The jury's out on this cake, but I have no idea what he's talking about when he mentions it being tinged with the flavor of sausage grease. It makes me totally happy that he thinks that, but what a strange reaction!
5+ years ago, back when I subscribed to Gourmet Magazine, I made these rosemary shortbread cookies. Ever since then, I've been terrified of herbed sweets. In my opinion, it's usually too much. I reserve the right to hold that opinion until I find a recipe that helps me disagree. I was worried that I'd feel the same way about this cake. But the basil turned out not to be too big of a deal.
To start, the recipe came together nicely. This was my first time pulsing basil and sugar. And I was happy when I tasted the green paste and it was delicious. Maybe I would have stopped there and eaten it.
But we kept on, and I was so happy that the cake came out well again. This makes several weeks of success. By success I mean "not burnt" and "not raw." I have set the bar low. Only time will tell whether this weekly project will leave me a confident baker or whether it will instill a well-rooted baking performance anxiety.
Here's the batter in the pan before and after baking:
Flipping the cake out and seeing the underside reassured me that I wanted to make the ganache. The top of the cake is more presentable, so if you skip the ganache you probably want to serve it right-side up.
I must have warmed my ganache too hotly because it went a little thick, oily and grainy, but there was nothing wrong with the taste.
I suggest the ganache. It provided a good textural contrast. The cake was surprisingly light and the ganache was creamy. It was by no means a "light" dessert, but it was not texturally stodgy.
My opinion is that you should avoid using 85% cocoa dark chocolate like I did. Between the chocolate and the basil, it was too rich. But those who tried it claimed to like it, so perhaps it doesn't have to taste too rich or like sausages after all. ;) If you like basil and you love chocolate, try out this recipe. It's more about chocolate than it is about basil. It's a sophisticated dessert, and this is a well-written recipe. I'm apt to make it again using a lighter chocolate and some fresh basil from my garden when it's ready. This recipe might even be good using fresh mint instead of basil.