Recipe: Elderflower Lemon Cake

updated May 2, 2019
Simple Elderflower Lemon Cake with Elderflower Whipped Cream

The classic combination of lemon and fragrant elderflower shines in this simple yet elegant spring dessert.

Makes1 (9x5-inch) loaf

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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

With its sweet, delicate flavor of muscat, elderflower cordial is generally known as a mixer for refreshing spring and summer drinks. We also love using it in desserts, such as this lemony sponge cake infused with elderflower syrup and served with a dollop of sweet whipped cream.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Based on Delia’s Smith’s classic Victoria sponge, the cake is light and moist with a burst of lemon from added zest and a drizzle of elderflower-lemon syrup soaked into the cake after it bakes. Served with fragrant elderflower cream, it would be lovely for a spring occasion, or when you’re watching a certain Royal Wedding.

If you have access to elder trees, which bloom from about April to June, we highly recommend making your own elderflower cordial from the blossoms, sugar, lemons, and citric acid (some people also add oranges). We use recipes from chefs Matt Tebbutt and Sophie Grigson. Otherwise, we suggest bottled Elderflower Cordial from Belvoir Fruit Farms, or you could use another brand or even Flädersaft Elderberry flower drink concentrate from IKEA.

Testing Notes

An elegant elderflower and lemon syrup gives this cake the royal treatment, while a splash of elderflower in the whipped cream puts it over the top. We made this recipe more reliable by calling for all-purpose flour and baking powder rather than self-rising flour, whose leavening can lose its lift if stored for too long. Add the eggs very slowly to ensure they emulsify into the batter (this can take up to five minutes), otherwise the batter will appear curdled.

Elderflower cordial is a non-alcoholic simple syrup, whereas an elderflower liqueur, like St. Germain, is a sweetened alcoholic spirit. Use them interchangeably for soaking the cake, but add a touch of sugar to the whipped cream if using the liqueur.

Patty, May 2018

Simple Elderflower Lemon Cake with Elderflower Whipped Cream

The classic combination of lemon and fragrant elderflower shines in this simple yet elegant spring dessert.

Makes 1 (9x5-inch) loaf

Nutritional Info


For the cake:

  • 8 ounces

    unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pan

  • 8 ounces

    superfine sugar

  • Zest of 2 lemons (about 2 tablespoons)

  • 4

    large eggs

  • 9 ounces

    all-purpose flour (2 cups)

  • 1 tablespoon

    baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    fine salt

For the syrup:

  • 1/4 cup

    elderflower cordial or liqueur

  • Juice of 1/2 lemon (about 1 tablespoon)

For the elderflower whipped cream:

  • 1/2 cup

    cold heavy cream

  • 1 tablespoon

    elderflower cordial or liqueur

  • 1 tablespoon

    granulated sugar (if using liqueur)


Make the cake:

  1. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 325°F. Lightly grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan and line with parchment paper. Set aside.

  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (alternatively, use an electric hand mixer and large bowl), cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until very pale and fluffy. Mix in the lemon zest.

  3. In a small bowl, beat the eggs together. Gradually add the eggs to the butter and sugar mixture (about 1 teaspoon at a time), beating well after each addition. It may take up to 5 minutes to slowly and completely incorporate the eggs.

  4. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl.

  5. Sift a quarter of the flour mixture into the bowl and gently fold with a spatula. Repeat until all the flour is incorporated.

  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake in the oven until a tester comes out clean, about 60 to 70 minutes.

  7. Remove from the oven and cool, in the pan, on a cooling rack for 10 minutes.

Make the syrup:

  1. While the cake cools slightly, combine elderflower cordial or liqueur and lemon juice.

  2. After 10 minutes of cooling, prick the still-warm cake all over with a skewer. Drizzle the elderflower and lemon syrup over the cake so that it seeps into the holes.

  3. Cool cake completely, then remove from the pan.

Make the whipped cream:

  1. Combine heavy cream, elderflower cordial or liqueur, and sugar (if using liqueur) in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. (Alternatively, use an electric hand mixer and large bowl). Beat on medium-high speed to stiff peaks.

  2. Slice the cake and top with a dollop of the elderflower whipped cream.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Cover leftovers in an airtight container or wrapped in plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to 4 days.

Superfine sugar substitution: Process granulated sugar in a food processor until sugar granules are fine, about 1 minute.

Elderflower cordial vs. liqueur: In the U.K., the term cordial refers to a non-alcoholic flavored syrup, whereas in the U.S. cordial and liqueur are used interchangeably and refer to sweetened alcoholic spirit. St. Germain is the most common elderflower liqueur you’ll find in liquor stores. If you prefer a non-alcoholic cordial, stop by IKEA or order online.

Sponge cake adapted from Delia Smith's Victoria Sponge Cake.