This elegant lemon cake might look very unassuming at first. It is clean and simple, and inviting and not intimidating. But I must tell you to brace yourself for tartness; that bright, cranberry garnish will certainly creep up on you. If you are eager for a quick yet also fancy dessert that will not at at all weigh you down and instead will give you one GIANT burst of energy, and is good for you, then this is the perfect treat. The steps are quite easy and basically include whisking, pouring, stirring, and drizzling - all in less than 30 minutes. Though I would consider this a warmup for anything else you are doing afterwards, for once you are done and enjoying the cake, you will be ready to bake 20 more things!
I have been thinking about making a lemon cake for a while. With it being citrus season right now and lemon and limes being the two I like the most, I decided that this was the week I would finally follow through. Plus, I have been eating a lot of chocolate lately and desired something a little lighter this time. I do prefer Meyer Lemons because they are just so pleasant and a little more balanced, but I didn't have any around - however, they would also work very well in this recipe, allowing the chutney to stand out even more. I also wanted to make a cake that was really vibrant in color - winter often feels so gloomy with the bare trees and sunless days (though I will say it has been pretty sunny the past week or so), and I was craving a dessert that reminded me of warmer times ahead. And I had the best way to guarantee that the yellow would come through - turmeric!
When developing recipes for my cookbook a few months back, I had an idea to keep everything vegan and needed to create a yellow lemon curd without egg yolks. While I ended up including eggs and cheese throughout, I was really happy with the dairy and egg-free lemon curd and wanted to bring part of that recipe into this one. The trick to achieving that classic lemon yellow is actually done with turmeric, which nourishes the body and mind in so many wonderful ways.
With fantastic phytonutrients and minerals including potassium, calcium, and magnesium, along with fiber, zinc, and Vitamin C, turmeric helps relieve inflammation, joint pain, and dry skin. It also boosts your cognitive abilities and immune system while resisting cancer and increases in blood pressure, and it is even known to lower cholesterol, strengthen your cardiovascular health, eliminate indigestion, and build up your liver's functionalities. There are amazing benefits to using turmeric; we really should be using it more often, both in fresh and dried forms - so I was extremely happy to incorporate it here.
Now, for the garnishes. White chocolate was almost a no-brainer. Yes, I said I did not want chocolate, but as a finishing touch, I could not resist - its slightly sweet flavor profile is always a solid complement to the sourness of a lemon, and the crisp crunch after it hardened would bring even more excitement to every bite. Keeping with the bright theme, I then landed on a cranberry chutney to add another seasonal flavor and pop of color. I recently made a berry compote with a lot of vanilla and was really fond of the way the sweetness mellowed out the tartness a bit, and I thought that would work very well with this cake here (and give a ton of awesome antioxidants too). Finally, I needed one more color and something intriguing but subtle so as not to have too many powerful tastes battling against each other...basil! Cooked basil tends to create a soapy flavor, but when chopped fresh and just sprinkled on top, its natural, floral herbaceousness provides that extra touch of finesse to make this dessert truly special.
That's all there is too it! While I would recommend having this tender, fresh, tart, and almost summery but definitely winter cake for an midday/afternoon snack or dessert, it is not that sweet; it could also work for breakfast, especially if you really need an internal force to push you through your day (the yogurt taste is very prevalent that you could just think of this as a really fancy bowl of yogurt, and yogurt is a great idea for breakfast!). I can promise you will be supercharged even after just one slice. If you don't finish it all in one sitting, take off the basil and reheat it in the microwave or oven for just a few seconds to really wake up all the flavors and make it as bold and revitalizing as it can be!
Lemon Yogurt Cake with White Chocolate, Cranberry, & Basil
1 Lemon, zested and juiced
1/2 cup Greek Yogurt
2 splashes Vanilla
2 T Maple Syrup
3/4 cup Almond Flour
1/4 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp + Pinch Salt
1/2 T Turmeric
1/3 cup White Chocolate
1 cup Cranberries
4 large + 6 small leaves Basil
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a medium-sized bowl, beat the egg with a whisk, then combine it with the lemon zest and juice, yogurt, 1 splash of vanilla, and the maple syrup. Add in the almond flour, baking powder, 1/4 tsp of salt, and turmeric - whisk until fully incorporated and smooth.
Line a 7-inch spring form pan with parchment and grease with a little oil. Pour in the batter, then bake for about 15 minutes. The cake should be soft and spongy, not firm, when done.
While baking, cook the cranberries in a small pot with the other splash (make it a large one) of vanilla and a pinch of salt. They are done when the cranberries pop and the liquid is reduced so it resembles a jam.
When the cake is out of the oven, melt the white chocolate in the microwave on low heat in 45-second intervals. Stir in a drop oil to help it stay loose, then drizzle over the cake.
Dollop the cranberry chutney in different places on the cake.
Stack the 4 basil leaves on top of each other, roll them into a tight bundle, then slice thin into a chiffonade. Sprinkle over the cake and decorate the plate with the six small leaves.
Serve warm for dessert, snack, or even breakfast if you prefer something with a hint of sweetness!