Apple-Basil Cake

So, the herb garden continues to chug along, making huge quantities of basil and rosemary and mint and other wonderful baking herbs.

This week I wanted to try something a little more unusual.  I pulled out last week’s book (Desserts from an Herb Garden, by Sharon Kebschull Barrett) and found this recipe on the page right after Lemon-Rosemary Cream Cake.  Fate!

The recipe uses oil for the fat – the first time I made it, I used all Canola oil, but the second time I was running low so I substituted half of it with unsweetened applesauce – something I often do to cut down on fats, plus it’s not like more apple flavor is going to hurt this cake!

Oh, and I sprinkled toasted pecan pieces in the bottom of the pan after I had spray-coated it – the crunch was a nice counterpart to the richness of the cake and the glaze.  And I added a teaspoon of Ceylon Cinnamon to the batter itself, because I think Cinnamon and Apples and Basil all go together.

A closer look at the glaze. Yum!

This cake is moist and dense.  Very flavorful – mostly apple with the occasional bright sparkle of basil.  It freezes well, and I imagine it’ll ship well (I’ll find out!  The second cake is getting shipped to Rhode Island after I freeze it).  My sweetie and I were having people over for dinner, so to dress it up for dessert I made a quick cream caramel sauce (infused with cinnamon stick) and added some Dulce de Leche Gelato.  Ohhhhh, my goodness.  That stepped it up from “really darned tasty” to “OMG; to die for”.

All dressed up for dinner…

What would you pair with it?

Apple-Basil Cake

from Desserts from an Herb Garden, by Sharon Kebschull Barrett

CAKE

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

3/4 teaspoon coarse salt

2 Tablespoons (packed) minced cinnamon basil or sweet basil leaves

1 1/4 cups vegetable oil, preferably canola oil (can use half oil and half unsweetened applesauce)

1 3/4 cups granulated sugar

3 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract

3 1/2 cups unpeeled, coarsely chopped cooking apples, such as Granny Smiths

1/2 cup toasted pecan pieces [optional]

GLAZE

3 TB unsalted butter

3 TB packed light brown sugar

3 TB granulated sugar

3 TB heavy cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat oven to 325F.  Pan-coat a 10-inch removable-bottom tube pan. [Note: you’ll want this – the cake sticks like mad] Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of toasted pecans in the bottom of the pan, if you’re using.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Whisk in basil leaves until thoroughly dispersed in the flour; set aside.  In a large bowl, beat together oil and sugar on low speed.  On medium speed, add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add vanilla and beat on high for 30 seconds.  On low speed, add flour mixture and beat just ’til blended.

Fold in apples; spread batter in prepared pan.  Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean.

Just before the cake is done, make glaze: Over med heat, melt butter in a small saucepan and whisk in both sugars, cream, and vanilla.  Boil glaze for 1 minute.

When the cake comes out of the oven, immediately pour the hot glaze over.  Let cake cool completely on a rack before removing from pan.  To remove from pan, run a knife around the edge to release it, then run a think knife between cake and pan bottom; invert to release and invert again to place on platter, so glaze side is up.

12 to 16 servings.

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Lemon Rosemary Cake

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.

Cake Ingredients:
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
3 eggs
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream (Maple View, again)

Glaze Ingredients:

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!

One small corner of the herb garden on the deck this year