Let me start by saying that this entire recipe is based on guilt. My best friend’s birthday was on Monday and I had forgotten. Not entirely, per say, as I knew it was close, but forgotten nonetheless. The guilt ate me up. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned it here, but my favorite way to apologize is with food. I’ve been telling guests that for years when I would manage in restaurants and it’s true in my personal life. Food is just the ultimate apology, especially if it’s homemade.
So, here I was on Tuesday, wracked with overwhelming guilt (we have been friends for thirteen years), when I thought of this cake. I had already gone a little overboard with the blood oranges at the house, so I didn’t want that to be the primary flavor profile. I thought something herbaceous would be nice for the cake and that I would counter it with something light, yet sweet, for the frosting. The cake was the easy part. As I stated in my previous post, it’s always good to have some basic recipes that you can tweak and change. This recipe is based on my Lemon Rosemary Yogurt Cake , but this time I switched the rosemary out for basil. Whoa, is my only response. That one change made EVERYTHING about that cake completely different in the most unexpected way. The way I see it, everyone likes lemon basil pasta so why wouldn’t that translate well into a cake. Trick question, because it does! I won’t lie, I couldn’t resist throwing some blood orange juice into the cake and I think it made it even better. I just love them so much.
The buttercream was something I gave a little thought to. I didn’t want it to be boring old vanilla, but I didn’t want it to be so heavy and overpowering that it took away from the cake. The solution: orange blossom water. I have never used it before in my life. In fact, never smelled it before, either. Let’s just say that it’s beyond fragrant and everything I’ve read about it says to use sparingly. Typically used in Middle Eastern and African cooking, it’s also used throughout Europe as a means of scenting various baked goods. I have to be honest, I just went with it. I now am the proud owner of the biggest bottle of orange blossom water, so I guess I’ll need to find some uses for it soon!
In theory, all of these flavors should mesh well (Oranges and basil are a classic and commonly unfamiliar pairing) and I decided to just go for it. I’m very glad I did because the results where stupendous. I’ve had nothing but rave reviews over the cake (I brought it to my ‘test kitchen’ last night and it was a hit) and I have to say that I’m quite proud of it. It was a leap of faith on my end and I’m glad I took the jump. In fact, a lot of my baking has been just that, a leap of faith into the unknown, and I find that I am rewarded every time. That’s not to say that everything comes out perfectly one hundred percent of the time, but if I’m learning, I’m happy. It’s all about trial and error. Well, let me tell you, I went through all of that so you can enjoy the fruits of my labor. This is a MUST try if you’re feeling adventurous.
Citrus Basil Cake:
- 1 3/4 cups sugar
- zest from 1 lemon and 1 blood orange
- 2 tablespoons blood orange juice
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup plain greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 teaspoons fresh basil, finely chopped
- 2 cups self-rising flour
Orange Blossom Buttercream:
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 3-4 tablespoons milk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon orange blossom water**
**Remember, orange blossom water is very fragrant. If you choose to add more, do so sparingly.
- Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two 9 in cake pans and line the bottom of both with parchment paper. Set aside for later use.
- In a large bowl, beat the sugar, eggs, vegetable oil and zest together.
- Add your juices, vanilla and greek yogurt, making sure to blend completely before you finally add the remaining ingredients (flour, basil and salt). Stir well.
- Evenly distribute the batter between both of the pans previously set aside and place in the oven for roughly 30-40 minutes, or until your skewer comes out clean.
- Set on a wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes, then remove from pan to cool further. You must make sure the cake has completely cooled before frosting.
- While the cake is baking, beat together your softened butter and powdered sugar until it becomes smooth. Once achieved, add the milk, vanilla extract and orange blossom water. Beat until the frosting is light and fluffy. The longer you do this, the fluffier it gets.
- Once the cake has finally cooled, spread the buttercream between the cake layers and the top of the cake. I lightly frosted the outside of the cake to try to achieve the “naked” cake look. You do whatever you like with the rest. What little I had in the bowl I enjoyed before clean up. (Waste not, want not. Right?)
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