Starry Night Lavender Cake Pops

Lavender, or “valender” as my English-is-his-second-language dad would call it, is such a polarizing ingredient to cook with. Outside of France, nobody else really cooks or bakes with lavender. It is distinctly floral, and in too large of a quantity, very medicinal. However, I find that beyond smelling really pleasant in smaller dosages, lavender definitely has a place in desserts. It can bring out lighter, fresher notes in fruits, and pairs beautifully with honey. Fun fact, the ingredient that made me a lavender convert all those years ago was lavender honey. It was addictingly sweet and floral, and I could have eaten it on basically anything. I can thank my sister for introducing that ingredient to me all those years ago, so because of her, my palate can actually tolerate lavender flavoring enough to work with it in pastry! So, for this recipe, it was actually a commission. I normally don’t do cake pops, but since that was what was asked of me, I wanted to give it a fair go, but make it my own. Normally, a cake pop is made with mashed up cake and buttercream. I went with more of a focus on cake, by simply mashing up cake with a cake soak – I find that the buttercream variation can taste greasy or oily, whereas omitting the buttercream and going for just a well-baked cake that is mixed with a liquid creates a less cloying experience on the palate! I went with lavender as my main flavor profile, since that was also a request from my client, and I opted to pair that with honey, as well as earl grey tea. The logic behind the earl grey being that is contains lavender and bergamot notes, which play off of the honey nicely, and it will give the final dessert a very pleasant aroma that accentuates the lavender but adds a complexity that tempers down any overtly sweet aspects of the cake pops themselves!

Because these were for a baby shower, I wanted to make these cake pops blue-ish as a reference to the big gender reveal. The other flavor of cake pops that I made were colored pink, just so that when you are going to choose a cake pop, you are declaring to the mother to be if you are team boy or team girl. I went with a more galaxy-starry night aesthetic on these, since I wanted both cake pops to feature a more fantasy-like theme, to represent the wonders of youth and childhood. For the actual components, we have a vanilla sponge cake, a lavender milk soak, and swirled lavender mirror glaze. I garnished the tops of the cake pops with a little bit of edible star sprinkles as well. I did at one point contemplate using bee pollen in these as well, just as a nod to the honey, but between bee pollen, earl grey, and lavender, I felt like that would be too many floral notes, and that eating a cake pop with all of those things would just taste like straight-up potpourri. In the best interest of not making food that tastes as such, the bee pollen was omitted, just so the earl grey and lavender, the latter of which was the main requested flavor, can really shine without overwhelming your palate. If you are hesitant to eat lavender-flavored anything, I would say give this recipe a try, since these cake pops are a nice introduction to tasting lavender as a food, and not a soap!

For the vanilla cake:
1/2 cup sparkling water
2 tbsp milk powder
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup granulated sugar
a pinch of salt

In a cup, mix together the sparkling water, milk powder, and vinegar first to create a carbonated buttermilk. Mix into that the vanilla and canola oil. In another bowl, sift in the flour, baking powder, and baking soda, then whisk in the sugar and salt. Pour into that the buttermilk-oil mixture to form your batter. Pour the batter onto a lined sheet tray and bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes. Allow the cake to cool before attempting to use.

For the blueberry-lavender soak:
1/3 cup milk
2 tsp freeze-dried blueberry powder
1/4 tsp lavender extract
a pinch of salt

Mix everything together to form your soak.

For the lavender mirror glaze:
1 1/2 tsp gelatin powder + 2 tbsp cold water
1/4 cup heavy cream
a pinch of salt
1/2 tsp butterfly pea powder
2.5oz white chocolate chips
1/4 tsp lavender extract

In a pot, heat up the gelatin, heavy cream, and salt. Once the gelatin is dissolved into the cream, add in the butterfly pea powder and white chocolate chips. Allow the chocolate to sit in the heated cream for 1 minute before stirring until combined. Add to that the lavender extract. While the glaze is still warm, pass it through a sieve to remove any lumps or air bubbles. Keep the glaze at around 90 degrees F for optimal results.

For garnish:
Edible star sprinkles

Combine the cake with the soak to form your cake pop mixture. Using a purple handle ice cream scoop, scoop balls of the cake mixture, and press sticks into each cake ball. Freeze the cake pops solid, at least 2 hours. Dip the frozen cake pops into the glaze, allowing the excess to drip off for 1-2 minutes and for the glaze to set, and garnish the star sprinkles to finish.

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