blueberry zucchini oat muffins

I’ve had the same schedule at work for almost three years now.

blueberry zucchini oat muffins | Brooklyn Homemaker

Working in retail means that having both Saturday and Sunday off isn’t really an option, but I do get Sundays off so I still (sort of) get to enjoy the weekends with the rest of the world. The only problem, especially in the summer, is that the only green markets that are even remotely convenient to me aren’t open on Sundays.

blueberry zucchini oat muffins | Brooklyn Homemaker

The green market in Union Square is open on Saturdays and Mondays, but of course I don’t have Mondays off either. This means that Russell, who is off on Mondays, is responsible for any green market purchases for the week, and the remainder of our groceries are purchased at our neighborhood grocery store.

blueberry zucchini oat muffins | Brooklyn Homemaker

Sometimes I have specific things in mind that I ask Russell to pick up for me, but usually he just wanders around until he sees something that looks good and he grabs it. This usually works out just great, but sometimes I get home from work on Monday to find a bag full of really random and disjointed produce purchases that I get to plan around for the rest of the week.

blueberry zucchini oat muffins | Brooklyn Homemaker

If this sounds like a complaint, I assure you that it’s not. It actually kind of forces me to get creative and try to make meal plans and think of blog posts that would work with the items at hand. I am (or at least I try to be) pretty anal about the whole “waste not want not” thing, so it drives me crazy to let our produce spoil before we get to use it up. Sometimes I’ll just come up with some kind of “kitchen sink” recipe like a salad or stir fry to use everything up if I really have no clue what to do. Sometimes these recipes don’t really work out, but they usually do, and sometimes they can really pay off.

blueberry zucchini oat muffins | Brooklyn Homemaker

This is one of those pay off recipes. Russell came home with a bag full of stuff on Monday, including a couple big zucchinis and a pint of some of the season’s first blueberries. On seeing those blueberries I knew pretty instantly that I wanted to make some muffins, but after some thought I decided to throw in one of the zucchinis just for fun.

blueberry zucchini oat muffins | Brooklyn Homemaker

The next morning, as I went to gather my ingredients, I realized that I was dangerously low on flour and wouldn’t have enough for a full muffin recipe. It was pretty early, Russell was still sleeping and I was still in my boxers, and I reeeeeally didn’t want to go to the store. If I don’t have to put pants on on my day off, believe you me, it ain’t gonna happen.

blueberry zucchini oat muffins | Brooklyn Homemaker

For a brief second I was ready and willing to accept defeat and just toast an English muffin for breakfast instead, but then I remembered these cookies I made in March. To give the cookies a really interesting lacy texture, old fashioned rolled oats are turned into oat flour in the food processor, which is then mixed with regular white flour and some whole rolled oats. Not only is oat flour a healthy(ish) whole grain alternative to white flour, it also adds a really warm nutty flavor and chewy texture to anything you make with it.

So, out came the food processor and oat flour happened yet again.
The only issue is that oat flour doesn’t really seem to absorb liquid the same way as white flour, so the batter seemed a bit loose, and the muffins didn’t really rise as much as I’d hoped they would. I ended up making them again a few days later (at Russell’s request) and tried using a little bit more white flour to thicken the batter just a bit, and that seemed to do the trick to get them to rise. This second batch came out slightly lighter in color with a more rounded and crunchier top, but I’m a terrible lazy blogger and they didn’t really look all that different so I didn’t bother shooting new photos. The photos here are of the first batch, but the recipe below reflects the added flour and slightly thicker batter.

blueberry zucchini oat muffins | Brooklyn Homemaker

Look. I understand that I’m essentially asking you to mill your own flour for this recipe, but I swear it’s not a big deal. If you have a food processor or a blender it takes less than five minutes and then the rest of the recipe is basically just stirring.

I promise you that the little bit of extra effort is worth it; these muffins are seriously tasty. They’re just sweet enough with a little bit of extra sweetness and crunch from the demerara sugar on top. They’re soft and tender and moist, but with a really delicate chewiness (and nuttiness) from the oat flour. The zucchini and blueberries complement each other surprisingly well, and Russell keeps saying that these little muffins taste like summer. You may have figured this out when I said that he requested I make them twice in one week, but they’re totally addictive. In theory they’re also pretty healthy(ish) if eat just one or two, but between the two of us half a dozen were devoured less than half an hour after they came out of the oven, so I’m not sure if “healthy” is a word that would actually apply anymore!

blueberry zucchini oat muffins | Brooklyn Homemaker

Blueberry Zucchini Oat Muffins

  • Servings: about 24 muffins
  • Print
adapted from Yellow Bliss Road

1 1/2 cups rolled oats, divided
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup oil
2 cups grated zucchini
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
1/4 cup demerara sugar or other coarse sanding sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place 1 cup of rolled oats in the bowl of a food processor and grind into a fine powder. It’s okay if there are some unevenly sized pieces, but you want it to resemble the texture of whole wheat flour. Transfer oat flour to a large bowl along with the remaining 1/2 cup of rolled oats and all remaining dry ingredients.

In a separate bowl whisk the eggs and oil together until combined, and then stir in the grated zucchini. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the zucchini, egg, oil mixture. Gently stir together until just combined. Do not overmix. Fold in the blueberries just until evenly distributed throughout the batter.

Line two 12 cup muffin pans with paper liners and fill the liners about 3/4 full with batter. Sprinkle a little bit of demerara sugar over the tops of each muffin just before they go into the oven. Bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean, and the tops spring back when lightly touched. Cool for about 15 or 20 minutes on a wire rack before removing the muffins to cool completely.

mixed berry skillet cake with basil sugar streusel

I know I’ve been posting a lot of recipes with strawberries lately, but strawberry season is fleeting and I need my fix okay?

mixed berry skillet cake with basil sugar streusel | Brooklyn Homemaker

I mean, strawberries are pretty freakin amazing so you should probably have your head checked if you find yourself taking issue with my posting too many* strawberry recipes.

*no such thing

mixed berry skillet cake with basil sugar streusel  | Brooklyn Homemaker

I grew up loving strawberries, and all berries for that matter, thanks in part to my grandfather’s garden. Grandpa’s garden is actually larger than the footprint of his house, and the house itself is actually pretty large.

Several years ago an insurance company flew over his house taking aerial photos of homes in the area after a big storm. Luckily there wasn’t any damage to his property, but they mailed him a glossy 8×10 that he framed and hung over his favorite recliner in the living room. Until then I’d never realized just how big the garden was, but seeing it from overhead really put it’s size into perspective.

mixed berry skillet cake with basil sugar streusel  | Brooklyn Homemaker

In addition to the garden he also has a small orchard filled with apple, pear, plum, & peach trees; a trellis weighed down by grapes stretching the length of his barn; and a separate patch of walnut and chestnut trees shading the lawn behind the barn.

It’s basically my mission in life to eventually have a piece of property as large, beautiful, and bountiful as my grandfather’s little oasis in the Fingerlakes. For now though, I’ll have to be satisfied with trips to the farmer’s market instead.

mixed berry skillet cake with basil sugar streusel  | Brooklyn Homemaker

Within the garden itself he’s always got rows and rows of tomatoes, squash, peppers, and beans, along with a huge strip of asparagus, but his berries have always taken up the largest portion of his plot. He used to have a big stretch of raspberry bushes, but they attracted japanese beetles so he took them out a few years back. His latest and greatest joy is his blueberries, and every time I visit he’s talking about a new soil amendment he’s trying to get higher yields, or a new trick he’s testing out to keep the deer away.

mixed berry skillet cake with basil sugar streusel  | Brooklyn Homemaker

As far back as I can remember, his strawberry patch has taken up almost a full quarter of the whole plot. Growing up we used to spend hours picking strawberries with Grandpa and carrying bowls of them into the house to help Grandma clean them. As soon as they were washed she would hull and slice them, macerate them in sugar, and freeze most of them to eat in the colder months to come. Oddly enough Grandma and Grandpa weren’t big fans of eating strawberries in their fresh natural state, though my sisters and I certainly ate plenty.

mixed berry skillet cake with basil sugar streusel | Brooklyn Homemaker

What better way to celebrate the first official week of summer than combining two of Grandpa’s favorite berries with a simple, tender crumb cake baked in a cast iron skillet?

While Grandpa doesn’t grow basil I decided that I’d try using up some basil sugar in the streusel topping just for kicks. I have a bunch of basil sugar left from my birthday cake experiments, so why not? I thought the basil flavor, rather than using the more traditional cinnamon, might make this cake taste even more summery and bright.

I was right.

mixed berry skillet cake with basil sugar streusel | Brooklyn Homemaker

The base of this cake is moist, tender, buttery, and perfect. Thanks to being baked in a skillet, the sides are almost as crunchy as the crumb topping. It’s absolutely bursting with fresh ripe berry flavor brightened up with a touch of lemon. There are so many berries that the cake practically fell apart when I tried slicing it before it was completely cool. The streusel topping adds even more warm weather brightness with unexpected hints of fresh green herbal loveliness from the basil sugar (and plenty of butter).

While I think the basil sugar kind of elevates this cake into a whole new level of summer perfection, I know it might sound kind of crazy to some of you. If you’re not feeling quite as adventurous and I was, and would prefer a more traditional streusel topping, feel free to skip the basil and add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon instead.

mixed berry skillet cake with basil sugar streusel  | Brooklyn Homemaker

Mixed Berry Skillet Cake with Basil Sugar Streusel

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Topping:
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cold is fine
Pinch of salt

Cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, cleaned and dried
1/2 lb (about 1 1/2 cups) fresh strawberries, cleaned, dried, & quartered
1/2 cup buttermilk
confectioners sugar for dusting, optional

Heat oven to 375°F. Butter a 9 or 10-inch cast iron skillet. (or alternately butter and flour a 9 inch round cake pan)

Using a food processor (or mortar and pestle), prepare the basil sugar by grinding the basil into a paste fist and then adding the sugar and pulsing until very well mixed. The sugar should absorb the basil pulp and turn vibrant green with a texture similar to that of brown sugar.

Prepare the topping by mixing the flour, sugar, and salt, then cutting the butter in with a pastry blender or fork (or even your fingertips) until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Refrigerate while you make the rest of the cake.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt until well combined. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl with handheld mixer), cream together the butter, sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy (about 3 to 5 minutes). Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Mix lemon juice into buttermilk. Alternate 3 additions of flour and 2 additions of buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, mixing until just incorporated after each addition. The batter should be quite stiff. Use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to gently fold in berries until evenly distributed.

Spread batter into prepared skillet and smooth it flat. Sprinkle with prepared streusel, breaking it up as you go if it’s clumped together. Bake in heated oven for 45 – 55 minutes, or until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let the cake cool for at least 30 minutes (an hour is better) before slicing.

Remove the cake from the skillet for storage if there’s any left (there won’t be). Cake should keep, well covered at room temperature, for up to three days (or a bit longer in the fridge).

rhubarb pound cake bundt #bundtbakers

When it comes to bundt cakes, I do my best to be creative and keep things interesting.

rhubarb pound cake with lemon glaze | Brooklyn Homemaker

Having been a member of a monthly bundt baking group for over a year now, I’m always looking for new sources of inspiration and fun new ways to play with flavors and ingredients. I definitely have a few favorites out of all the cakes I’ve made since joining, but you may be surprised to know what my favorite kind of bundt cake is. When I’m not trying to get creative to fit a #bundtbakers theme, I like to keep things nice and simple.

Can you guess what my favorite bundt might be?

rhubarb pound cake with lemon glaze | Brooklyn Homemaker

I bet most of you guessed chocolate. While I do love me some chocolate, that would be my second favorite.

One more guess…

Give up?

rhubarb pound cake with lemon glaze | Brooklyn Homemaker

Lemon!

A simple lemony pound cake is tops in my book. Both dense and delicate at once, with a bright sunny citrus flavor front and center, it doesn’t get any better than that. I don’t know what it is about a citrusy pound cake, but I will just never ever get enough. The best thing about a lemon pound cake is how versatile it can be if you want to pair it with other flavors. Lemon is a perfect compliment to almost any fruit you can name. Think about it. Berries. Cherries. Stone fruit. Tropical fruit. Even other citrus! Lemon is like the little black dress of bundt cakes.

Do you have a favorite bundt cake? Well don’t keep it a secret! What is it?

rhubarb pound cake with lemon glaze | Brooklyn Homemaker

Being the lemon lover I am, I did a very mature and completely dignified jump for joy when I found out that Anne of From My Sweet Heart chose Lemon as the #bundtbakers theme for June. Thank you Anne!

If you love lemon just as much as I do (or at least almost as much as I do) you MUST scroll down past the recipe to check out all the other recipes this month. Just reading through the list of titles has me drooling.

rhubarb pound cake with lemon glaze | Brooklyn Homemaker

First I thought about just doing a simple lemon buttermilk pound cake, and while I’m sure I would have loved it, I wanted to do just a little bit more with this month’s sublimely summery theme. Berries would have been a great way to go, but just before joining #bundtbakers I came up with a recipe for a lemony blueberry buttermilk bundt cake that would knock your socks off. It’s so good, in fact, that it was just featured in the summer issue of Sweet Paul Magazine! Woot woot!

So that was out. Knowing this month’s theme I’m kicking myself for not keeping that one in my pocket just a little bit longer.

rhubarb pound cake with lemon glaze | Brooklyn Homemaker

What else? What else?

Sometimes there are just too many amazing possibilities to be able to choose just one.

rhubarb pound cake with lemon glaze | Brooklyn Homemaker

Rather than agonize over all the choices I figured I should just go about my business and let the inspiration come to me.

On my birthday last month Russell took me to lunch in Williamsburg and afterward we went for coffee at one of my favorite coffee shops. While waiting in line we passed their pastry case and inside we saw a neat little row of thick slices of rhubarb pound cake. Of course we had to try some. While their coffee never disappoints, the pound cake unfortunately did. The texture was great, and the sweetness was spot on, but it lacked in that tart rhubarb flavor that I was expecting, and their was no actual rhubarb visible anywhere in the slice. As soon as the words, “I could do better” came out of my mouth, I knew what I had to do.

Pound cake. Tart rhubarb. Summery lemon. It was on.

rhubarb pound cake with lemon glaze | Brooklyn Homemaker

This pound cake is just as dense and buttery and eggy as a good pound cake should be, with just a tiny bit of extra lift thanks to the addition of a bit of baking powder. The crumb is moist and tender and perfect, with just enough sweetness to offset the tart rhubarb and compliment the bright lemon. Rather than pureeing it, the rhubarb is left in small chunks so you can see what you’re eating. An entire pound of rhubarb (4 whole cups) gets tossed with a bit of sugar and cooked for a few minutes before going into the cake batter. This way the rhubarb not only softens a bit, but also releases some of it’s juices to ensure the flavorful juice is distributed throughout the whole cake. A touch of lemon zest and juice is the perfect bright compliment to the sweetened rhubarb, and a simple lemon glaze is the only finishing touch this summery pound cake could ask for.

rhubarb pound cake with lemon glaze | Brooklyn Homemaker

Rhubarb Pound Cake Bundt with Lemon Glaze

4 cups (about 1lb) rhubarb, cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
zest and juice of 1 lemon, separate
6 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter and flour a bundt pan and refrigerate.

mix the cut rhubarb with 1/2 cup of the sugar in a medium frypan or skillet. Cook over medium high heat until tender but not mushy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large mixing bowl), cream together the butter, remaining 2 cups sugar, and lemon zest until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well between additions. In a large measuring cup mix together the buttermilk, lemon juice, and vanilla; and in a medium bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Alternate 3 additions of flour and 2 additions of buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, mixing until just incorporated after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and gently fold in the rhubarb and any juices until the liquid is just combined and the rhubarb is evenly distributed.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 60-70 minutes, or until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center of he cake comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool for about 20 minutes. Invert pan to release cake onto the rack and cool completely before adding the glaze.

Lemon Glaze
zest and juice of 2 lemons
2 1/2 cups confectioner’s (powdered) sugar

Whisk all ingredients together until well mixed and free of lumps. If a thinner consistency is desired, add a bit more lemon juice (about 1 teaspoon at a time). For a thicker consistency add more powdered sugar about 1/4 cup at a time until desired consistency is reached.

Evenly drizzle the glaze over the completely cooled cake. Cake can be served immediately but can be stored, tightly wrapped and air tight at room temperature, for about 3 days.

rhubarb pound cake with lemon glaze | Brooklyn Homemaker

This list of lovely luscious lemon cakes has my mouth watering like crazy. This month’s theme is pure heaven and I couldn’t be happier to gawk and drool over this long list of tasty bundts.

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BundtBakers

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#BundtBakers is a group of Bundt loving Bakers who get together once a month to bake Bundts with a common ingredient or theme. You can see all of our lovely Bundts by following our Pinterest board right here.

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme or ingredient.

Updated links for all of our past events and more information about BundtBakers can be found on our homepage.

strawberry basil layer cake

I’ve officially made it through another entire year of life.
(I recently celebrated a birthday.)

strawberry stuffed yellow layer cake with basil buttercream | Brooklyn Homemaker

I am a big fan of surprise parties, and I’ve thrown a couple for Russell over the course of our relationship, but Russell can’t keep a secret to save his life. If he ever decided he wanted to throw me a surprise party, he’d probably accidentally let the cat out of the bag before he invited any guests.
He’s the kind of person that wants to give me my Christmas presents the day he buys them, while I am the kind of person who staunchly refuses to even look in the general direction of my gifts until Christmas day. His eagerness and honesty are positive qualities in the grand scheme of things, but, like I said, I am a big fan of surprise parties.

strawberry stuffed yellow layer cake with basil buttercream | Brooklyn Homemaker

That means that I am usually responsible, to some extent at least, for the planning of my own birthday party each year. I asked Russell to take the lead in throwing the party this year, but he said he didn’t want to be in charge because I’m “too controlling” about parties. I was pretty annoyed at first, but then realized he’s probably right. I’m such a perfectionist, and love entertaining so much, that I do tend to get a bit uptight about wanting everything to be just right.

After making him feel appropriately crappy for calling me controlling, I assured him that this year I didn’t want to play any part in the planning, save for one single thing.

strawberry stuffed yellow layer cake with basil buttercream | Brooklyn Homemaker

I wanted to make my own cake.

I know.
I’m weird.

strawberry stuffed yellow layer cake with basil buttercream | Brooklyn Homemaker

Last year I made my own cake too, a 3 layer funfetti cake with the sides completely covered in tiny rainbow nonpareils. Most people, when told that I planned to make my own cake, reacted with a mix of sorrow and horror.

How depressing? Why?!?!? You’re not supposed to make your own birthday cake. That’s just sad!

But here’s the thing. I love to bake. I just do. It’s one of my favorite hobbies, and I’m pretty good at it. Birthdays are big festive events and I think they call for big festive baked goods. Russell isn’t much of a baker, and I know that anything from the grocery store wouldn’t be half as good as what I could make myself. I also know that a cake from fancy pants specialty bakery here in Brooklyn would cost an arm and a leg.

So, the so called “rules” against making your own birthday cake went out the window and it was game on. Again.

 strawberry stuffed yellow layer cake with basil buttercream | Brooklyn Homemaker

I’ve been thinking about what I’d do for months, and while I knew that I wanted to include the flavor of fresh strawberries, I wasn’t quite sure how I’d do it. I could bake the strawberries into the layers of the cake, or mix them into the icing, but after some thought I decided to just let them sing as fresh sliced berries stuffed between layers of cake.

Next I had to decide on cake and icing flavors. Originally I thought I might go in a kind of strawberry shortcake direction with yellow cake and whipped cream icing, but then I had to go and turn on the damned TV. There was some show on the cooking channel about a bakery using “basil sugar” made by grinding white sugar and fresh basil together in a food processor. The idea is that since the sugar absorbs the basil’s oils, baked goods made using the sugar taste fresher than they would if made with basil puree.

It didn’t take long for the wheels to start turning about a strawberry layer cake paired with the subtle summery flavor of basil.

strawberry stuffed yellow layer cake with basil buttercream | Brooklyn Homemaker

Knowing that I wanted this cake to be a real knock-out, I decided to test the idea out ahead of time. I found a recipe for basil sugar online and conducted an experiment with three different batches of cupcakes. The first batch was made with one of my favorite yellow cake recipes, the next with half of the white sugar substituted with basil sugar, and the third with an even higher basil sugar ratio.

To complicate my life even further, the pinterest gods had to go and show me a beautiful layer cake iced with a basil buttercream made from milk and cream steeped with fresh basil leaves.

I decided, just in case, that I should try the basil buttercream out for my “control group” cupcakes, while the two batches of basil sugar cupcakes would be topped with stabilized whipped cream. All three versions were cored and filled with fresh strawberries, and I took a big tray of cupcakes to work and started taking votes.

As much as everyone loved the cakes made with basil sugar (the 1/2 basil to 1/2 white ratio worked best), I was surprised to find that the silky smooth texture and amazing flavor of the basil buttercream won by a landslide. I still love the basil sugar idea, and have a tub of it in my freezer waiting to line the rims of cocktail glasses or get sprinkled on vanilla ice cream or fresh berries.

For my purposes though, the experiment gave me the results I needed and the plan for the cake was settled. Tender yellow cake layers would be stuffed with fresh sliced strawberries and everything would be coated in a satin layer of palest green basil buttercream.

strawberry stuffed yellow layer cake with basil buttercream | Brooklyn Homemaker

The day of the party came, and Russell did it up right proper. Good friends, good food, good music, good wine, and good weather on a good night in our backyard. A smoking grill and a big bowl of phenomenal homemade guacamole. Rosé by the bucket. It was perfect. Best husband ever. After all, he puts up with me, uptight perfectionist and all.

strawberry stuffed yellow layer cake with basil buttercream | Brooklyn Homemaker

Then, toward the end of the evening, there was the pièce de résistance.

While it’s true that I write a food blog (you may have noticed) and getting feedback and words of encouragement comes with the territory, getting compliments in person tends to make me feel more than a little uncomfortable.

When the cake was served I was made plenty uneasy by the barrage of positivity coming my way. Maybe it was the river of wine and whiskey that was flowing in the yard that night, but people were plenty free with the praise for this cake.
You made this?!?! The crumb is so tender! Those fresh strawberries!! And OMG that basil icing!!!
People are still talking about it almost two weeks later.

Happy birthday to me!

strawberry stuffed yellow layer cake with basil buttercream | Brooklyn Homemaker

Strawberry Stuffed Yellow Layer Cake with Basil Buttercream

Fresh Strawberry Filling:
2 lbs fresh strawberries (plus another 1/2 lb for decorating if desired)
1/3 cup sugar
pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Wash strawberries and place let them drain in a colander or dry on a towel. Working only with the 2 lbs for the filling, hull the strawberries and slice them thinly. Place in a medium bowl and toss with sugar, salt, and vanilla. Allow the strawberries to macerate in the sugar for at least an hour or two at room temperature.
Drain the juices from the bowl into a small to medium saucepan. Over medium/high heat, reduce the strawberry juice by about half or a little more, stirring frequently. This should take about 20 minutes. Cool the reduced juice completely before pouring back over the berries and tossing to coat. Cover and refrigerate until ready to assemble the cake.

Yellow Cake:
adapted from Epicurious

4 cups cake flour
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
6 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter three 8×2-inch round cake pans and line with parchment paper. (I use pre-cut parchment rounds) Butter the parchment and lightly coat the interior of the pans with flour. Refrigerate until ready for use.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium/high speed for 3 minutes or until light and creamy in color. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and cream the butter for an additional minute.
Add the sugar, about 1/4 cup at a time, beating for 30 seconds to a minute after each addition. Scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally. Once all sugar is added, scrape down the bowl and add the eggs one at a time.
Stir the vanilla into the buttermilk. Reduce the mixer speed to low or stir, and add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk. Mix just until incorporated. Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix for 15 seconds longer.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and smooth the tops. If possible use a scale to ensure each pan has the same amount of batter.
Lift up each pan about an inch and let them drop onto the counter top to knock out any air bubbles and settle the batter.
Center the pans onto a rack in the lower third of the oven and let bake 45 to 50 minutes or until the cakes are lightly brown and a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the centers comes out clean.

Let cool on a rack for about an hour before removing from pans. Leave parchment rounds on the bottoms of the cakes until assembly, and return layers, parchment side down, to the rack until completely cool to the touch.

Basil Buttercream
adapted ever so slightly from the Vanilla Bean Blog

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 cup fresh basil leaves, well packed
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups (three sticks) unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into small pieces (about 70 degrees – butter should be  soft enough to mix well, but firm enough to give some structure to the buttercream)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Combine milk, heavy cream, and basil in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Heat gently, until just simmering, and remove from the heat. Let cool for about 30 minutes and pour the mixture in the bowl of a food processor. Process for about 30 seconds or until the basil is well chopped. Scrape all basil and liquid into a small bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or ideally overnight.
Pour mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a small heavy bottomed saucepan. Use the back of a spoon to squeeze any ‘basil juice’ from the leaves into the milk/cream mixture. Whisk in the flour and sugar, and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil and has thickened, about 10 or 15 minutes.
Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Place a kitchen towel over the top of the mixer to prevent splashing. Beat on high speed until the mixture has completely cooled, about 7-9 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter, mixing until thoroughly incorporated. At first it might not look right, but just keep going. Increase the mixer speed to medium/high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, about another 2 minutes.
Add the vanilla and mix until combined. If the frosting is too soft, put the bowl in the refrigerator to chill slightly, then beat again until it is the proper consistency. If the frosting is too firm, set the bowl over a pot of barely simmering water and beat with a wooden spoon until it is the proper consistency.

Assembly:
1) Level the tops of the cake layers using a cake leveler or a very sharp serrated knife.

2) Place the first layer on an 8″ cardboard cake round or on a cake stand.  Place the round or cake stand on a revolving turntable or lazy suzan.

3) Fill a piping bag with about one cup of the basil buttercream icing. It isn’t necessary to fit the bag with a decorating tip.

4) Pipe a tall border around the perimeter of the first layer, using about 1/2 of the icing in the bag.

5) Top the first layer with about half of your strawberries and reduced juice, staying within the icing border. Try to even the berries out so they’re in an even level layer.

6) Center the next layer over the first, checking from several angles to be sure the layers are perfectly lined up straight and evenly.

7) Repeat steps 4, 5, & 6.

8) Using about 1/3 to 1/2 of the remaining icing , cover the entire outside of the cake with a thin crumb coat using an icing spatula. I like to pile the icing at the top of the cake and work it down the sides little by little, turning the turntable as you go, until the entire cake is coated. I find that an offset spatula is easier to use, but that’s up to you.
This step ensures that any crumbs coming off the cake will be captured in this first thin layer of icing and will not show on the finished cake. I find it also makes it easier to get a smooth profession looking final layer of icing.

9) Refrigerate the entire cake for about 30 minutes to an hour. This step sets the crumb coat so it doesn’t mix into your final top layer of icing. I also find that it helps steady the filling and makes the layers of cake less likely to slip and slide around while you’re trying to ice or decorate.

10) Using the remaining icing, coat the entire cake using an icing spatula in the same way you did the crumb coat.

11) Try to smooth the icing as much as possible using your spatula or a straight bench scraper. I find that holding the spatula straight up and down, almost stationary, while turning the cake is the easiest way to get a smooth finish to the sides.

12) If desired, top the cake with the remaining 1/2 cup strawberries and a few leaves of basil. I think it looks more attractive if the stems and leaves are still attached to the berries, but that’s your call. It will mean that your guests will have to remove the stems themselves if they plan to eat the berries along with the cake.  If you’d prefer to do a piped icing border you will need to reserve some icing, or increase the recipe slightly.

For a more in depth tutorial, see my funfetti birthday cake recipe from last year. For an AMAZING how-to video on how to get a smooth and professional icing job, check out this “modern buttercream” class, completely free, from Craftsy.

If you need to refrigerate the cake, I recommend letting it chill in the fridge for about an hour to set the icing before covering in plastic wrap (so the wrap doesn’t stick to the icing and ruin the smooth coat you worked so hard to create.) This cake is at it’s best the day it’s baked, but once covered, it can be refrigerated for a day or two. The fresh berries may lose their freshness the longer it’s held. Bring completely to room temperature before serving, at least an hour or two.