One of my favorite things to eat in the entire world is basil. I love it – I infuse it into simple syrup and teas, I add it to pastas and wraps, I’ve made ice cream with it (more on that in a later post!), and I have now started baking with it. I unfortunately cannot find fresh basil in Liberia yet, but the other day I found fresh brussel sprouts for 16USD/pound, so I have hope that it might pop up at some point! I’m also going to try growing it soon, which I’m a bit worried about as rainy season has started here. But we’ll see!
I made these not long before I left NY. The reason these cupcakes are blue and pink is that my dear, dear friends were pregnant with their first baby. They were going to have a reveal party to find out with their friends the gender of their baby – but decided they couldn’t wait the three days until the weekend to have everyone over. So, because I was so disappointed to not be able to make cupcakes for their party, they agreed that they would find out, but would only tell a few people, and not post it on facebook – so we could have brunch and do a special reveal for me. 🙂 The fact that they waited to post it on fb (and nothing is official until it’s on fb…) was so special, and so I made blue and pink frosted cupcakes, and they picked out the one for the right gender. And they’re having a boy!
So enjoy these cupcakes, they are absolutely delicious! My friends kids even enjoyed them, though he had warned them beforehand that they were “adult cupcakes.” 🙂 And one warning…I LOVE basil, but the smell of the buttercream while I was making it was so overpowering, that I almost couldn’t eat the cupcakes. And they are made out of my favorite ingredient in the world! So just be warned, and make this in a well ventilated room, and turn on the fan above the oven if you have one. If I ever make it here I will use one of the air fresheners that my colleague just bought, that no joke, smells like “magic.”
Lemon Basil Cupcakes
1 package vanilla cake mix (or lemon cake mix, to be even more lemon-y!)
1 package instant lemon pudding mix
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice (can be substituted with store-bought lemon juice, as needed)
1 cup minced basil (preferably cut very small – can do this in a food processor, or by hand)
Basil Buttercream Frosting
1 1/2 cups regular milk (I used whole milk)
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup flour
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, almost room temperature, cut into small pieces
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
for the cupcakes
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit/176 degrees Celsius. Line muffin sheets with about 18 paper liners.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat together the cake and pudding mix, the sour cream, oil, water, eggs, lemon juice and vanilla. Beat for about two minutes on medium speed until well combined. Mix in the diced basil leaves.
With a spoon, fill each muffin liner about 2/3 full with the batter. Place in the preheated oven for 18-22 minutes, or until the tops of the cakes spring back when lightly touched. Remove the cupcakes from the muffin sheet and allow to fully cool on a wire rack. As the cupcakes are cooling prepare the frosting below.
for the frosting
In a saucepan, combine the milk, heavy cream, and basil. Heat until the mixture starts to simmer and then remove from the heat. (This is where it gets pretty pungent, so make sure the room is ventilated!) Let cool and then refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight. Remove the basil leaves from the cream, squeezing any basil juice into them before discarding the basil.
In the saucepan, whisk the flour and sugar together. Add the basil milk to the pan and cook over medium heat, whisking every few minutes, until the mixture begins to boil and has thickened, about 10-15 minutes.
Using a hand or stand mixer, beat on high until cool, which should be between 7-9 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter, one piece at a time. Mix until thoroughly incorporated. Increase the speed to medium high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, about 1-2 minutes.
Add the vanilla and continue mixing 1-2 minutes. If after mixing for a couple of minutes and the frosting seems to still not be stiff enough, put the bowl in the fridge to chill for about 10 minutes and then beat again until it is the correct consistency. I added food coloring at this stage – I use gel food coloring which is much brighter than liquid, and divided the frosting into two bowls, one pink and one blue. You can also make it green to highlight that this is amazing basil buttercream frosting…it’s up to you!
Using a piping bag or a spoon, frost the cupcakes once they are completely cool. Then bring them to a party and wow everyone with your fancy flavored amazing “adult” cupcakes.