Elderberry and coconut lemon drizzle polenta cake


As a fairweather forager, elderberries are one of the few things I can pick each year that I’m confident won’t kill anyone. Even then, the stems are toxic, thus making the hours it takes to get rid of as many of the tiny stalks as possible a necessity. Use a fork to strip off the berries, and the freezing trick below is worth a go.

Things I learnt while making this cake:

  • If you freeze the stems with berries on, apparently they come off much more cleanly. Take a bunch out at a time, as they defrost fast. I learnt this too late to be helpful this year.
  • WEAR AN APRON. No matter how careful you are, you will get at least a little splash of juice on you, and then you have to whip your top off immediately, DAB it with cold water on a cloth and carefully rub a bit of washing up liquid on the stain with your finger, then dab again and repeat for ages until it mostly, but probably never completely, comes out of your white top.
  • Elderberries stave off/cure the flu. Obviously they don’t actually, but lots of (completely unverified by me) writing on them talks of their ability to shorten the time colds and flu will make you feel crap, and help stop you getting them in the first place.
  • They make a delicious and beautiful syrup/cordial, for pouring over yoghurt or ice cream, using as a sorbet base, mixing with fizzy water, making cocktails with etc. I used this recipe, which has other suggestions too.

250g unsalted butter
250g golden caster sugar
4 medium eggs
140g polenta
150g plain flour
50g dessicated coconut
1.5 tsp baking powder
200g elderberries, washed and stripped from stalks

Juice 3 lemons
Zest of 1 lemon
140g caster sugar

Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4, grease and line your chosen tin – this was a very moist cake, so I recommend a tin with a removable base.

Cream together the butter and sugar, then whisk in the eggs one at a time. Fold in the dry ingredients, then three quarters of the elderberries. Spoon the mixture into your tin, smooth the top a bit, then scatter with rest of the berries.

Bake for 45 mins (check after 40) – it should have a bit of wibble, but not as much as mine, as you can see from the sunken centre in the photos.

While it’s baking, make the syrup by putting the lemon juice, zest & sugar in a small saucepan over a gentle heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves.

As soon as the cake come out of the oven, leave it in the tin and prick all over with a skewer/toothpick, then spoon the syrup over. Leave to cool in the tin, but run a knife around the edges to stop it sticking.

Vivid elderberry syrup on yoghurt