Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Vanilla Cupcake With Violet Buttercream

I was first besotted by Violet back at the second bloggers banquet. I had never heard of Violet before. But now I shall never forget Violet. Duncan first introduced me to Violet. Violet was definitely a stunner, with a refined beauty and so much inner charm. I was taken aback, how come I'd never heard of violet before.

Well, the "Violet" I speak of is none other than the essence and flavouring of violet flowers. The violet macarons that Duncan made were so addictive. I'm sure I ate the most out of anyone, ok maybe Vida might have eaten just as many. The violet flavour is a really strange fragrant flavour that is rather hard to describe. It's like a strange light mix of those pink musk sticks that we used to all eat as a child and a light floral note to it.

So my search was on, I had to find violet essence. Duncan got his bottle on his trip to France. I won't be going to France anytime soon, so I needed to find it here in Melbourne. He suggested I go to The Essential Ingredient, since they're not called the essential ingredient for no reason. I might be able to find a violet syrup there.

So off to The Essential Ingredient I went. I searched high and low (I'm not very good at finding things) but could not find it. I asked a shop assistant as I knew the syrup version was called Monin as Duncan showed me the bottle. However, she said they didn't have it. I was dejected and looked around a bit more. As I was about to leave and browsing the silicone madeleine trays, a shop assistant came up to me and asked if I needed any help. I thought I would give it one last go and asked her if they had violet syrup. She said she wasn't sure but took me over to the syrup section. And low and behold, there was a bottle of violet syrup.

I bought the bottle and was already thinking of a million things to make. I was going to make violet cupcakes, violet macarons, violet profiteroles, violet cakes, violet mousse and anything else I could possibly put it into. I thought I would play it safe and try a violet frosting before doing a macaron. So I decided to try a plain vanilla cupcake recipe that I saw by Ellie at Kitchen Wench and do a violet buttercream.

The cupcake part was really easy to make and tasted very good, awaiting some more flavour via a frosting. I did a butter cream and then added my violet syrup. I put in 10ml as the recipe instructed. Hmmmmm, no violet flavour. I put in another 10ml, no flavour. I kept going, and about 70ml later, the buttercream had split and still hardly a violet flavour. I gave up and left it as is.

This violet syrup is nowhere near as strong in flavour as the violet essence that Duncan brought back from Paris. I need to get my hands on that. So unless I rob Duncan in the middle of the night of his violet essence, or I go to France one day soon, I need another option. Does anyone know any food importers who may be able to get their hands on some (for a resonable price, I don't want to pay a few hundred dollars for a bottle) or know of any other places that may sell violet essence?

Anyway, the cupcakes tasted quite nice still, with a tiny hint of violet flavouring. I think I will use the rest of the violet essence to make cocktails as the back of the bottle suggests.

Vanilla Cupcakes
(makes approximately 24 cupcakes)

225g cups self-rising flour
190g cups all-purpose flour
225g unsalted butter, softened
360g caster sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C and line two 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake papers.

2. Sift the flours together in a small bowl and set aside. Measure out the milk into a cup and stir in the vanilla and also set aside for now.

3. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, approximately 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

4. Add the flour in three parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not overbeat (this will make them very tough). Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended.

5. Carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about three-quarters full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean.

6. Cool the cupcakes in the tins for 15 minutes. Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before icing with buttercream frosting.


2 eggs
1 egg white
80g sugar
230g unsalted butter, softly whipped
10ml water flavouring (choose whatever flavours you want)

1. Over a double boiler, beat the eggs, white and sugar until it is thick and frothy.

2. Take egg and sugar mixture off heat. Let it cool until it's warm to touch. Then beat in the butter.

3. If the mixture is still a bit rough, put back over hot water and continue beating until it is smooth.

4. Add flavouring.


  1. Hey, what about asking me!!! I will call a few of my suppliers to find the best price and the best product... I know quite a few have them but there had previously been issues with importation as they are now required to have a liquor licence as the essence is basically alcohol... you could also try Simon Johnson. V x

  2. Upon closer look I see you have used syrup and really you needed essence... the syrup is far too much like liquid and you need a tiny drop of pure oil... I will keep hunting around for you and you could try the cake decorating places, like cake deco in town or merry day in morrabbin... Even try some delis as they often have essences for cakes... V x

  3. Vida, I would have asked you if I knew your contacts were so extensive.

    Why is violet essence basically alcohol. Isn't it just like vanilla essence? The syrup is way too runny. I definitely need the concentrated essence. I will try Cake Deco and Merry Day. I guess some French delis might have them, if only I knew of some French delis. Hahaha.

    I looked at Simon Johnson, they didn't have it either. So if you can find it, please let me know.

  4. Real vanilla essence is alcohol too! I make mine with Vodka... I think it's true name is Bourbon Vanilla - actually I think that is because it originated on Bourbon Island which is called something else now... let me do my homework and get back to you! There is a French deli in Hampton, Hampton Road, Hampton if my memory serves me... I would try just any deli because I know Clayton Road deli has stacks of essences on their counter, tiny bottles, my mother used to buy them for her cakes all the time, but I think Violet is what will be difficult to get. My mother used to buy lemon and other flavours. I do have a friend in Paris that might be able to send it to me if we really cannot find anywhere in Oz. I will keep trying! Vida x

  5. Also Thanh, when you find the other flavours especially French ones and they don't have violet ask them to order it in, if they are already importing or they have a source that gets the other flavours then they can order in the violet. I doubt they get much call for it so they don't stock it but if they know you want it they are sure to get it in especially for you or they may tell you where you can get it... like I tell my girls "use your words"... Vida x

  6. Thanh (and Vida!), when you do find somewhere to source this please share - I've been wanting to buy some violet essence for a while now, with no luck.

    I have memories of my grandma providing beautifully decorated violet cupcakes... I have NO idea where she would have sourced the essence she used, as she lived in the middle of nowhere!

  7. Maffy - will do! Vida x

  8. Maffy, I haven been thinking about your grandmother and her essence and I dare say she made her own! It would have been the done thing back then especially in remote areas... Vida x

  9. Hm, that's entirely possible, she was a pretty damn clever and self-sufficient woman. But no help to me :(

  10. Vida, I didn't know vanilla essence was alcohol too. I'm going to try a few delis and see how I go. And I will ask people if they can order in for me.

    Maffy, if either Vida or I find violet essence, we shall let you know. I think your grandma probably used real flowers. Duncan said that he made some violet jelly recently on his trip to Canberra using real violets.

  11. Thanks you guys - I really appreciate it.

    Good luck Thanh :) When I have some more leisure time I'll go looking for the essence too :)

  12. You could adapt this recipe
    for vanilla essence. It also shows why there is alcohol involved.

  13. Thanks Neil. That was not only a great read, but now I'm almost motivated enough to make my own vanilla extract even. Sounds so easy.

    I have to try and source some violet flowers and if I can do that, I will give this violet essence a try. I can see where the alcohol comes in now. I never knew vanilla extract was alcoholic.

  14. There is an American company called Spice Barn which has Violet flavouring....a darling cyber-friend ordered some for me and sent it on.

    The flavouring is artificial and very strong...a couple of drops is all you'll need. I've made my own violet syrup but, as with the Monin cordial, the flavour is fine for drinks but too diluted for many uses.

    I hope this helps.

  15. Anonymous, thanks for that tip. I wlll look that up. How does the artificial flavouring compare to the real flavour?

    Maffy, I've gone to a few health stores and tried to find violet, and the closest thing I could find so far was something called violet water, which didn't seem to be quite violet essence. It was slso insanely expensive. A 10ml bottle cost $20.

  16. I used the artificial flavouring in a poured fondant (from Joe Pastry's blog) and it tasted fine....just like Haigh's violet creams. It makes a lovely panna cotta too.

    It's so strong, I never use it by the drop.....I just dip a skewer in the bottle.

  17. Anonymous, that sounds great. I just checked out the Spice Barn website and was ready to make my purchase of the violet essence. But then I find that they don't ship internationally. Arrrgghhhh.

    I'm back to square one again. Unfortunately, I don't have any friends in America who can help send it to me. Thank you for your help anyway.

    I was so looking forward to my violet macarons, panna cottas, cream puffs, cupcakes etc. I must continue the search.

  18. hey there i'm new here and i too have been searching for violet essence and i have come across a website that has a huge array of flavourings including rose and violet i'm not sure if they are any good but i will be trying them out and i thought i would tell you about it.
    i hope it solves your problems (:



    this place is great i found violet essence in the floreal section =]

  20. Hi! I am in Melbourne and bought some violet essence this morning at the Crabapple Bakery in the Prahran market (near the Essential Ingredient).

    I plan on making violet macarons next weekend, as well as some raspberry ones with some gorgeous raspberry powder I bought at the essential ingredient. Yum.

  21. Thank you Spaff and Cherry, I'm so excited. I'm going to go and get the stuff from Crabapple Bakery first. Is the stuff they sell real essence or imitation Cherry?

    If that turns out to be imitation and not that great in flavour, I'm going to try the website.

    Thank you both so much, I really want to get my hands on the violet essence and make macarons with it too.

    Let me know how you go with your macarons Cherry, especially what you think of the flavour.