Once upon a time, there was a little black bear who woke up from a long nap. As she stretched, she felt her tummy growl. She ventured into the morning sunshine and smelled something sweet. She sniffed the air, following the sweet fragrance until she came upon a beautiful purple tree. She climbed up to a comfy branch and ate the tender, purple blossoms to her heart’s content.
Bears, butterflies and bees know something good when they see it. We humans can also enjoy lilacs. I knew lilacs were edible, but I hadn’t tasted them until recently. The flavor reminds me of beets, slightly sweet with a vegetable aftertaste. I really wanted to try lilac syrup after seeing so many photos of pretty purple syrup online. I discovered that lilac syrup is not purple. It’s more of a dull, brownish blue-green. Many people use food coloring or blueberries to color their syrup. I also discovered that lilac syrup will turn a pretty shade of mauve by adding a small amount of lemon juice to the finished syrup. Since I would be using my lilac syrup inside of cake layers, I let it remain its natural color. I made a simple syrup with lilac blossoms and let them steep for a couple of hours. It was just long enough to give a subtle lilac flavor without being too floral. If you want a stronger lilac flavor, I suggest using more lilac blossoms rather than steeping longer to avoid bitterness.
I paired the lilac syrup with this soft, fluffy vanilla cake and silky Swiss meringue buttercream. If you aren’t a fan of lilac syrup, feel free to use vanilla simple syrup instead and just use the lilac blossoms to decorate your cakes. They look stunning on any cake or cupcakes.
Lilac Vanilla Mini Cakes
Soft, fluffy mini white vanilla cakes with lilac syrup and vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream, topped with lilac blossoms
In a small saucepan combine sugar and water. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring gently to dissolve sugar. Add the lilac blossoms and stir gently.
Turn down heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and allow lilac blossoms to steep for 2 hours. Pass lilac syrup through a mesh sieve.
White Vanilla Cake
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together cake flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat butter, sugar, oil and vanilla bean paste with an electric mixer at medium speed, until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
On medium speed, beat in egg whites in two additions, then beat in egg until well combined.
On low speed, beat in one third of the flour mixture, then beat in sour cream just until combined.
Beat in the remaining flour in two additions, alternating with milk. Beat just until combined.
Transfer batter to prepared cake pans. Bake for 28-33 minutes, or until top is light golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Do not over bake.
Allow cakes to cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and continue cooling on a wire rack.
Cut cakes into twelve 2 3/4-inch rounds using a cookie or biscuit cutter.
Using a pastry brush, brush mini cakes generously with lilac syrup or vanilla simple syrup.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Combine egg whites and sugar in a large heatproof bowl. Set over a pan of simmering water.
Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and temperature of 160ºF is reached.
Transfer mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment. Whisk on low speed, gradually increasing to medium-high speed. Whisk until glossy, stiff peaks form and mixture reaches room temperature.
Turn mixer to medium-low speed. Add butter, a few pieces at a time, allowing butter to fully incorporate before adding more. If mixture looks curdled, keep mixing and it will correct itself.
Switch to a paddle attachment. On low speed, mix in vanilla bean paste and salt. Continue mixing on low speed for a few minutes until smooth.
Remove about 3/4 cup of frosting and transfer to a small bowl. Using a toothpick, place two tiny drops of lilac gel food color and one tiny drop of violet gel food color into the bowl. Mix with a spatula until well combined.
Smear a bit of frosting on each mini cake board. Top with a cake round, frosting, then a second cake round. Frost with a crumb coat if desired. Refrigerate 15 minutes. Frost mini cakes with white Swiss meringue buttercream, then smear small amounts of lilac Swiss meringue buttercream around the sides and top. Smooth frosting with a bench scraper and smooth the tops with a small offset spatula. Decorate with lilac blossoms.
Vanilla Simple Syrup (optional)
Combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. When sugar has dissolved, remove from heat and stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or pure vanilla extract.
*If you can't find ultra fine granulated sugar, it's okay to substitute with regular granulated sugar.