From across the Atlantic Ocean, British expats and Anglophiles in New York City are gearing up to watch Prince Harry and actress Meghan Markle get hitched at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Saturday.
In March, Kensington Palace announced that the wedding cake the couple had commissioned from American-born baker Claire Ptak would “incorporate the bright flavors of spring,” including lemon and elderflower— a fruity-floral combination that no doubt left some Americans scratching their heads. (In a tweet Friday, the palace elaborated that the cake would incorporate exactly 200 Amalfi lemons and 10 bottles of elderflower cordial.
What exactly is elderflower and why would you want to eat it?
We break down all the details below (including where you can try the flavor for yourself in some “scrummy” baked goods, as “The Great British Baking Show” judge Mary Berry would say):
It is indeed a flower
From late May to mid-June, elderflowers bloom on elder shrubs and small trees, which are plentiful along hedgerows in the United Kingdom. The tiny creamy white blossoms and the purple elderberries that grow on the branches later in the summer are edible. The plant itself, however is mildly toxic, so you don’t want to sample that part should you encounter a shrub in the wild.
It has a delicate floral taste that’s kind of hard to describe
Herbaceous flavors aren’t for everyone, but the elderflower’s is also slightly sweet. Some who sample it describe fruity notes, too. Brits like to say it’s the “taste of British summer.”
It’s used to make a liqueur you’ll recognize from cocktail menus all over town
St. Germain is a liqueur made from elderflowers hand-picked from the hillsides in the French Alps for a four- to -six-week period in the spring. Created and introduced to the American market by liqueur scion named Robert J. Cooper in 2007, the spirit became so ubiquitous at bars within a year that it earned the nickname “bartender’s ketchup.”
It’s made into a cordial for baking purposes
Bakers find it easiest to incorporate the flower’s unique flavor into their desserts in liquid form. The process of making elderflower cordial involves dissolving sugar in water, then adding a preservative like citric acid and steeping clusters of flowers in the simple syrup for at least 24 hours. Lastly, the whole concoction is strained through a cheesecloth.
New Yorkers can taste it for themselves in these desserts
Ample Hills’ God Save the Cream ice cream: Thank the Brooklyn-based ice creamery’s fans for this limited-time royal wedding-themed flavor, with a lemon-ginger ice cream base (the ginger a nod to Harry’s red mane), pieces of house-made elderflower butter cake and buttercream frosting. Get your ice cream fix at any of Ample Hill’s shops in Manhattan and Brooklyn. As an alternative, you can always order God Save the Cream as part of a “Keep Calm and Berry On” four-pack for shipping. ($36 for a four-pack, multiple locations, amplehills.com)
Underwest Donuts’ elderflower doughnut: Underwest has plenty of experience executing floral flavors (just take a bite of its signature offering, the vanilla-lavender Carwash), so we’re not surprised it’s taking a stab at elderflower. For two days, you can get a black tea cake infused with elderflower and covered in a mixed berry glaze. ($3.50, 2 Penn Plaza and 638 W. 47th St., available May 12 and 13, underwestdonuts.com)
The Palm Court’s lemon and elderflower cake pops: Who wants a slice of cake when you can get it on a stick? For the month of May, the Plaza hotel’s afternoon tea parlor is serving a lollipop made of Victoria sponge cake soaked in Champagne and St. Germain syrup as part of its lavish Royal Tea spread. The entire meal comes with sandwiches and other savory finger foods, scones, a variety of pastries and sweets and a glass of Champagne. ($105 per person, 768 Fifth Ave., theplazany.com)
Black Tap’s Royal Wedding cake shake: We’re not even mildly surprised the Crazy Shake purveyor came up with a special version for the Harry and Meghan’s big day. The burger chain gussies up a vanilla milkshake with a vanilla frosted rim, white sparkling sugar and a two-tiered lemon-elderflower mini wedding cake. ($19, available May 19, multiple locations, blacktapnyc.com)
Magnolia Bakery’s Royal Wedding cupcake: The bakery of “Sex and the City” fame, frequented for its banana pudding, has engineered a limited-edition elderflower-infused cupcake filled with lemon curd and covered in an elderflower meringue buttercream. It’s presented with regal trimmings: a lace cupcake wrapper and crown. ($4.25, available May 16-19, multiple locations, magnoliabakery.com)
Dominique Ansel Bakery’s elderflower almond plum tart: This 8-inch-wide cake popped up in the bakery’s pastry case in April. It marries elderflower plum jam, almond frangipane and almond ganache in a vanilla sablé shell, a crumbly, delicate short crust pastry. The tart is garnished with fresh red plum and almond slices. ($50, 189 Spring St., dominiqueansel.com)
Petee’s Pie Company’s spring cordial pie: Like the royal couple’s cake, this elderflower lemon meringue pie is decorated with edible flowers. Along with a handful of rose crystals, those blossoms lend a pop of color to the meringue shell. As with all of the pies from this Lower East Side cafe, you can expect a buttery, flaky crust. ($40, 61 Delancey St., peteespie.com)
Lillie’s Victorian Establishment’s lemon elderflower wedding cake: If you were planning on celebrating the royal nuptials at this Victorian-era “gin palace”-inspired bar near Times Square anyway, you should definitely order a slice of this cake on the menu for one day only. Arrive in appropriate wedding attire, and you can prepare for the broadcast with a buzz from a free cocktail. ($11, available May 19, 249 W. 49th St., lilliesnyc.com)
Jones Wood Foundry and The Shakespeare’s wedding cake: Attend the Royal Wedding viewing breakfast galas at either of chef Jason Hicks’ British restaurants on May 19, and you’ll take home a slice of lemon-elderflower sheet cake, packaged in a gold souvenir box, as a sweet memento of the big day. You’ll probably want to save it for the next day’s brunch — considering the plentiful spread of scones, sausage rolls, chicken and waffles and eggs Benedict greeting you at 6 a.m. that Saturday morning. ($70 a ticket, 401 E. 76th St. and 24 E. 39th St., joneswoodfoundry.com, theshakespearenyc.getbento.com)
Van Leeuwen’s Royal Wedding cake ice cream: The Greenpoint-based artisanal ice cream company is serving scoops of a Royal Wedding cake-inspired flavor through the end of the summer. The base is sweet cream ice cream. It’s garnished with swirls of elderflower, buttercream frosting and housemade lemon pound cake pieces. ($5.50 for one scoop, $7.50 for two, $9.50 for three, multiple locations, vanleeuwenicecream.com)
Kellogg’s NYC Café’s lemon luster wedding cake: For the breakfast buffet at the cereal café’s live royal wedding watch party, former royal chef Darren McGrady has concocted all kinds of cereal-infused sweets, including a cake with Raisin Bran. The lemon luster wedding cake features a lemon-elderflower cream cheese frosting prepared with two tablespoons of elderflower cordial — which sounds delicious to us, but you’ll have to decide if it merits rising in time for a 5:30 a.m. seating. (31 E. 17th St., opentable.com)