Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Lemon Cakes with Basil Lemon Syrup

These little cakes are ineffably good.  We like them with the King's Feast
to celebrate the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday 
the week before Easter.  It's a wonderful start to Resurrection Week.  
I bake them as mini muffins so they are tiny, 
perfectly so. The lemon-basil sauce, though, 
is the secret key.
The original recipe in Gourmet, April 2005, 
adds a dollop whipped cream,
which seems gilding the lily to me, 
but you could add it if that appeals.  
I always have sauce leftover and it is delicious poured over,
for example, apricot & golden raisin bread pudding.

½ cup unsalted butter, softened, plus 1 ½ Tablespoons, melted (or olive oil)
¾ cup matzo cake flour plus additional for dusting

⅔  cup plus ¼ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, separated, at room temperature for 30 minutes
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest 

  1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly brush mini-muffin cups with some of melted butter and chill 2 minutes, then butter again and chill 1 minute more. Dust cups with matzo cake flour, knocking out excess. 
  2. Beat together softened butter, cup sugar, and teaspoon salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, then add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating until well blended.  
  3. Beat in lemon juice and 2 teaspoons zest until combined. 
  4. Add flour and mix at low speed until just combined. 
  5. Beat whites with remaining teaspoon salt in another bowl with cleaned beaters until they hold soft peaks. 
  6. Add 2 tablespoons sugar, a little at a time, beating, then beat until whites just hold stiff peaks. 
  7. Stir ¼ of egg whites into yolk mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly. 
  8. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups. 
  9. Blend remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon zest with your fingertips and sprinkle over batter, then bake until cakes are puffed, edges are golden, and a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. 
  10. Cool cakes in pan on a rack 15 minutes, then lift out cakes carefully (tops will break easily) and cool completely on rack.

¼ cups sugar
½ cups water
1 (4 x 1-inch) strip fresh lemon zest
½  cup fresh lemon juice
8 large fresh basil sprigs 

  1. Bring all syrup ingredients to a boil, covered, in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, then remove lid and boil 10 minutes. 
  2. Pour syrup through a sieve into a bowl, pressing on and then discarding solids.  
  3. Cool to room temperature.

Cakes are delicious served simply on a plate with sauce drizzled generously over them.  Garnish with tiny basil leaves, if desired.  A dish fit for a King!

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