A Cake for the Stay-at-Home Crowd

Lemon verbenaMaybe, like many homebound Vermonters, you’re doing a lot more home cooking these days. Andrew shares this yummy recipe for Lemon Verbena Cake, in case you’re wondering what to do with your organic lemon verbena and lemon geranium leaves. Andrew’s family made this cake often, and here’s how they got the recipe. Andrew had designed a garden for his parents, a garden so gorgeous it was featured in Horticulture, Better Homes and Gardens and the New York Times. The writer included the recipe  for this fantastic cake. We have both lemon verbena and lemon geranium plants – stop by, see them and  smell them. Even better: make the cake and let Andrew know how it turns out!

Lemon Verbena Cake
This moist, old-fashioned cake takes on the subtle flavor of lemon geranium and lemon verbena while it bakes. The same herbs scent the sugar used in the frosting, adding a subtlety to the lemon.
Makes 2 9-inch layers.

PREPARE THE DAY BEFORE: the Lemon Geranium Confectioner’s Sugar

1 box confectioner’s sugar
6 to 8 lime geranium leaves, cut in half and slightly bruised to begin releasing the oils.
Bury the geranium leaves in the sugar in a tightly closed container – preferably glass or plastic will do, but not metal – and let stand at least overnight before using.

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh lemon verbena
1 cup milk
6 to 8 lemon geranium leaves
1/2 lb. butter (2 sticks)
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, separated
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

-Put the lemon verbena and the milk in a heavy enameled saucepan (or the porcelain top of a double boiler) and heat to the boiling point. Remove from the heat and let the lemon verbena steep in the warm milk until it cools. You can strain the herb out of the milk before adding it to the batter or leave it in, adding flecks of green to the finished cake.

-Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter two 9-inch layer cake pans and line the bottoms with circles of parchment or waxed paper. Butter the paper and place 3 to 4 lime geranium leaves in the bottom of each pan.
-Cream the butter. Gradually mix in the sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in the vanilla. Add the dry ingredients alternatively with the milk.

-Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold one-third of the whites into the batter, then carefully fold in the remainder.

-Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 25 minutes of until done.

-Slightly cool on racks then remove the layers from the pans, peel of the paper liners and lime geranium leaves, and finish cooling on racks.

1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons chopped fresh lemon verbena 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter SOFTENED
Juice of 1 lemon
The prepared confectioner’s sugar

-Heat the milk in a heavy enameled saucepan with the lemon verbena and let steep for 30 minutes. Strain if desired.

-Cream the butter and gradually add the flavored confectioner’s sugar, the milk and the lemon juice and beat well. The frosting should be light and fluffy. If necessary add a tiny bit more milk.

-Spread the frosting between the layers and over the top and sides of the cake.

-Garnish with lemon geranium or lemon verbena leaves.
Herbs: Gardens, Decorations, and Recipes By Emelie Tolley and Chris Mead; Clarkson N. Potter, Inc./ Publishers; 1985