A few years back, I acquired an interesting-looking little cookbook called Desserts from an Herb Garden. It tempted me with a wide range of really unusual-sounding combinations and categories (it covers cookies and candies, cakes, pies, crisps, custards, puddings, frozen desserts, and plated desserts).
The librarian in me loves that it has two indexes – your usual index at the back that lists everything by name and ingredients, and a “Recipes Listed by Herb” index up front – fantastic when I’ve got an abundance of one particular herb and want to find something to use it up.
I hadn’t actually baked anything from it until this year – chalk it up to substandard herb gardens since we’ve moved to the new house (3 years ago, sigh), or just forgetfulness… but I’ve gotten it out twice in the last week, and the results have been fantastic!
The first thing I tried was the Lemon-Rosemary Cream Cake, which came out like a dream. The cake uses cream for the fat and no butter at all, which gives it a really light airy texture – almost like an angel-food cake, but without the stickiness.
(One taster commented that it was the first homemade cake he’d ever had that reminded him of the texture of store-bought cakes (rather than being dense and very moist). He loved it, so I can forgive him the comment and take it in the spirit it was intended. :)
Next week, the Apple-Basil Cake. Mmmm.
Lemon-Rosemary Cream Cake
from Desserts from an Herb Garden, by Sharon Kebschull Barrett.
2 cups bleached all-purpose flour (I used Lily’s White)
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt (I used Trader Joe’s sea salt)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon minced rosemary leaves
1 Tablespoon minced lemon verbena or lemon zest (I used lemon balm, because I have lots of it and no verbena – next year!)
1/2 cup nonfat or low-fat buttermilk (I used Maple View Dairy’s buttermilk, they’re a local dairy that makes exceptional products)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream (Maple View, again)
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon half-and half or milk
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour (or pancoat) a 10-cup Bundt pan.
Whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, and rosemary and lemon verbena leaves; set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk and vanilla; set aside. In a large bowl, beat eggs on medium speed with sugar until thick; batter should fall in a ribbon when beaters are lifted. With mixer on low speed or by hand, alternately mix in flour nad buttermilk mixtures, beginning and ending with flour. Mix just until combined.
In another bowl with clean beaters, beat cream until stiff peaks form; gently but thoroughly fold into batter. Pour batter into prepared bundt pan and smooth the top. Bake for 45 minutes, until the top just springs back when pressed. Cool 10 minutes in the pan on a rack, then turn cake out onto rack to cool completely.
Transfer cake to a serving platter and glaze: Whisk together confectioners’ sugar, half and half, and lemon juice and drizzle over cake.
Note: I totally skipped glazing, and while the cake would have been stupendous with the glaze, it was just fine without – lightly sweet and delicately perfumed with the taste of the herbs inside. Yummy!