An abundance of basil |

An abundance of basil

Roberta DesBouillons
Special to The Union
Photo for The Union John Hart
Jorn Hart | The Union

Dear Roberta: My family loves fresh basil and for years I have planted enough to make and freeze pesto that will last the winter. This year I overplanted and I turn to you for some new and interesting things to do with my extra basil.

I always have pesto “ice cubes” in the freezer also and right about now they run out and are ready for replenishing.

I have an unusual recipe for you to try.

Lemon Cakes with Basil, Lemon Syrup

For cakes

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened, plus 1 1/2 tablespoons, melted

3/4 cup cake flour plus additional for dusting

2/3 cup plus 1/4 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs, separated, at room temperature for 30 minutes

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

For syrup

1 1/4 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups water

1 (4- by 1-inch) strip fresh lemon zest

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

8 large fresh basil sprigs

For whipped cream

1 cup chilled heavy cream

Special equipment: a muffin pan with 12 (1/2-cup) muffin cups

Garnish: small fresh basil leaves

Make cakes:

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly brush 8 muffin cups with some of melted butter and chill 2 minutes, then butter again and chill 1 minute MORE. Dust cups with matzo cake flour, knocking out excess.

Beat together softened butter, 2/3 cup sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, then add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating until well blended. Beat in lemon juice and 2 teaspoons zest until combined. Add flour and mix at low speed until just combined.

Beat whites with remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt in another bowl with cleaned beaters until they hold soft peaks. Add 2 tablespoons sugar, a little at a time, beating, then beat until whites just hold stiff peaks.

Stir one fourth of whites into yolk mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly. Spoon batter into 8 prepared muffin cups.

Blend remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon zest with your fingertips and sprinkle over batter, then bake until cakes are puffed, edges are golden, and a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.

Cool cakes in pan on a rack 15 minutes, then lift out cakes carefully (tops will break easily) and cool completely on rack.

Make syrup:

Bring all syrup ingredients to a boil, covered, in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, then remove lid and boil 10 minutes.

Pour syrup through a sieve into a bowl, pressing on and then discarding solids. Cool to room temperature.

Assemble dessert:

Beat cream in a bowl with cleaned beaters until it just holds stiff peaks.

Spoon 1/4 cup syrup into each of 8 shallow bowls and top with cakes. Spoon whipped cream on top of cakes

Roberta DesBouillons is the in-house chef at Tess’ Kitchen Store in Grass Valley. She is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and used to own/operate Apron Strings Cooking School in San Francisco. Email questions to

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