.

Infusing water with elderflower essence.

Inspect the elderflower heads carefully and remove any insects. Remove flowers from most of stems (especially the large ones), wash by quickly submerging in cold water, and drain. Place the flower heads in a large bowl together with the lemon zest.

Bring water to the boil and pour over the elderflowers and citrus zest. Cover and leave overnight to infuse.

Strain the liquid through cheesecloth and pour into a saucepan. Add the sugar and the lemon juice. Heat gently to dissolve the sugar, then bring to a simmer and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Use a funnel to pour the hot syrup into sterilized bottles and seal with a sterilized cap or cork. Bottles can be sterilized by washing with soapy water then plunging into boiling water for 5 minutes and allowing to air dry.

Allow to cool then store in the refrigerator or freezer. Cordial will keep in the fridge for 2 weeks and in the freezer for 1 year. I like to freeze the cordial in smaller batches so I can use it as needed.

Elderflower-Mulberry Birthday Cake: Serves 12.

Bottom half of the cake has been drizzled with cordial and is about to be spread with tart whipped cream.

Bottom half of the cake has been drizzled with cordial and is about to be spread with tart whipped cream.

For my birthday last weekend, I had an inkling to make a cake infused with elderflower cordial, but had a hard time deciding exactly what else to include - apricots and almonds? loquats and honey? lemon and poppyseed? Spring is a fun time to daydream about desserts! While walking through my surprisingly abundant neighborhood however, I was lucky enough to stumble upon some mulberries, which helped to complete my vision. My birthday party was a campout and the cake held up nicely for several hours, even though I was impatient and made the tart whipped cream earlier than necessary:) My photos do not show the final spread of whipped cream on the top, as it was too dark for photos when I added this piece.

  • 1/2 cup plus 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons plus up to 3/4 cup elderflower cordial
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups fresh mulberries, washed and dried
  • 3/4 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Grease a 9-inch springform pan and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cream the butter and 3/4 cup sugar in a mixer until they’re light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time then incorporate the yogurt and 3 tablespoons of the elderflower cordial.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, almond meal, baking powder, and salt and slowly whisk this into the wet mixture in 3 batches. Once its fully incorporated, pour half of the batter into the greased springform pan, then spread mulberries evenly over the top, followed by remaining batter and bake for 1 hour. Cake is done when a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

While cake is baking, beat whipping cream until almost stiff, continue beating as you add in 2 tablespoons sugar and vanilla and then lightly whisk in crème fraîche.

The gorgeous mulberry layer is revealed!

The gorgeous mulberry layer is revealed!

Once cake has cooled, cut in half to make two layers using a large serrated knife. You should be cutting right through the berry layer and at this point, you will be able to see all of the beautiful mulberries hiding inside. 

Drizzle up to 1/4 cup of elderflower over the bottom layer and top with half of the tart whipped cream, followed by the other half of the cake. Drizzle up to another 1/4 cup of elderflower (for both of these, it depends on how sweet/moist/elderflowery you want the cake) and spread the other half of the whipped cream over the top. Top with a sprinkling of fresh elderflowers if you have them and drizzle each piece of cake with a little more elderflower cordial before eating.  

This version is before the addition of the final tart whipped cream layer.

This version is before the addition of the final tart whipped cream layer.