Updated: Aug 17, 2020
Lemons are a gorgeous ingredient to bake with, and they are pretty much available all around the year. And the flavor, oh the flavor that lemons add to any dish, baked or cooked, is just indescribable.
I am a self-proclaimed lover of lemons, and I love to bake lemon-flavored desserts. And one of the lemony desserts I’ve been dying to make is a loaf of lemon cake, not just any lemon cake, a lemon poppy seed cake. Lemon poppy seed cakes just look beautiful and summery; it’s everything I love packed into one beautiful loaf.
But as fate would have it, I did not have the adequate poppy seeds I needed to make a lemon poppy seed cake. I had the white poppy seeds which wouldn’t have given me the signature polka dot look that the cross-section of a lemon poppy seed cake has. So I picked up the next best thing I had in the pantry, sweet basil seeds. Sweet basil seeds are a culinary herb, and you probably have some in your own kitchen or pantry, you might recognize them as sabja.
Therefore, for this recipe, I swapped the poppy seeds for sweet basil seeds, and the result is absolutely delicious. A lemon sweet basil seed cake is just another flavor variant of a pound cake.
Let us now understand what a pound cake is and what goes into my lemon sweet basil seed cake in brief.
What’s in a lemon and sweet basil seed cake?
Pound cakes’ origin can be traced back to northern Europe and England. The oldest pound cake dates back to somewhere around the early 18th century.
Traditional pound cakes are made with four ingredients: butter, sugar, eggs, and flour. The reason it’s called a pound cake is that one pound of each of the four ingredients goes into the cake.
Compared to the regularly used measurements in baking, a pound is roughly 450 grams or 2-3 cups. And, yes, that’s a lot of cake.
But, breaking down the whole “one pound of each ingredient” formula, you can understand that the ratio of each ingredient with the others is simply 1:1:1:1. Understand this and you can manipulate the quantity of ingredients and make a cake of any size.
Now, there are no leavening agents in a pound cake except the eggs and the air that you beat into the batter while creaming the butter and sugar. This will yield in a dense cake with a tightly knit crumb.
I’m not a big fan of dense cakes, so I’ve changed a few things in the recipe for this lemon and sweet basil seed cake. I’ve made a version of a lemon pound cake that’s lighter but not too far away from what makes it a pound cake. I’ve used baking soda, baking powder and yogurt to create more air pockets in the batter.
For the flavor part, a traditional pound cake would have vanilla extract, but since this is a lemon-flavored cake, I add freshly squeezed lemon juice along with some lemon zest. The acid in the lemon juice also activates the chemical leavening agents giving you a little more aeration in the cake. And sweet basil seeds or sabja, they’re healthy, packed with nutrients and have so many benefits.
Going back to the ingredients in the cake, I’ve used 100 grams as my base quantity. Therefore, the four main ingredients of the pound cake are all 100 grams. So, we have 100 grams of butter, 100 grams of sugar, 100 grams of eggs (approximately two eggs), and 100 grams of all-purpose flour.
Now, I know some of you don’t use eggs in baking, and it’s perfectly fine. Just substitute the two eggs for 100 grams or ½ cup of yogurt mixed with ¼ teaspoon of baking soda.
The density of this pound cake is still pretty high despite adding the leaveners, which is why this lemon sweet basil seed cake needs to bake for almost an hour. I bake mine at 160°C for around 55 minutes. Don’t worry; you won’t burn your cake. What this does is, it assures your cake is cooked throughout and gives you a gorgeous brown crust and a lovely, soft yellow crumb on the inside.
Let us now see what equipment you need to make my lemon and sweet basil seed cake.
Pound cakes are either made in a bundt pan or a loaf pan; this recipe is structured around the cake being in a loaf shape. So, yes, you will need a loaf pan.
My cake loaf pan is quite small, it’s 5 ½ inches in length, 3½ inches in width and 2½ inches in height. My recipe gives me a perfectly sized cake for the size of the pan. In case you have a bigger loaf pan, I would suggest you increase the quantity of the ingredients.
Apart from the loaf pan, you will need an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer. This recipe requires you to cream the butter and sugar together, which will take an unnecessary amount of time to get done if you choose to manually whisk. It is advisable to have a hand mixer at least if you’re going to attempt this recipe.
And, you will also need parchment paper. The cake is going to be in the oven for an hour, and you don’t want to spend another hour scraping down cake bits because it got stuck to the pan.
Now, here’s every piece of equipment you need to bake the cake:
Electric hand/stand mixer
Medium-sized mixing bowl
Small mixing bowl
The Recipe for The Best Lemon and Sweet Basil Seed Cake
Yields: One 5½ x 3½ inch loaf cake
Time: 20 minutes + 1 hour for baking
INGREDIENTS (Click For Grams to Cups Converter)
100 grams (½ cup) caster sugar
100 grams (½ cup) softened butter
100 grams eggs (2 large eggs)*
2 tablespoons yogurt
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest
100 grams (¾ cup) all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons sweet basil seeds
200 grams (1½ cup) icing sugar
20-30 grams (2 tablespoons) freshly squeezed lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 160°C. Grease and line a loaf tin with butter and parchment paper.
Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until you have a light and fluffy mixture.
Add in the eggs one by one and incorporate it into the butter-sugar with the electric mixer.
Add the yogurt, lemon juice, and lemon zest to the mixture. Use a wire whisk to incorporate them in.
Sift in the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Using a wire whisk or rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients.
Fold in the sweet basil seeds.
Pour the batter into the prepared tin and even out the top using a spatula. Do not bang the tin on a counter.
Bake in the preheated oven for 55-60 minutes, stick a toothpick in, and if it comes out clean, the cake is ready.
To make the icing, whisk together the icing sugar and lemon juice until the sugar is dissolved. Adjust the thickness by increasing or decreasing the quantity of lemon juice.
Ice the cake about 15 minutes after taking it out of the oven and garnish with lemon zest or sweet basil seeds if you wish to.
Let it cool down completely before serving.
If you plan on serving the cake on a later date, don’t ice it, wrap it in two layers of plastic wrap and refrigerate until you need it.
For an eggless version, use 100 grams or ½ cup of yogurt with ¼ teaspoon of baking soda mixed in. Remove the yogurt and baking soda that are listed in the actual recipe.