It's waay too hot and humid for the oven. I know. And yet, the other night after dinner, Sally and I found ourselves baking a cake. The cake in question is a riff on David Lebovitz's bay-leaf scented pound cake, only we used lemon verbena leaves. I'd been learning about unusual summer herbs for this week's Local Food Report, and lemon verbena and orange with a rich sour cream batter sounded very, very right.
It was. The specimen you see up there is the unglazed version, but I've included the glaze in the recipe below. With it, it's dessert. Without it, it can pass for breakfast, which is how we've been justifying the slices that disappear at 7am.
LEMON-VERBENA SCENTED POUND CAKE
Adapted from this recipe by David Lebovitz. If you can't get your hands on lemon verbena leaves, you can always try the original! I've made it both ways, and it's amazing pretty much no matter what.
for the cake:
6 tablespoons butter, melted
14 fresh lemon verbena leaves
1 and 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
finely grated zest of one orange
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
for the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 and 1/2 tablespoons orange juice, plus more if needed
1 teaspoon orange liquor, like Grand Mariner
Grease a standard 9-inch loaf pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Dip ten of the lemon verbena leaves in the butter and arrange them on the bottom of the loaf pan.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In another small bowl, whisk together the butter, eggs, sour cream, orange zest, and vanilla. Use a spatula to gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just mixed. Scrape the batter into the pan, then arrange the remaining four lemon verbena leaves on top. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until just set. It's better to under- than over-bake this cake.
Cool for ten minutes in the pan, then gently take the loaf out. Cool completely before glazing. To make the glaze, stir together the powdered sugar, orange juice, and orange liquor until smooth. Pour the glaze over the cake, and let it drip down the sides and harden before serving.