Elanor: Now onto the final cake of the trio. My concept of a strawberry-basil cake is unusual but not wildly novel; many a flavours-loving baker has baked one before. But most often, basil is in the cake and strawberry in the frosting, and I needed the reverse to make the joint cake idea work. Turns out it's surprisingly challenging to find a good recipe for strawberry cake that doesn't include boxed cake, custard, or jello mixes and that incorporates berries into the cake itself (rather than as a glaze, topping, etc.). Fortunately, Smitten Kitchen came through. And though I've made herbal frosting before with good results, this time I wanted a smooth buttercream that offered up herbal essence but not pieces. Adding milk simmered with fresh basil and then steeped overnight to the basic buttercream recipe from Hummingbird Bakery's Cake Days worked well, though I'd still like to find a way to make the basil flavour come through even more strongly.
To be honest, stopping there would have yielded a delicious cake. Yet somehow, I couldn't resist adding one more dimension to the mix (pun intended). Hence a filling layer of roasted strawberry and white balsamic vinegar gel. My intent was to cut the sweetness of the buttercream but hopefully without taking away from the more subtle basil and strawberry flavours. And yes, to make the cake even more interesting. We'll have to wait to hear whether the other cake tasters thought I went off the deep end or if the gel layer is worth making again to work out the kinks (a bit tart on its own, and prone to leaking pink juices through the outer frosting layers).
(Two layers of strawberry butter cake, filling layers of roasted strawberry and white balsamic vinegar gel and basil buttercream, and outer frosting and piping of basil buttercream.)