• Diana Lee

Strawberry Basil Loaf Recipe



April is a beautiful time, usually. Right about now every year, Milan blossoms. Mother Nature gifts us with pink cherry blossom-lined roads, and lilac magnolias drape over the gates and internal courtyards of our casa di ringhiere (a typical type of architecture in Milan where all apartments face an internal courtyard, like a 'ring' shape). I go running on the canals that are sporadically interrupted with blooming red poppies, and the park behind my home is covered in a carpet of daisies (much to the joy of my friend's pug, who, being a pug and therefore strange, loves to eat them). Then there is Salone del Mobile, bringing in the who's who of design from all over the world, literally to our doorsteps. With this, the city jumps out of its winter slumber, in grand style, with way too many stylish events spilling out of our Facebook invite notifications. I must admit it, as I sit inside my apartment watching this wonderful season pass by my window, I feel a tinge of sadness for all the beauty of our world that has been put on hold due to the pandemic.





So I made another cake. We can't go outside and enjoy nature's colourful blooms, so why not bring some colour to our tables instead? I had half a tray of strawberries, and my basil plant looked like it was on steroids, and so came about this strawberry and basil cake.


Strawberry and basil might seem like an odd combination, but put together, these delicate flavours are quite the perfect marriage, wonderful in a cake.


The basil is barely detected on the palate but is there, sitting right behind juicy morsels of strawberry, in a moist, soft crumb that is buttery and never too sweet.


And the pink glaze, while not entirely necessary, I thought was justified in our current circumstances. Pink is always good.



How to make a strawberry loaf cake


This strawberry loaf cake uses a great basic loaf cake recipe that starts with melted butter, buttermilk, sugars, eggs, flour and leavening agents (both baking soda and baking powder). I've used milk with vinegar instead of buttermilk here because buttermilk doesn't seem to exist outside of America. If you have buttermilk, ignore the milk and vinegar (or lemon juice) and go straight for 240 ml (one cup) of buttermilk.


Other substitutions for buttermilk

For one cup (240 ml) of buttermilk, you can always use:

- 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice added to a cup of normal cow milk (a bit less than a cup to make a total of one cup with the vinegar). Let sit for about 10 minutes for the acid to react with the milk and thicken it.

- one cup of kefir

- one cup of plain yoghurt


The rest of the process is easy. As always when baking, make sure you take out the eggs about half an hour before starting to bring them to room temperature. Sugars are mixed in with the wet ingredients, and the flour is whisked together with the other dry ingredients (baking soda, baking powder and salt) before the two are combined into a batter. Additional ingredients, such as the basil and strawberries are folded in at the end.


And as I mentioned earlier, the glaze is entirely optional. This loaf cake will bring you joy with or without the glaze.


Happy baking, friends.


LOVE STRAWBERRIES? TRY ALSO MY STRAWBERRY CREAM SCONES RECIPE



Simple Strawberry Basil Loaf Cake Recipe


Makes one standard 5x9 inch, 22cm loaf cake


This is a recipe for a not-too-sweet loaf cake with a soft, buttery crumb that's dotted with juicy strawberry bits and a fragrant touch of basil. Buttermilk, if you can find it, can be used in place of the milk and vinegar mixture in step 2, so can kefir or natural yoghurt of the same quantity. If you are going with natural yoghurt, just make sure you use the plain variety without added sugars. This strawberry basil cake is delicious for afternoon tea, but nobody will judge you if you have a slice for breakfast the next day - I am sure it will bring you great joy on any grey morning.


Ingredients

115 g butter 230 ml milk 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice 100 g sugar 45 g packed brown sugar 60 ml maple syrup or agave syrup 1 egg, room temperature 300 g plain flour, plus 2 tablespoons 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon baking powder 1 teaspoon salt zest of 1 lemon 300 g fresh strawberries, diced 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

For the glaze

200 g icing sugar

2-4 tablespoons lemon juice

pink colouring (optional)

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Butter a loaf pan and line with baking paper. 2. Mix the milk and vinegar or lemon juice, set aside. The acidity of the vinegar or lemon juice will start reacting with the milk, and after about 10 minutes you should see that it has thickened. 3. Over low heat in a small saucepan, melt the butter. Set aside. 4. In a large bowl, whisk together the milk mixture, sugars, syrup, eggs and melted butter until blended. 5. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients, (300 g flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt) and zest. 6. In a small bowl, add the strawberries and 2 tablespoons of flour. Stir to coat the strawberries in the flour. 7. Using a spatula, mix the milk and sugar mixture with the flour mixture until just combined. Gently fold in the strawberries and basil. Be careful to not over mix. 8. Pour the batter into the loaf tin and bake for 45-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. 9. Let the loaf cool for about 15 minutes in the tin before turning it out to a wire rack to cool completely.


10. If you are making the glaze, wait until the loaf is completely cool - when you place your hand on top you should register no warmth. Place the icing sugar in a medium bowl and add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Whisk, and add an extra teaspoon of liquid at a time to reach the right consistency. To achieve the cartoon-drip look in the photo, the glaze should be very thick but just runny enough, so that it falls like a thick ribbon onto the cake. Cover the cake with the glaze by letting the glaze fall from the spoon onto the top of the cake (it will be too thick to spread around). Carefully nudge the glaze on the edges to let it drip down.


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