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Basil-ly Perfect Lemon Olive Oil Cake

This recipe was inspired by a few desserts I’ve had in the last year: a brûléed olive oil cake from Cucina 8 1/2 in NYC, basil ice cream from Blank Slate Creamery in Ann Arbor, MI, and a basil strawberry lemonade from Colectivo Coffee, which confirmed for me that basil ought to paired with sweet flavors more.

I set out to combine the flavors and textures of sweet basil and crunchy sugar, and this is the result, adapted from NYT Cooking. It will turn out even if you add the oil too early, as I did, so it is forgiving, whips up very quickly and keeps well. 

I served this for Easter and my mom created the most beautiful table scape with her collection of blue and white china. The bright blue and yellow was the perfect setting for a lemony, summery cake and made for a wonderful celebration of spring and the resurrection! 

Lemon Basil Olive Oil Cake

Serves 10 | Prep time: 25 minutes  Bake time: 45 minutes  Total time: 1 hour 10 minutes

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1½ cups granulated sugar, plus about
1/4 cup for sprinkling
3 large eggs
2 1/2 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest, divided
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 4 small lemons)
25 basil leaves
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease and flour a 9-inch springform pan and shake out excess flour.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the eggs, 1 1/2 cups of sugar, 2 tablespoons of zest, and 20 basil leaves. Mix on high until thick and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil, lemon juice, and milk.

Gradually combine the wet and dry ingredients. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.

Allow the cake to cool in the pan for about 20 minutes. The cake can be stored at room temperature for up to a week.

When you are ready to serve, slice the cake and separate the slices slightly. In a small grinder or food processor, combine the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 tablespoon zest, and basil leaves. Process until well combined. Sprinkle a generous teaspoon on each slice and caramelize with a blowtorch. We served ours with homemade vanilla ice cream.

Bon appetit! 🍋🌿

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