basil mascarpone buttercream frosted chocolate cake + a giveaway

i've killed another basil plant. i was going really really strong, pesto-ing up a storm and making tomato sauce like the italian grandma that i'll never be. eggboy tried to make me feel better using some farmer jargon, something along the lines of how my basil plant knows that it's about to be fall, so it's discontinuing growing on its own. but it's an indoor plant! don't indoor plants not have seasons? isn't that the point of them being indoor plants?

oh fuck it!

i think i'm done being an herb mama for a while.

and while we're on the subject, i think i've also been a terrible chicken mama lately, too. i was caught threatening to waffle falafel the other night because he's been really at it with the cockadoodledoos in the mornings. (falafel is boy macaroni's new name, by the way. he needed a new name to differentiate himself from the ladies.) i'm so nervous, i don't know what we're going to do with him! he is so loud in the mornings. and the afternoons. and the evenings. i think our next line of defense is going to be to pull some sort of acoustic wizardry in the coop and insulate it so the sounds are muted. they didn't teach us chicken coop acoustics in music school, i wish they would have.

ok, but back to basil.

i imagine i'll get one, maybe two more batches of bruschetta out of my little dead plant, but for a big final end-of-basil-season blowout, and because labor day is nearly here, i figured i'd make a cake.

this cake is inspired by some good lookin' basil cakes that i've seen on the internet here and thereit's a super basic but super good rich chocolate cake and it's covered in buttercream that's been infused with fresh basil and whipped up with creamy mascarpone. the subtle basil flavor is a nice little touch if you're looking for an extra special cake that says "happy labor day!" or "happy fall!" or "sorry i killed you, mister basil plant, but look, it wasn't for nothing!"

basil mascarpone buttercream frosted chocolate cake

makes one 2-layer 8-inch cake (the cake in these photos is 1 1/2 batches)



1 3/4 c sugar

1 3/4 c all-purpose flour

1 c unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

2 large eggs

1/2 c flavorless oil, like canola

1 c whole milk or buttermilk

1 tb vanilla extract

3/4 c boiling water


10 fresh basil leaves, torn

2 sticks unsalted butter

8 oz mascarpone

3 cups powdered sugar

a pinch of kosher salt


fresh basil leaves

marzipan kneaded with a bit of green food coloring and cut into leaf shapes



preheat oven to 350.

grease two 8-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment.

in a large bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients. in a medium bowl, whisk together all the wet ingredients except for the boiling water. whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and then stir in the boiling water. pour into cake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. begin checking for doneness at 28 minutes.

let cool in the pans for 10 minutes, and then turn the cakes onto a lightly greased cooling rack.


muddle the basil leaves in a medium saucepan. add the butter, melt it over medium heat, and then reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring often, for 15 minutes. strain out the basil leaves, transferring the butter to a bowl, and freeze it for about 5 minutes, until it's partly firmed up but still a little soupy. (if you have the room in your freezer, you can freeze it in a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer. if you don't have the room in your freezer, freeze it in a small bowl and then transfer the butter to a large bowl for the next step.) 

give the butter a few folds so that it's evenly creamy. if it's still a little too soupy, stick it back in the freezer for a few minutes and then try stirring it again. once it's creamy, beat it with the mascarpone and then gradually mix in the powdered sugar and salt.


once your cakes are fully cooled, level them. place one layer on a cake board, spread a thick layer of frosting on top, and then place the other layer on top of that. use an offset spatula to frost the cake smoothly all over. decorate with basil leaves and marzipan leaves as desired. enjoy!

this post features a cake stand, towels, and wooden kitchen tools from the amazing vermont farm table. eggboy and i got a vermont farm table rolling pin for a wedding gift and i've been obsessed with this company ever since! they're a small family-owned operation that specializes in custom handcrafted wooden tables, seating, and other kitchen goodies that are built to last for generations. i love all of my vermont farm table goods. they are so sturdy and handsome and made with beautiful (often reclaimed) wood. and here's the best part: they've offered to give away a cake stand to one of you lucky ducks! to enter this giveaway, check out their site and leave a comment here with your email address telling me which cake stand you prefer, as well as what you'd serve on it. open to u.s. residents. i will be picking a winner at random next week! update: this giveaway is now closed.


thank you so much to vermont farm table for sponsoring this post!