Thyme Cake – a brilliant twist on a plain loaf cake
This Thyme Cake is a basic lemon loaf cake to which is added the wonderful flavour of fresh thyme. As the name of my blog probably suggests, I love using herbs and spices in my cooking. They are a fantastic way of making your dishes unusual and memorable without having to use any particularly advanced culinary skills. You simply just add them into your dishes.
Fresh herbs are used widely in savoury dishes but I love to experiment with them in sweet dishes, such as cakes, biscuits and desserts. The recipe for this Thyme Cake was inspired by the success of another herb-infused cake, my Rosemary Cake.
This Thyme Cake, like my other loaf cake recipes, is very quick and easy. It is a basic lemon loaf cake, topped with drizzle, but the flavour is transformed by the addition of fresh thyme. The taste of lemon and thyme makes me think about Mediterranean holidays and sunshine!
This easy loaf cake highlights the wonderful herby fragrance of fresh thyme.
125 g butter
75 g caster sugar
175 g self-raising flour
4 tablespoons of milk
Approximately ten sprigs of fresh thyme (each about 5 cm long) plus a few additional sprigs to decorate, if required.
100 g icing sugar
Set your oven to 180 degrees centigrade or Gas Mark 4.
Grease a 450 g loaf tin and line the bottom with baking parchment or use a paper loaf tin liner.
Cream the butter with the sugar. (I usually soften the butter for about 30 seconds in the microwave first as it makes it much easier!)
Gradually add the eggs to the butter and sugar mixture. If it looks as if it is going to curdle, add some of the self-raising flour.
Once the eggs have been incorporated add the rest of the self-raising flour.
Add the milk and the grated zest of your lemon.
Remove the leaves from your sprigs of thyme and chop finely. Put half of the chopped leaves (about 2 teaspoons) into the cake mixture. The other half should be reserved for use in the drizzle.
Spoon the cake mixture into your prepared loaf tin.
Put the tin in the oven and bake for 45 minutes.
While the cake is baking, put the juice from your lemon in a small bowl and add the reserved half of the chopped thyme leaves. Heat in the microwave for 1 minute. The idea is to heat the juice so that the thyme releases its fragrance. (If you don’t have a microwave, you can heat the juice in a saucepan over a low heat on the stove.) Allow the juice containing the chopped thyme leaves to cool slightly. Then combine it with 100 g of icing sugar to form a thick syrup.
Remove the cake from the oven and immediately pour the syrup over the top.
Leave the cake in the tin to cool completely before removing. If you try and take it out while it is still warm it may fall apart as it will be very moist due to the syrup.
You can decorate the cake with a few further sprigs of thyme.
These Thyme Biscuits are very loosely inspired by the Italian pinolate biscuits, which are often lemon flavoured and contain ground pinenuts in addition to a topping of whole ones. When I was putting together a recipe for thyme-flavoured biscuits, I thought that a topping of pinenuts would make them look attractive and go well with the herby flavour. The pinenuts become golden and toasted while the biscuits are cooking in the oven and this makes them crunchy and also enhances their flavour.
The fresh thyme that you buy in the supermarket will generally be common thyme which does make a good flavouring for these biscuits. However, I used lemon thyme when making these biscuits, as I grow it in my garden and particularly like its lemony-herby flavour. If you have space for a few pots and want to grow your own thyme, there are many different types, a number of which have distinctive citrus notes such as lemon, orange or lime. Herbal Haven has a very large variety of thyme and other herbs which can be bought online.
These biscuits are flavoured with fresh thyme and topped with crunchy, toasted pinenuts. They are great as an accompaniment to ice-cream or sorbet.
115g butter (softened)
125g caster sugar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 large egg
175g plain flour
Set the oven to 170 C/325 F/Gas Mark 3
Combine all ingredients, except the pinenuts, in your food processor until they form a soft dough. (NB: If you do not have a food processor, cream the butter and sugar together. Add the chopped thyme. Gradually add the egg and then the flour.)
Roll the dough out to approximately 1 cm thickness.
Cut into circles or other shapes if you wish.
Place the circles on a baking tray lined with baking parchment or grease-proof paper.
Press pinenuts into the top of each circle of dough.
My Thyme Ice-cream, flavoured with honey and mascarpone, is rich and sweet. Although many of the ingredients that I use are local to where I now live in south-west England – fresh thyme from my garden, honey from the man down the road who keeps bees – the flavours take me back to many happy summers in Italy.
I think my Thyme Ice-cream makes an excellent dessert after a summer meal – cooling and creamy but with a herby twist! The taste of thyme is quite subtle in this recipe and is balanced by the other flavours, so this a good introduction to herb ice-cream for those who may be a little unsure about it. If I am serving this at a dinner party, I will usually serve it paired with another ice-cream with a less unusual flavour and let people choose which one they want!
I love herb-flavoured ice-creams. I think the cream or custard base provides the perfect vehicle for many herbs and allows their flavours to sing out. Herbs are the stars of the show and not just a supporting act! Many herbs, which may be considered mainly of use in savoury dishes, make excellent ice-cream. In addition to thyme, I think basil, bay, sorrel all make excellent ice-creams. There are also, of course, other herbs such as lavender and lemon verbena, which are used in many sweet dishes and make fantastic flavourings for ice-cream.
Whisk and bowl. This recipe is a breeze using an but you can still make it if you don’t have one (see instructions under point 12 of Method)
Try a sweet twist on thyme with this creamy Thyme Ice-cream with Honey and Mascarpone.
200 ml double cream
A large bunch of fresh thyme
4 egg yolks
100 ml honey
250 g mascarpone
Wash your thyme and crush it gently using the back of a spoon to release its flavour. There is no need to remove the leaves from the woody stalks.
Put the thyme into a saucepan with the cream. At this stage, if you have time (as well as thyme..) you can leave the mixture overnight to allow the flavour to infuse.
Next, heat the cream and thyme mixture gently. Do not allow to boil – it will be the right temperature when you are just about able to bear to dip a finger in it!
Strain the cream through a sieve to remove the thyme.
Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl until the mixture looks paler and resembles a mousse.
Pour the thyme-flavoured cream into the bowl containing the egg yolks.
Transfer the combined mixture into a bowl set over a pan of simmering water or, ideally a double-boiler, as you need to reheat it very gently.
The mixture will gradually thicken until it looks like a custard (which is what it is). Stir regularly to make sure it does not stick while it is thickening.
Add the honey to the custard.
Remove the thick custard from the heat and transfer into a bowl. Allow to cool to room temperature and then transfer to the fridge to become thoroughly chilled.
Add the mascarpone to the chilled custard.
When you are ready to make the ice-cream, transfer to your ice-cream maker and use according to your machine’s instructions. If you do not have an ice-cream maker, you can place the mixture in a freezer-proof container, put in the freezer for several hours until half-frozen. Whisk the mixture and then return to the container and replace in the freezer until totally frozen.
There are many varieties of thyme and any are fine in this ice-cream. I used lemon thyme as I particularly love its flavour.