These little tea cakes are soaked in irresistible honey-lemon tones from the purple-tinged viola syrup. A dollop of sharp labneh – a strained yoghurt with the texture of goat’s cheese – is a nice switch from regular cream, and creates the perfect vessel for the syrup to linger. Make your own labneh by hanging full-fat Greek-style yoghurt in muslin (cheesecloth) and squeezing out the liquid until it’s a firm, creamy ball.
250g unsalted butter
230g caster sugar
2 vanilla beans, split lengthways and seeds scraped
300g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons violas, plus extra to decorate
Preheat oven to 175°C. Line a 12-hole standard muffin or friand tin with paper cases.
Cream butter, sugar and vanilla seeds together in a bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Gently beat in eggs one at a time followed by milk, flour, baking powder and salt.
Pour batter into the prepared tin and bake for about 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of one of the cakes comes out clean. While the cakes are baking, make the viola syrup.
Using your hands, rub the violas into the sugar in a bowl until the flowers are thoroughly mashed (don’t be afraid to be rough). Add the viola sugar mixture and water to a saucepan on a low heat and stir to dissolve, then increase the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the mixture is thick and syrupy.
Remove the cakes from the oven and pour a tablespoon of the warm syrup over each while still hot, reserving some syrup. Leave to cool slightly in the tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
To serve, spoon a generous dollop of labneh on top of each cake. Finish with a generous drizzle of the remaining syrup and decorate with the violas. Makes 12