Lemon and basil sponge with blueberry filling

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We have eight plants which are all thriving and instead of making yet another mozzarella and tomato salad I decided to try putting some into my baking.

Lemon and basil are natural mix and while most recipes are heavy loaves or pudding-based i wanted to make a lighter sponge.

Here’s the result of my experiment, the basil is very mild as there’s only a teaspoon sprinkled in so if you love the flavour you could add in more.

The pansys on top are picked from pots on our drive and my top tip is to put them on at the very last minute as they will wilt quickly. Try and get fresh ones if you can – without all the added pesticides you might get via shop-bought ones.

They are edible and do add a sharper kind of peppery flavour which cuts through the lemon but if you aren’t keen feel free to remove before eating or just stick with the buttercream top.

Ingredients:

225 caster sugar

225 unsalted butter at room temperature

Four eggs at room temperature

225g plain flour

Rind from two unwaxed lemons

tablespoon of chopped basil (or ground with a pestle and mortar)

1 teaspoon baking powder

50ml of milk (whole is best but semi skimmed works fine)

Pinch of salt

Icing:

100g unsalted very soft butter

500g icing sugar

2 tablespoons lemon curd

100g fresh blueberries

Fresh pansys to decorate

Lemon syrup:

Juice of 2 lemons

200g caster sugar

How to make…

Preheat the oven to 190C/180 fan/Gas 4 and take the eggs out of the fridge.

Grease two18cm/7in sandwich tins with butter and baking paper (insides and the bottom).

Beat together the sugar and butter (if the butter’s still hard pop it into the microwave for 30 seconds) until the mixture is light and fluffy. This takes about four minutes with an electric mixer and double by hand. The mixture should have doubled in size and look a little lighter in colour.

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Add in the eggs one by one. The mixture will split at this stage so with every egg you mix in also add a tablespoon of your flour to prevent it looking like scrambled eggs.

Mix in the milk until incorporated then add the basil and lemon and the salt.

Sieve in the flour and baking powder and carry on mixing – at a slow speed if using an electric mixer – until everything comes together.

Plop it into each sandwich tin and try to split the mixture evenly – I have at times weighed each tin to make sure they’re the same but this is not necessary.

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Bang each tin on a flat surface a couple of times to get rid of the air bubbles then whack into the oven on the same level.

Set a timer for 35 minutes but keep an eye on the cakes.

Now make the lemon filling. Put the juice of your two lemons in a small saucepan along with 200g caster sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved then set aside.

Then make your icing. Mix together 100g of very soft butter with 500g icing sugar and a tablespoon of lemon curd. It should take around five minutes with an electric mixer to make it light and foamy.

They’re done when the colour has browned and they spring back when you gently press them – or stick a sharp knife in and it comes away clean.

Once done take out and prick all over with a sharp skewer or knife then drizzle over the lemon sauce. It should seep into the cake making it sticky and delicious when cooled.

When the cake is cold – don’t be tempted to try the next stage when it’s still warm – cover it with a thin layer of the icing, including the middle layer. Fill the center of the two cakes with the blueberries and seal them in with the icing. This is the crumb coating layer and will stop the cake mixing into the icing for the final finished look. Pop the whole thing in the fridge for at least an hour.

When the icing is hard to touch take it out and cover it with a second layer of the buttercream. A spatula will be your best friend at this point – heat it with hot water to make the whole thing easier.

Once you’re happy – cover the top of the cake with the fresh flowers and you’re done.

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