lemon loaf cake with basil glaze

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This lemon cake is zingy and filled right to the brim with lemon flavor. Lemon zest is worked into the sugar right at the base, and then the warm cake is poked full of holes and covered in a bright lemon syrup.

In other words, it’s not for the faint of lemon-heart.

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But, with all the lemon flavor, we can work in friends, like the humble vanilla bean and the bright basil. And I know, I know, basil doesn’t belong anywhere near a pound cake like this one – but give it a try, because we all should try something new once in a while. Right?

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Plus, this cake makes two loaves, so feel free to give one to your mother so she can see how together your life is. This cake hides all those corners of adult-hood that no one is ready for yet, plus it feels appropriate for breakfast.

I love a cake that feels like a good choice for breakfast. Cutting the corners of adulthood, one step at a time.

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I liked serving this cake with fresh strawberries – the combination of the strawberries and basil is killer, plus, if you serve this to your friends you will definitely look fancy. I don’t know about you but I need all the help I can get when it comes to fancy.

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lemon loaf cake with basil glaze
lemon cake adapted from joy the baker

for the cake:
2½ cup all-purpose flour
2½ teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
2⅓ cup sugar
1 vanilla bean, or two teaspoons of pure vanilla extract
6 large eggs
⅔ cup heavy cream
zest of 2 lemons, as fine as you can get it
15 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

for the syrup:
¼ cup sugar
⅓ cup water
juice of two lemons

for the glaze:
¼ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons chopped basil
1½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon of lemon juice (or more, to taste, if you’d like a more lemony flavor)

how-to:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 8½ by 4½ inch loaf pans, and cut out a piece of parchment that overhangs both of the long sides. This will help you pop out the cake with ease.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl, ensuring that it is totally incorporated.

In a large bowl, put the sugar and the lemon zest. Using your fingers, rub the zest into the sugar until the sugar takes on a lemony color and smell. You’ll know when it’s ready. Add the vanilla bean and rub to incorporate (if you’re using the vanilla extract, don’t add it now).Add the eggs into the sugar mixture and whisk to combine. Add the vanilla extract, if using. Whisk in the cream.

Fold in the dry ingredients in 3 additions, using a rubber spatula. Fold in the melted butter until uniform.

Split the batter between the two pans, and smooth the top with a spatula. Place pans on two baking sheets stacked together (or an insulated baking sheet), and bake for 55-60 minutes, until golden brown and a tester comes out clean.

While the cakes are baking, make the syrup. Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan, and heat over medium heat, until the sugar has melted and the mixture begins to boil. Remove from the heat, stir in the lemon juice, and place in a bowl to cool.

Once the cakes have finished baking, place them on a rack to cool for 5 minutes before turning them out. Poke the cake with a thin object (like a small sharp knife, a skewer, or anything you have on hand) and make lots of little small holes. Slowly brush the syrup over the two cakes, making sure to give it plenty of time to sink in. Let cool to room temperature while you make the glaze.

To make the glaze, place the heavy cream in a small saucepan over medium heat, until steaming, hot, and with a ring of small bubbles around the edge. Be careful to not let it boil. Add the basil to the cream, and allow to sit for 7 minutes. Strain, and place the cream in a bowl. Add the powdered sugar in batches, stirring with a whisk or a fork to combine. Add the lemon juice. Adjust with a bit more cream, lemon juice, or powdered sugar to make the glaze thicker or thinner to your preference.

Once the cake has cooled, drizzle with the glaze, reserving any extra glaze for serving. Either top or serve the cake with fresh strawberries, and enjoy!