Thalia Ho's Basil Sugar Pound Cake
Basil Sugar Pound Cakes
Makes three 5 x 3-inch (14 x 8-cm) loaves, which serve eight to ten
The point of these is the sugar; the cake is nothing but a vehicle to transport it, albeit a good one. With notes of grass, the basil relieves the richness and enlivens instead. The recipe will make more sugar than you’ll need and the excess can be sealed and stored in the refrigerator for use within the week. It’s lovely paired with lots of things, even fruit.
For the cakes
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks; 170 g) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature, plus extra for greasing the pan
1 ½ cups (190 g) all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups (250 g) granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of a lemon
1/3 cup + 1 ½ tablespoons (100 ml) buttermilk
For the basil sugar
½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar
¼ cup (10 g) packed fresh basil leaves
zest of ½ lemon
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease and line three 5 x 3-inch (14 x 8-cm) loaf pans with parchment paper, leaving a slight overhang over the sides of the pans.
To make the cakes, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and 1 ¼ cups sugar on medium speed until fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Pause mixing to scrape down the bottom and side of the bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well to incorporate each addition, then beat in the vanilla and zest. Beat in half the dry ingredients, followed by the buttermilk, then the rest of the dry ingredients until well combined. Divide among the prepared pans, smoothing out the tops.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. A skewer inserted into the middle of the loaves should come out clean. Let cool in the pans for 15 minutes, before turning out and onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Next, make the basil sugar. Put ½ cup sugar, basil, and lemon zest in a small food processor or grinder. Process until even and fine, stopping before the mixture turns into damp clumps. It shouldn’t take more than 20 seconds. Sprinkle over the cakes before serving. Store the excess sugar, covered, in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Thalia Ho comes from a generation of European bakers. She is an author, baker and founder of the blog, Butter & Brioche. In 2016, Thalia won both Editor’s and Reader’s Choice in SAVEUR Magazine’s Blog Awards for “The Best Baking and Sweet’s Blog." She has done work for radio, television, and film, as in Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled (2017). Her debut cookbook, Wild Sweetness, was published by Harper Design in 2021. Thalia resides in Australia but travels the world often in pursuit of sweetness.
Reprinted with permission from Wild Sweetness: Recipes Inspired by Nature by Thalia Ho. Copyright 2021, Harper Design.