Tomato + Basil Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Yes! Tomato and basil! In a cake! With a cheese frosting! And it works! Shall we just call it a margherita cake? I think it’s the kind of cake that works better for breakfast or afternoon snack. But don’t let that discourage you if you want to have it for dessert. Just add more sweet tomato preserve on top with your slice.

For the cake:
1 1/4 cup cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 stick unsalted butter, softened but still firm
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sweet tomato preserve
2 tbsp sweet basil, finely chopped
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp orange extract

For the cream cheese frosting:
1 (8 oz) packaged cream cheese
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make your cake. Preheat oven to 350. Grease one 9 inch cake pan. Cover the bottom with a circle of parchment paper.

In one bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and spices. In another, combine your milk and tomato preserve. Stir until well-combined.

In another bowl, beat butter with your electric mixer at medium speed for 30 seconds. Gradually add the sugar and the chopped basil. Beat for about 3 minutes or until it has become creamy and light-colored.

Add eggs one at a time. Beat on high speed for 30 seconds after each addition. Beat for 1 minute after all eggs have been added.

Add one-third of both flour mixture and milk mixture. Beat on low speed until just incorporated. Add vanilla and orange extracts. Add remaining flour and milk in two batches. Beat between additions. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Stir by hand to finish. Be careful not to overbeat.

Transfer batter to prepared pan. Smooth it down with a rubber spatula. Bake for 25-30 minutes (rotate pan after 15 minutes if your oven has the peculiar habit of baking unevenly) or until the top has turned a golden brown and springs back when lightly pressed. Rest for 5 minutes.

Remove from pan and cool on a rack for at least an hour and a half.

Make your frosting. In a medium bowl, beat butter and cream cheese with a mixer on medium-high speed for 2 to 3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Add vanilla extract. Add sugar gradually. Mix until smooth.

Frost the cake. Make sure cake is completely cooled (cut to size or trim if necessary) and your frosting is at room temperature.

Place a dab of frosting on your cake bottom or cardboard. Place cake on the cake bottom or cardboard. Use an offset spatula (and a scraper if you want to smooth the icing).

Add a rough layer of frosting to seal in the crumbs. Spread a thick layer of frosting to the top and sides of your cake.

Move the spatula in the same direction (this way the loose crumbs will be nicely tucked into the frosting).

Place the crumb-coated cake in the fridge for at least an hour before adding additional layers of frosting.

Smooth the frosting. Take your spatula and work back and forth across the surface and sides to smooth it. Wipe off any excess frosting if necessary. Do this until you think you’re happy with your cake.

Have a slice. A big one! Cake is hard work!


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