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Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy Basil Cake

apollina baker

Why is this cake so easy?  Because you don't have to start from scratch.  In the interest of saving time and ensuring the consistency/density/texture of the cake, I used this box mix.  Actually I used two boxes, added the zest of 4 lemons and poured it into 3, 9 inch cake pans.  Now, there are great hacks that makes a box cake taste homemade, like this one, but I didn't want to mess with all that yesterday.  Amara and I were doing this together and baking with a toddler takes twice as long and there are a hundred interruptions and a thousand midterm messes to clean. So, we just made two boxes worth of that boxed cake and then mixed 4 lemons worth of zest into the batter. 

The frosting is where the basil comes in.  I love lemon basil cocktails in the summer but seeing as how I am in a certain kind of way this summer, I won't be enjoying them.  I guess I could drink a mocktail but honestly, if it doesn't have alcohol in it, it doesn't do it for me.  I am a water or alcohol kind of girl - no juices, cokes, no fancy Starbucks drinks.  Although when I am not pregnant I do drink my coffee every morning.  Anyway, back to caking...

You'll need:

  • 2 big bags of lemons
  • a BUNCH of basil (I bought a big bag because I wanted to decorate with it and needed a good selection of "perfect" leaves)
  • 1 or 2 boxes of a cake mix (depending on how tall you want it; if using 2 boxes, use 3 cake pans). OR, you can make your favorite homemade vanilla cake; just add the zest of 3 or 4 lemons to the batter, it will be delicious!
  • And that's it besides the common cast of characters:  butter, confectioner's sugar, milk, etc.

So, Lemon and Basil Frosting.  Here it is:

  • 4 sticks unsalted butter, softened and whipped for 8 minutes
  • Around 4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted 
  • Pinch of salt
  • Half a tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • A cup of basil, coarsely chopped 
  • 1/2 cup whole milk (plus a little extra)
  • Zest from 2-3 lemons (to taste)

While the cakes are cooling on your counter, take the 1/2 cup of milk and throw it in a little pot, then dump in the basil.  Heat it to boiling and then simmer it (stirring often) for about 10 minutes. Now, pour the pot of basil milk into a food processor or blender.  I have a Ninja and used the individual smoothie cup blender attachment (looks like that Bullet thing) because I don't have a little food processor.  Grind it up until the large chunks of basil are little bitty.  

Whip the butter on medium for 8 minutes.  Then add the salt and vanilla.  Alternate adding the sugar and basil milk mixture until it's all well mixed and you like the consistency.  Add a little more milk if you like. I added a bit more to mine.  Then toss in that lemon zest you made while your butter was whipping and you're good to go.  I added almost 3 lemons worth of zest, wanted big flavors!  

Once those cakes are all the way cool, frost your cakes.  Crumb coat/fridge for a few minutes/final coat.  I always put a layer of granulated sugar down on the cardboard cake round or the cake plate before I put my bottom cake layer down.  It makes that bottom piece taste extra good and it helps the cake from sliding around a little.  

To Decorate:  Slice a bunch of lemons, the thinner the better (I am challenged when it comes to using sharp knives so I err on the side of thicker slices for finger safety sake).  Lay them on a couple of paper towels and then blot/press another paper towel on them to make them less wet and juicy.  You don't want to get your buttercream all messy and drippy.  Press them into the cake in whatever pattern you like and then arrange some nice basil leaves around them.  It would look prettier if I deseeded the lemons but, again, I had a toddler sitting on the counter next to the cake and time was of the essence.  I let her press some of the basil and lemons into the cake so we had lots of dents and holes going on.  So fun:)

It's totally easy right?  Boxed cake - add lemon zest.  Regular vanilla frosting - with some basil milk and lemon zest.  No big deal. I could have made this in half the time it took us and definitely with half the mess... but it wouldn't have had as much love!  Or toddler flavor;)

The flavor, by the way, is awesome.  Amara really loved the frosting, she said, "Wow Mommy" after she licked her fingers;) And then kept licking.  The basil flavor is supposed to keep getting stronger day after day.  But, as always, you should just eat that cake right away!  Or the next day:)  You know, I bet this would be a good one to freeze and eat nice and cold...