The lemon verbena bush in my back yard had cascading, gangly branches tipped with delicate purple flowers. Every few days, I’d go outside to feed the chickens and make a mental note to harvest the leaves for tea. But, week after week, I put it off. Then the holidays came and went and the leaves began to brown. In a rush to put what remained to use, I infused the leaves in coconut milk and made an aromatic glaze with medicinal properties to boot. That is, unless the healing benefits are canceled out by the sugar…
This cake is packed with lemon zest and subtly rich and nutty from the olive oil and tahini. The glaze brightens it and gives it a truly unique flavor. It’s a perfect winter cake and is great for breakfast, with tea or for dessert.
LEMON TAHINI CAKES WITH LEMON VERBENA GLAZE
Makes six small cakes
FOR THE GLAZE
1/2 cup coconut milk
5 oz. lemon verbena leaves
juice from 1/2 lemon
3/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
FOR THE CAKES
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup coconut milk yogurt
2 tablespoons tahini
3/4 cups cane sugar
zest from 2 lemons
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
chopped pistachios and toasted sesame seeds to decorate
To make the glaze combine the coconut milk and lemon verbena leaves in a small pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Turn the heat down and simmer for 15 minutes. Off the heat and allow the leaves to steep for 30 minutes. Strain the mixture into a small bowl, discarding the leaves. Add the lemon juice and powdered sugar and whisk until smooth. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Liberally grease six mini cake molds or a muffin tin. In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the oil, yogurt and tahini. Whisk on medium speed until well combined. Meanwhile combine the sugar and lemon zest in a small bowl. Rub the sugar and lemon zest between your fingers until fragrant. Add the lemon sugar and eggs to the mixer and whisk again until combined. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and whisk just until combined. Pour the batter into the cake molds, leaving 1/2 inch of head room. Bake for 20-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before glazing.
Spoon some glaze over each cake and sprinkle with the chopped pistachios and sesame seeds.