29 May 2015

Strawberry Basil Cake with Balsamic Frosting

It is strawberry season! The strawberries we get here are gorgeous and I could eat them on their own a kilo at a time; but that does not mean that I don't like a strawberry dessert from time to time. I've played in the past with strawberry cupcakes and balsamic frosting and strawberry basil sorbet and this time decided to combine all the flavors.

Finally got a real measuring cup!

Even though I got an oven sometime ago it is only recently that I've really started baking. Part of the what's held me back is how difficult some key ingredients are to get; like vanilla. Sure I could buy vanilla beans at a spice shop, over pay by about 300% for a bottle of good vodka and make my own...but I just cannot pay that awful mark-up on alcohol. Luckily for me I found Simply Nicki's. She makes peanut butters, vanillas, extracts, and all sorts of good things. When I lived in the US I was a devotee of Mexican vanilla but Nicki turned me onto Ugandan vanilla and it is fantastic. I think I need to get some Tahitian vanilla from her as well.

The last few years I have been very picky about the ingredients I use for my desserts but that was not always the way! When I was younger I was unaware that there even was a difference between baking powder and baking soda. We (i.e. my dad) planted a ton of strawberries every year so strawberry short cake was a pretty common dessert in our home. Heck there were days when that's all dinner was too! I remember once, I must have been in middle school, I wanted to make the biscuits for the shortcake. They came out of the oven and were gorgeous. Fluffy, just the right shade of golden brown...I was so impressed with myself. Then we put the strawberries on them. Everything turned purple and started to fizz. It was a little like eating Pop Rocks. That's when I learned that baking powder and soda are two very, very different things!

I promise you really do need baking powder for this!

  • 400 ml flour
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1/8 Teaspoon salt
  • 150 ml olive oil
  • 175 ml sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 Teaspoon vanilla
  • 100 ml milk
  • 1 1/2+ Cups sliced strawberries
  • 2+ Tablespoons chopped basil*
  • 230 grams cream cheese (or labne)
  • 115 grams siftened butter
  • 3+ Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 100 ml powdered sugar
  1. Sift (or not, I'm lazy so I don't) the flour, baking powder, and salt then set aside.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk or beat together the oil and sugar. Then beat in eggs one at a time then the vanilla.
  3. Into that add, in 5 parts, the dry ingredients and milk (flour-milk-flour-milk-flour).
  4. Fold in berries and basil.
  5. Bake in greased 8x8 pan at 190C for about 20-25 minutes.
*Don't be afraid of the basil! I always forget that basil's taste is much milder than the scent and I chickened out and didn't put in enough.

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