Yep, you read that right!
Blueberries, basil, lemon thyme, and lavender, all rolled into one moist, delicious little cake.
Here’s how it came about…
I was looking through cookbooks for blueberry recipes that I hadn’t tried before, and came across one for Blueberry-Sage Corn Muffins. I didn’t make them – well, I made them but without the sage – but the idea of herbs and blueberries remained in my mind.
I let that blueberry/herb idea float around while I made the muffins (mainly for the kids), and basil was the first herb to beg to be included. Probably because we have a ton of basil at the moment and I need to use it. Most of it is green, but I have one purple basil plant…I was going to make a purple pesto with that, but I really don’t have enough. So…
And then I was thinking two things…what else would go nicely, flavor-wise, with the blueberries…and…what else is purple?
First I thought of thyme…and that was replaced by lemon thyme. blueberries and lemon – lovely flavor combination.
And then…the purple idea…lavender!
So out I went, a-gathering.
It’s so nice growing all sorts of herbs – they’re right there whenever you want them!
Oh, and best of all, some of the lemon thyme was blooming, so in addition to the purple flowers from the lavender, I also had tiny little pink lemon thyme blossoms.
I saved the little tiny flowers and chopped up the herbs. I hadn’t picked with any set amounts in mind…I just kind of figured whatever I picked would be the right amount.
Sometimes you just have to do that.
Now, the recipe for the cake itself is a variation on Dorie Greenspan’s Swedish Visiting Cake. I’d made it some time ago when I was part of Tuesdays with Dorie, and remembered it as being moist and kind of like pound cake but not as heavy and dense. I thought it would work well for my purposes, so I started there and made changes as I went along.
It’s always nice when the changes work.
So here we go…
I combined the chopped herbs with sugar in a bowl and rubbed them together to release the oils in the herb leaves.
To that I added a couple of eggs…
And then I stirred in a mixture of flour and salt…
And then I mixed in some cooled, melted butter.
And, finally, the blueberries.
I mixed the blueberries in gently and then poured the mixture into a 9” tart pan.
For insurance against leakage, I’d set the pan on some foil. And set that on a cookie sheet, just because it would be easier to move in and out of the oven on a sheet pan.
I baked the cake in a 350 F oven for about 35-40 minutes. I think it could have gone a bit longer, actually.
Oh – and after about twenty minutes, I sprinkled all the little lavender and lemon thyme blossoms over the top of the cake. I wanted them to bake in, but I didn’t know if they’d burn if they were on top of the cake the whole time.
The kitchen, by the way, smelled fabulous.
I let the cake cool for a while, and then – very carefully – removed it from the pan.
Now, here’s the tricky part.
It tasted very nice that first day. I could taste the blueberries right away, of course, and then there was a very subtle, slightly herby something at the finish.
After a day (if you can restrain yourself), or even two, the flavor increases in complexity, the blend of herbs intensifies – not so much that you wrinkle your nose and wonder why in the world you decided to put them in the cake, but enough so that you pause, mid-chew, and think oooh, this is interesting!
I’m SO happy with this cake.
Now here’s the recipe, in case you want to give it a try. (And really, you should. Just because.)
Blueberry Tea Cake with Purple Basil, Lemon Thyme, and Lavender
(makes one 9” layer)
2 tablespoons fresh purple basil, chopped fine
2 tablespoons fresh lemon thyme leaves
1-2 teaspoons fresh lavender leaves, chopped fine
1 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 stick melted salted butter (that’s what I had in the house – you could increase the salt and use unsalted butter instead) melted and cooled
1 cup blueberries (I used the small, wild ones, but use whatever you’ve got available)
* lavender and lemon thyme blossoms (if you have them available) to sprinkle on top of the cake
What do do:
Butter a 9” cake pan or tart pan (the fluted edges of the tart pan make for a pretty cake) and wrap with foil to trap any leaking that may occur. Place the cake pan on a sheet pan so it’s easier to move it in and out of the oven. (Or don’t – it’s up to you.)
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Whisk together the flour and salt. Set aside for the moment.
Combine the chopped herbs with the sugar and rub between your fingers to release the oils in the herbs.
Whisk in your eggs, one at a time.
Add the flour and salt and mix until combined.
Pour the melted butter in and gently fold the mixture until the butter is completely incorporated.
Finally, fold in the blueberries.
Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake about 35-45 minutes, or until the top is golden and the edges are a bit darker.
* After baking the cake about 20 minutes, sprinkle the lavender and lemon thyme blossoms over the top of the cake.
When the cake is finished, allow it to cool for about ten minutes, then remove the cake from the pan.
You can serve the cake warm if you want to, but I really recommend allowing it to cool to room temperature, then wrapping it in plastic for a day or two so the flavors develop. It’s worth the wait.
Oh, and if you want to be fancy, you could dust the cake with powdered sugar, but that would hide the tiny flower blossoms on the surface. Or, you could make a simple confectioners’ sugar glaze and pour that over the cake and sprinkle the blossoms on that instead of baking them in the cake.
I don’t think it needs the glaze, but I bet it would be pretty.