18/05/2018 11:45 SAST

What Is Elderflower? How To Replicate The Flavour Of The Royal Wedding Cake

It’s not a common ingredient elsewhere, but it’s almost a staple in British cuisine.

Ever since Kensington Palace announced that Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s wedding cake would be lemon elderflower, the internet has been abuzz with elderflower recipes to help you re-create the flavor at home.

But if you’re anything like most Americans, you’re wondering, What is elderflower? And where do I get it?

Commonly used in British drinks and desserts, elderflower is the white blossom of the elderberry tree. Before it’s turned into food, it looks like this:

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A flowering elderberry tree.
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A closeup of the elderflowers.
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The elderflowers develop into these deep purple elderberries.

Elderflowers are delicate in flavor, unlike other flowers like roses or lavender. They don’t quite pack as strong a punch, so even if you hate floral-flavored foods, you may not mind dishes made with elderflower. 

The blossoms are used in a few different culinary preparations, perhaps the most common being booze.

They flavor St. Germain, a liqueur. As Drizly explains, every year about 40 to 50 workers gather in the French countryside to collect elderflower blossoms before macerating them with citrus fruits and sugar and then distilling the result. St. Germain is often used in Champagne cocktails, the perfect type of drink for easing your way into the flavor of elderflower.

Elderflower syrup ― also known as elderflower cordial ― is another ingredient that’s commonly used to add flavor to cocktails and desserts. It’s a simple syrup of water and sugar that’s infused with the flower. You can buy it already bottled, or if you’re lucky enough to live near elderflowers, you can make some yourself.

And obviously, as in the case of the royal wedding cake, elderflower finds its way into desserts ― especially cakes ― through this syrup. The Kitchn has a recipe for a lemon elderflower cake that drizzles elderflower syrup into the just-baked cake to infuse it with flavor and moisture.

There are some healthy uses for elderflower too. It is rich in bioflavonoids and has been used in traditional medicine for its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s been used to treat the cold and flu, pain and swelling, high blood sugar levels and ... constipation. How elegant. 

Check out some of the best ways to taste elderflower with the recipes below.