This version of pound cake features the flavors of two herbs: lime basil and lemongrass. The flavors are extracted from the leaves of lime basil and the stalk of lemongrass in a solution of milk, which is later added to the pound cake batter. The essences that give these herbs their flavors, such as citral and limonene, will hold up to extended baking time in the oven.
I first served this cake without any icing to my daughter. Knowing that she would be unlikely to try the cake if I told her it had lime basil, I told her that it was a regular pound cake. Big mistake. On the first bite she immediately sensed the herbal lemon flavors and refused to eat any more of it. She is very fussy about what she will put into her mouth and was not happy about being misled about the flavor. She loves plain vanilla pound cake and is not yet ready for more complex flavors like lemon and lime.
I topped the cake with homemade mint glaze consisting of mint milk and powdered sugar. To make the mint milk, I cut fresh peppermint leaves from my garden and steeped them in milk. I did not use any mint oil. I thought that the powdered sugar was a bit too sweet and am looking for ways to improve this icing.
Later on I served the lime basil pound cake with mint glaze to my extended family, all of whom enjoyed it. Two of my sisters (who are bitter tasters) asked to take the leftovers home. This is a pretty good pound cake and is worth trying if you are looking to go beyond plain vanilla.
1/2 pound unsalted butter (2 sticks or 8 ounces)
1/2 cup shortening
2 1/2 cups sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour sifted
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup milk
1 to 2 cups of fresh lime basil leaves loosely packed
2 stalks lemongrass — inner white portion only — finely minced
Pour milk and condensed milk into a 1-quart saucepan. Add the lime basil leaves and minced lemongrass. Slowly heat mixture to about 75 deg. Celsius or about 170 deg. F. Muddle the leaves and lemongrass. When temperature reaches 75 deg. Celsius, turn off heat. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature. Continue to muddle with the back of a spoon or a muddler. (This step can be done the night before. In this case, store the milk in the refrigerator.)
Grease and flour an 11″ bundt cake pan and set aside. Though I use the Wilton nonstick tube pan, I still grease it.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a measuring cup or bowl. Set aside.
Cream the butter, shortening and sugar. Use low to low-medium speed if using an electric mixer. On my first attempt, I creamed it for about 30 minutes. Long mixing at slow speed will produce an airier texture. Short mixing at higher speed will result in a heavier texture.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Add the eggs one at a time and beat them into the creamed butter and sugar.
Strain the lime basil leaves and minced lemongrass from the milk.
Next, gradually add the flour and the lime basil/lemongrass milk. The milk should be at room temperature or cooler and it should not contain any leaves or bits of lemongrass at this stage. Alternate between flour and milk. Do not over-work the batter with your mixer or food processor. Excessive mixing or stirring may result in a stiffer cake texture.
Pour batter into pan and bake until done, usually for at least an hour. If the cake pan is dark, such as the Wilton nonstick tube pan, consider baking it at a slightly lower temperature, like 325 degrees F.