It’s hard to believe: Twice as Tasty turns 6 this month! If you’ve been following the blog from the beginning, you’ll know that every year I celebrate by sharing a birthday dessert recipe. In past years, I’ve shared highlights and recipes from the most recent year and plans for the future. This year, it’s just about the cake—shortcake, to be exact.
I’ve gone back to a favorite, and the blog’s first, birthday dessert and shared a streamlined version this week in my Twice as Tasty column for the Flathead Beacon. The delicious scratch-made strawberry shortcake can be ready in less than an hour. Alternatively, you can go big on flavor the way I did in the original recipe by topping the dessert with lilac-infused cream, using the techniques I share in this post.
Learn more about making shortcake and get the complete recipe for Strawberry Shortcake with Freshly Whipped Cream in my column.
Twice as Tasty
Infusing sugars and whipped cream with herbs and botanicals is a simple technique that lets you upgrade all sorts of desserts. I particularly love the subtle flavor of lilac cream with strawberries, but the real reason I pair the two is that they tend to be in their prime at the same time. To get maximum flavor into whipped cream, infuse both the sugar that sweetens it and the cream itself with freshly harvested lilac blossoms. Each infusion takes just a few minutes to make, but you’ll need to get the timing right so that you can harvest the blossoms over a couple of weeks.
If you miss the peak bloom cycle for your lilacs, you don’t have to go for the ultimate infusion. Just infusing the sugar and using it in the cream will impart some flavor and scent, especially if you incorporate as many sugared blossoms as possible. Or you can infuse just the cream with fresh blossoms and sweeten it with unflavored sugar.
Ready to give it a try? Full details are in the recipe below, but here are the basics:
To infuse both sugar and cream, you need just 3 ingredients plus lilac blossoms.
1. Pluck some lilac blossoms.
2. Bury them in sugar and let sit.
3. Pluck more lilac blossoms.
4. Cover them with the infused sugar, cream, and powdered milk and let sit.
5. Whip and enjoy.
Lilac-Infused Sugar and Cream
about 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon powdered milk
For the sugar, cut a lilac cluster from the plant and shake it gently. Float it in cold water for a few minutes to draw out any small insects. Shake again to remove excess water, and then dry the cluster on a tea towel for at least 30 minutes, until the water evaporates. Gently tug the blossoms from their green sepals, but don’t worry if the centers stay with the blossom. Spread about 2 tablespoons of blossoms on a dry tea towel until completely free of water.
Put a layer of sugar in a 4-ounce jar, add a thin layer of blossoms, and then alternate between sugar and lilacs, ensuring a top thick layer of sugar protects the flowers. Screw on an airtight lid and infuse in a cool, dark place for at least 2 weeks. It will keep a year but have the best flavor within 2 months.
For the cream, harvest 2–3 lilac clusters and separate the blossoms from their sepals, placing about 1 cup of blossoms in a large clear bowl. Gently stir in the cream and 1–2 tablespoons of lilac-infused sugar, scooping it from its jar with a clean spoon and completely burying the remaining flowers. Loosely cover the cream bowl with clear plastic and let it sit for 3–4 hours. Put the bowl, along with your whisk attachments, in the fridge for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours, until completely chilled.
Remove the infused cream from the fridge and add the powdered milk. Whip the cream on medium-high speed for 2–5 minutes, until firm peaks form. Serve immediately, or return to the fridge to infuse for up to 24 hours. Makes about 1/2 cup of sugar and 2 cups of whipped cream.
Tips & Tricks
- Chilling everything helps cream to whip more quickly initially, but dry milk powder is my favorite trick for keeping the cream fully whipped for days. Without it, the cream is likely to become runny even in the fridge and should be served immediately after whipping.
- Light-colored sugars show off lilac blossoms. You’ll also have the prettiest cream if all blossoms are fresh and fully colored; ones that have begun to brown will show up as unattractive dark specks.
- Many edible flowers and herbs can be infused in sugar, cream, and even salt. Chamomile, rose, and violet create delicious scents and flavors. Sweet herbs and aromatics like basil, mint, and English lavender also work well in sugar and cream.
- A sprinkled topping of infused sugar adds a new twist to many baked goods. It can also alter your breakfast oatmeal or sweeten sourdough toast spread with Homemade Fromage Blanc. To put the flavor inside a cookie or shortcake, replace the recipe’s sugar with the infused one.
Want more Twice as Tasty recipes? Get my books! Click here to order a personally signed, packaged, and shipped copy of The Complete Guide to Pickling directly from me. I also share tasty ways to use pickles in The Pickled Picnic, a digital collection in an easy-to-read PDF format; it’s only available here.