This cake was inspired by a holiday to the Amalfi Coast several years ago. This part of the country seemed filled with lemons of many different varieties, Ranging from the Amalfi bread lemons, served in slices, to the combination of lemon and orange juice served in cafe’s around the small seaside town of Positano. They also found their way into limoncello, a local lemon liquor which gladly is starting to be seen in England more these days!
When I decided to start creating an Italian cake, limoncello seemed an obvious choice, especially as lemon drizzle cake is a personal favourite of mine. However, lemon itself wasn’t enough – It didn’t scream ‘Italian’ to me! My mind quickly went to basil, knowing that the two flavours are a good pairing, and seeing no reason why it should not work in cake form. The following cake soon developed: A lemon sponge cake with a basil and limoncello drizzle topped with a limoncello mascarpone frosting and candied basil leaves. Very good, and extremely lemony! The basil drizzle imparts enough of the flavour to heighten the taste, without seeming pesto-y, a problem I found with many other lemon and basil cakes. The candied basil leaves offer a lovely contrast in texture whilst still maintaining the flavour, though you may omit these if wished.
Lemon and Basil Drizzle Cake with Limoncello Mascarpone Frosting and Candied Basil Leaves
- 4oz plain flour
- 4oz caster sugar
- 4oz butter
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- zest of two lemons
- Juice of one lemons
- Large handful of basil leaves
- 50g caster sugar
- 4oz mascarpone cheese
- 4oz double cream
- 2 tbsp icing sugar
- 2 tbsp limoncello
Candied Basil Leaves:
- 60ml water
- 100g sugar
- A handful of basil leaves
Preheat the oven to gas mark 5. Line and grease a loaf tin, and set aside.
Cream together the butter and sugar until soft and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the zest of two lemons to the mixture and stir. Fold in the flour and baking powder to the mixture until well combined.
Add the mixture to the tin and bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
To make the lemon syrup, heat the sugar, lemon juice and basil leaves in a small pan, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has formed a thin syrup. Remove from the heat and stir in a tbsp of limoncello. Remove the basil leaves from the pan.
When the cake has been removed from the oven, use a sharp knife or skewer to make small holes in the cake before pouring the syrup over. Leave the cake to cool completely.
To make the candied basil leaves, make a simple syrup using half the sugar and the water, placing the remaining sugar in a small bowl. Line another baking sheet with greaseproof paper. Dip each basil leaf in the sugar syrup and the dredge in the remaining sugar. Place each leaf on the baking tray and allow to cool
To make the icing, whip the icing sugar and cream together to form soft peaks. Separately whip the mascarpone before folding the two mixtures together and adding the limoncello. Spread this on the top of the cake and decorate with the candied basil leaves.