Chasing Delicious | Basil Mint Cake with a Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
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Uncut Basil Mint Cake

Basil Mint Cake with a Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Life in retrospect is a series of stories and memories. Many are smile inducing moments we hold dear to our hearts. Some are lessons we learned from heartache and adversity. Often though life becomes a collection of patterns built from what is comfortable to us, repetitive acts of homage to our own past. My first ever memory is a distant, dark memory. I can only remember a brief snippet of time from this lone memory; I simply remember crawling on a floor in a room that at the time seemed gargantuan. I was crawling to a collection of colored bins that held various toys. I remember being afraid and unsure as tears clouded my sight. Everything else seemed so foreign and strange. I have somehow managed to remember this memory from the first ever moment I was separated from my mother, and at less than one year old the memory is a distant, fading thought.

At one year old, to the exact day, I don’t have any particular memory but I do have a picture, fairly typical for a shot found in a baby book, of me enjoying–seriously enjoying–my first ever cake. While I am amazed at my own ability to use a spoon, I am quickly reminded though that despite using a tool at this age the majority of the cake still ended up on my face. While I do not have a memory of this moment, I have an inkling this could be the moment I fell in love with cake.

At three years old birthday cake has become a ritual. My ability to get the cake in my mouth instead of primarily smeared on my face has only somewhat improved.

At five years old I am no longer enjoying cake only on my birthday but on many other special occasions. Cake is still a treat though.

At age ten I am now old enough to help my mother in the kitchen and convince her we need more cake in our lives. My experimentation with baking christmas cookies, chocolate chip cookies, the occasional pastry and other out-of-a-package desserts is not quelling my love for desserts or cake. I need more cake. By this age I have built up enough happy memories involving cake to realize cake is a truly fantastic invention.

By age eighteen I am on my own. For the first time in my life I am as alone as I was in that very first memory, that first moment separated from my mother. Fear and apprehension have returned but with nearly a quarter of my life behind me, I am able to supplement that fear with excitement and braveness. I am at the point in my life where it is time to try new things, to taste what life has to offer. Still I get sad and lonely at times and in those moments when the 150 miles separating my family from me are just too much to bear, I find solace in cake, in the happy, calming, pure-contentness that is biting into a delicious, icing-laden cake.

Now at age twenty-five I am so very aware of the power of cake that I harness its powers far too often. No longer is it just a “I’m having a sad day so I need my cake fix” treat but a “I think we deserve to have a delicious cake this week… again” treat. My interests in cooking and cake have changed. No longer am I relegated to going with either vanilla or chocolate and no longer am I using it simply as an upper. Now there is a whole world of cake out there, so many flavors dying to become a part of a delicious, moist, spongy batter baked to perfection, swimming in a buttery, sweet coating of pure, this-can-only-be-frosting deliciousness. With each bite of cake I am seemingly transported back to every happy moment my hands have been on cake, every special occasion, every moment I managed to smile at the site and taste of this perfect dessert.

This time I decided to try a cake far outside my own box. Though I have made a blueberry and thyme cake before, I have never made a cake where the flavor would be coming solely from herbs. I took my favorite herb (paired it with it’s close cousin) and figured if I love it this much outside of cake, surely I’ll love it in cake. Yes. I really, absolutely, positively love this cake. It, like the strawberry-basil eclairs, is nuanced in relation to a typical vanilla cake. The basil and mint combination is enough to let you know you are indeed eating a basil and mint cake but it is far from overpowering. It is a subtleness that when paired with a simple and classic vanilla butter cream screams delicious summer cake. It is fresh, delicious, different, and very much worth making.

While this cake is a little different that the typical cake made with the creaming method–and because of it requiring quite a bit more eggs–it is still a very simple process. This is technically a chiffon cake (made with beaten egg whites to give a light consistency). It is far from a pound cake, but it lies somewhere between a pound cake and an angel food cake. It is pretty much a delicious sponge cake. It is light, airy and my favorite cake base for icing. It reminds me of years of birthday cakes only with a much more refined, delicious flavor. This cake will make two tall 9″ rounds though you could even use two 10″ rounds.

Basil and Mint Cake

Ingredients
  1 cup milk
  1 bunch basil, rinsed well & dried
  1 bunch mint, rinsed well & dried
  2/3 cup grapeseed or vegetable oil
  8 egg yolks
  1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  2 teaspoons basil leaves, finely chopped 
  1 teaspoon mint leaves, finely chopped
  14 ounces (3 3/4 cups) cake flour
  14 ounces (2 cups) sugar
  4 teaspoons baking powder
  1 teaspoon salt
  8 egg whites

Instructions
 1. Line 2 9" cake pans with buttered parchment paper. Don't
    butter the sides. Preheat an oven to 375F.
 2. Place the bunch of basil and mint (not the chopped herbs) into
    the milk in a heavy bottomed sauce pan. Bring to a simmer and
    remove from the heat. Let return to room temperature. The milk
    should turn greenish and taste like basil and mint. Once cool
    strain the herbs from the milk, reserving the milk.
 3. In a large bowl whisk together the oil and egg yolks. Add the
    milk slowly whisking to incorporate. Add the vanilla and
    incorporate.  
 4. In a separate bowl sift together the cake flour, baking powder, 
    salt and only 1/3 (about 3/4 cup) of the sugar.
 5. Add the flour mix into the egg yolk and milk mix and stir
    together until combined. Add the finely chopped herbs and mix
    well to ensure they are evenly distributed.
 6. Using a mixer whip the egg whites to a foam (about a minute)
    then slowly add the remainder of the sugar and whip at high
    speed until the eggs form stiff peaks. 
 7. Gently fold the egg whites into the cake batter taking care
    not to deflate the eggs. Divide the batter between the two pans
    and bake in a preheated oven for 32 to 36 minutes or until
    the cake springs back when pressed lightly. A tooth pick
    inserted into the center should come out clean.
 8. Let cool completely in the pans before icing.  
 9. Cut the domes off the top of the cakes so that each cake layer
    is a flat cylinder before icing.
  10. Ice the cake using the frosting recipe below.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients
  2 cups butter, very soft at room temp.
  7 cups powdered sugar 
  1 tablespoon vanilla
  1/4 cup heavy cream

Instructions
  1. Add the butter and sugar and begin to mix.
  2. With the mixer on low or medium, begin to add the cream and
     vanilla.
  3. Mix at medium-low or medium until the frosting comes together.
     Be careful not to mix the frosting at too high of a speed to
     avoid adding air.

While sharing my earliest memory with my mother she shared a little on her side of that day too; it is a day she has never forgotten either.

“I debated for hours whether or not I could do this. It was mom’s day off at a local church and your aunt suggested I take a day off. It would only be for a couple hours while she and I would go shopping. After dropping you off though I sat in my car and cried and cried,” A truly beautiful, motherly sentiment from my mom. She hasn’t let me out of her sight since.

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AUTHOR - Russell van Kraayenburg

Founder of Chasing Delicious, and author of Haute Dogs, Russell's works have been featured in Southern Living, Men's Fitness, Redbook, TRADHome, and Real Simple magazines and on various sites including Lifehacker, Fast Co., Business Insider, The Kitchn, Live Originally, Quipsologies, Explore, and Fine Cooking. Follow Russell on Twitter @rvank and Instagram. Get more delicious @chasedelicious.

70 Comments

1
  • Jerry

    This is a very interesting take on basil mint cake. It looks really nice and I could go for a slice of it :)

  • Dee at Deelicious Sweets

    I have wanted a piece of this cake since I saw it on Google + last night! So jealous. Guess I will have to whip one up :) Thanks for sharing!

  • Maureen

    I’m amazed that you were using a spoon on that cake! I am sure I used my fingers at the same age :)

    This cake is brilliant and beautiful! I hope to make one myself that looks half that good!

    • Russell

      I have a feeling I may have somehow just picked up the spoon for the photo. I think I must have been ten before I stopped using my hands to eat : / Thanks for all the kind words : )

  • Sasha @ The Procrastobaker

    Stunning cake, and your photography is just..perfect! What a lovely post and a deliiciiouuss sounding recipe :)

  • Marla Meridith

    There is a whole world of cake out there and I am so very happy you are sharing this one with us. Adorable story & photos :) Basil and mint is such an intriguing combo of flavors.

  • Tina@flourtrader

    I really enjoyed this post. The story on changing tastes as you grow older, the awesome pictures and one of the most unique cake recipes I have seen in a long time. Buzz, Buzz!

  • alyce

    what an interesting combination of flavors. sounds great.

  • The Cilantropist

    Russel this sounds absolutely wonderful! I love these flavors together and would have never thought of them in a cake! Genius.

    • Russell

      Thank you! When I told a couple friends and family this idea–those who would be eating it–a few seemed a bit apprehensive. I was even unsure if I should try it. I am glad I did though. Worth a try for sure.

  • Charissa

    Looks so pretty! And I love the original ideas of flavours…mint with basil and Vanilla! Seriously…it sounds really, really good!

  • Kelly

    This looks gorgeous and you write so beautifully! Love this!!

  • Hester aka The Chef Doc

    What lovely memories! Cake cake cake! We all have a comfort food or dessert that always takes us back to those moments :-) This infusion of basil and mint is definitely different but I like different. I’m so glad it turned out well, Russ!

  • sophistimom

    What a beautiful cake. I can’t believe you got such a deep cake to rise in the oven, but then again, I’ve lived at high altitude for a long, long time.

    The flavors sound heavenly.

    Oh, and thanks for stopping by my blog today. ;)

    • Russell

      I must admit I am glad I do not have to deal with high altitude baking. Every time I read the special instructions for it I just imagine how tricky it can be. I think the combo of egg whites and baking powder helped get this cake to rise super high.

      Of course. I enjoy your blog very much. I will definitely be bag. Thank you too for stopping by here : )

  • Michael Toa

    What a lovely post Russell! I really enjoy reading your memories. Well, you know the saying, “let them eat cake”. I surely can eat cake any time of day. This is such a fantastic, beautiful looking cake. Will you share and cut me a slice? :)

    • Russell

      I can definitely cut you a slice! I’m just not sure how well it will travel.

  • Leslie uhl

    Looks delicious! Must try this one!

  • Isabelle @ Crumb

    Cake is definitely a good-memory kind of food. I’m so glad you shared your cake memories in this post (and your adorable baby photo, too… awwwwwwwwwwww!)
    This cake just rocks my socks – especially because it looks like a really bare-bones white layer cake, but the basil and mint make it totally one-of-a-kind. It makes me wish that it wasn’t a whole 11 months before my next birthday, because now I’m going to have to think of some other excuse to make a cake! :)

    • Russell

      You are going to need to share your 1/12 birthday because we all need more cake in our lives! I’ll help you celebrate too : ) Thank you for all the kind words.

  • Elizabeth

    What a beautiful post. Sharing memories like that with your mom is something truly special, funny how food is always at the core of it though.

    This cake sounds amazing, I love the in between pound and angel comparison. I have a cake I need to make tomorrow, but it’s a pound cake I always make. Now I’m thinking maybe making it a little fluffier like this would be awesome.

    Though I also now want to make this cake. I love the flavour profile. Lime and basil, what a great punch of flavour.

  • Lilly

    Russell what a lovely post and that picture of you as a baby…just too cute. Sometimes I wish we could be more like kids…carefree and with all the time in the world. I am feeding my inner child by making sweets and maybe you do to. Good thing that now we manage to get everything in our mouths instead of all over our faces! Although I wouldn’t mind having this cake all over my face =) JUM JUM

    • Russell

      Haha. I can only imagine the looks we’d get with cake all over our face. And thank you very much for the kind words. I too try and find/hold on to my inner child as much as I can I figured since I’m still young, it shouldn’t be too hard to hold on. Im sure desserts and treats are a huge part of that. I must admit I will usually have left over dessert for breakfast and I definitely have been known to have dessert before dinner. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Anne@frommysweetheart

    Russell…..What a great post of your memories on cake through the years. This cake is just beautiful and such unexpected flavors. I love it! Wonderful photos, too! : )

  • Aggie

    What a great post! So much to this cake I’m loving, the lighter consistency and the herbs!! Your photos are stunning!

    • Russell

      Thank you for all the kind words! They are big compliments coming from you : ) I am now grinning from ear to ear.

  • rebecca

    wow amazing cake and sweet post love your blog

  • blogcomment@creative-culinary.com

    What a lovely post. I have two things in common. I’ve recently been doing more and more with herbs in more of a sweet dessert form, not just savory AND I remember the first day I took my oldest daughter to her first Mom’s Day Out. She was so happy to be in that room with all those kids; and I was crying my eyes out thinking she didn’t love me enough to care that I had left her. Silly mom…luckily the staff assured me that her joy was because she felt so loved and secure…and that helped; and allowed me to enjoy those days much, much more!

  • Barbara | Creative Culinary

    What a lovely post. I have two things in common. I’ve recently been doing more and more with herbs in more of a sweet dessert form, not just savory AND I remember the first day I took my oldest daughter to her first Mom’s Day Out. She was so happy to be in that room with all those kids; and I was crying my eyes out thinking she didn’t love me enough to care that I had left her. Silly mom…luckily the staff assured me that her joy was because she felt so loved and secure…and that helped; and allowed me to enjoy those days much, much more!

    • Russell

      Thank you very much. I can’t imagine what it is like to be a parent yet, but I can only imagine how tough that first day away is. It is nice to hear she got on well on her first Mom’s Day Out. Experimenting with herbs in desserts is fun though, isn’t? I use to be a bit apprehensive about trying stuff like this but I am glad I am getting out of my comfort zone.

  • Lindsey@Lindselicious

    OOoooh I love basil in unexpected places! This cake sounds amazing and looks delish too!

  • Eliot

    I, too, have been experimenting more with herbs in desserts. I love me some basil so will try this soon. Can you define how much is in a “bunch”?

    • Russell

      I used about three sprigs of each basil and mint (probably 15-20 leaves total for each). Sorry for not specifying that above! You should definitely give it a try. It is a unique, fun cake.

  • Cassie @ Bake Your Day

    This is so beautiful and I can only imagine that the taste of the basil against the sweet cake is heavenly! What a great birthday cake!

  • Jess @ littlegirlbigappetite

    Beautiful cake. Love your blog!

  • Susan

    A wonderful story and a wonderfully imaginative cake! I’m going to try making this cake! The milk/herb infusion is so very intriguing! Thanks!

  • Michelle O

    Beautiful cake, flavors and blog. Love this.

  • Maya@Foodiva's Kitchen

    Oh Russell, the flavors in this cake are just ridiculous. Ridiculously delicious, that is! I’d love to have a large piece on my plate right now, just so I can taste it. Love the memories of your relationships with your mom and cake during your childhood too, such an endearing post :-).

  • Eugenia

    Congratulation for being one of the top nine on foodbuzz today!! your cake is beautiful, you deserve it!
    Love your blog. Ciao

  • something_good

    gosh, it looks divine…

  • Ann

    What a great idea – basil and mint! I love it! Congratulations on making Top 9!

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  • Mike@The Culinary Lens

    When I first read the title of this I assumed the cake was going to have a green tinge then I realized you just infused the flavor into it. Such a nice idea using herbs in a cake this way..

  • Helene

    This is a nice combination of flavors. I love making a whipped cream with mint over strawberries. I guess we have to explore in the kitchen. Love the pics :)

  • Sandra

    Very interesting and creative. I can imagine that it’s very light and refreshing.

  • lisaiscooking

    The power of cake is an amazing thing! This one looks fantastic too. The flavor of the herbs with the vanilla buttercream must be incredible.

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  • Stephanie

    That icing looks so delicious that its making me want to go bake a cake right now. I’d better not because there is no one where to eat it but me right now though.

  • Hannah

    Your photos simply take my breath away. They’re so bright and dreamy, almost unreal in their beauty.

    I also love the fact that you combined mint and basil in this cake- I can imagine it would be so refreshing!

  • Emalie

    It looks so light and fluffy and airy… almost ethereal! And I love that this recipe showcases the basil and mint, unlike many others that try to conceal herbs and veggies, or portray them as something they’re not. Keep up the delicious work!

  • CGlass

    I just modified this slightly to make cupcakes for a summer BBQ – they turned out amazingly – thanks for the recipe! x

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  • Beth Michelle

    This is such a beautiful post! I just bought a wonderful purple basil plant for my garden and this looks like the most perfect use for it. Gorgeous photos.

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  • BigFatBaker

    This sounds so fresh. I had never thought about making anything sweet with basil (other than ice cream), but I am so intrigued now!
    I love your photos too! They are so beautiful. Thanks again for sharing this recipe, I can’t wait to try it.

  • Franklin

    I have just baked this according to your recipe and am taking it in to work for tasting. It is quite a firm cake so I made a four layered version. Thank you very much for sharing this.

  • daria

    My daughter who is about to turn 6 asked for a mint cake. “Not! chocolate mint, but just plain white mint” This will be perfect, Thank you. Also, here is a suggestion for a cream, the basic cream we like to use is 2:1 whip cream to soft cream cheese, add bakers sugar and flavorings (vanilla, essential oil, or crushed freeze dried fruit of your choice)I think I will make it with freeze dried strawberries for this one, PINK! and decorate with meringues, mmmm…

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  • Franklin

    My friends loved this cake, and I am so grateful to you because you could also apply the technique of letting the milk take on this unique flavor combination with doughnut dough. Really a super blog. Have you thought of a basil-cornbread recipe?

    • Russell

      Thanks! I’m so glad it went over well. I love the idea of doing this with doughnuts too. And I haven’t tried a basil-cornbread yet. I may need to do that!

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  • Sara

    What type of milk, does it matter whether its whole or not?
    -Thanks

    • Russell

      I always use whole milk in baking (it will lend a little more flavor) but any milk will do just fine.

  • The Forest Cantina

    My name is Unna and i live in New Zealand. I pinned this recipe on Pintrest and tried it out yesterday. Thank you for such a wonderful recipe and for thinking outside the box with your flavor combo! NEXT time i will use caster sugar in the recipe, i used my Trade Aid un-refined organic sugar and the whites didnt stiffen like they usually do when i whip them with caster, so my cake was slightly denser than yours looked. Also, i think i will add more herbs next time too :-) Here is a pic of my cake which i posted on facebook with a link to your page xx https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=248298518626076&set=a.240993609356567.53768.240862156036379&type=1&theater

  • Joanna

    The cake is still in the oven and I can already tell you it is delicious as I couldn’t help myself and ended up eating at least a tablespoon of batter! Lovely recipe, I replaced the regular milk with almond milk and used alpro whipping cream with icing sugar as a filling instead of the butter cream to create a dairy free cake. Thanks so much for sharing!

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    Butter is a dairy product made by churning fresh or fermented cream or milk. It is generally used as a spread and a condiment, as well as in cooking, such as baking, sauce making, and pan frying. Butter consists of butterfat, milk proteins and water.`

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  • Ana

    I made this last weekend for a friend’s birthday and let me just tell you that it turned out great. Everyone absolutely loved it! :)

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