My Friend Mary’s Basil Lemon Yogurt Cake

Bakers gonna bake, bake, bake, bake, bake! – A baker I don’t know said or sang this

Have lots of basil and lemons lying around? If you do, you should make this for breakfast this weekend. And if you don’t just run to the store and get some. My friend Mary made this for her daughter, Ava, for breakfast on a Sunday morning. She found Meyer lemons at the store and decided to make it and serve with fresh lemonade and fruit. I can’t wait for my daughter, Sarah Kate, to make it for me. Ha! I am a terrible baker. I don’t even like baking. I have ruined brownies out of the box. Yes, it is possible.

I love the story behind the recipe. Mary and her daughter volunteer at an assisted living facility – which sometimes my daughter and I will volunteer also playing bingo with the ladies. It is such a gratifying experience! I always think I am going there to help brighten their day but I think I leave a little better than when I walked in. I love their stories, advice and company.

Mary likes to go on Wednesdays because that’s when they bake. She said they might not remember what day it is but put a recipe in their hand, let them boss you around, and they are off to the races! So that’s where she scored this delicious recipe. From one of the sweet residents in assisted living. She hand wrote the recipe for her. I love that. This led to a discussion about our grandmothers and their handwritten recipes we still have. My grandmother Ann didn’t have recipes. I learned to cook from her and so I don’t have a lot of recipes either. I just learned. My other grandmother, Maxine, typed all of her recipes on a typewriter of course and then made notes on the cards. One handwritten comment says, “Extra good!”. I have them! Here is her beautiful recipe box she gave to me with her typed recipes – along with the name of the person who gave it to her.

Mary found this gorgous box recently and it holds her recipes. It’s so pretty!

Here’s the sweet handwritten recipe for the cake. So sweet. I love that Mary’s hand and phone casts a shadow over the page. Lol!

Sarah Kate! Are you reading this? I have all the ingredients you need to whip this up! Can’t wait. Love, mom.

Basil Lemon Yogurt Cake

3 cups of flour

5 tsp baking powder

1.5 cups sugar

Zest of 4 lemons

1.5 cups of plain yogurt

2 tbspn lemon juice

1 cup oil

4 large eggs

2 tsp vanilla

2/3 cup chopped basil

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour cake pan. Whisk flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, mix sugar and lemon zest. Add yogurt and lemon juice and mix well. Add oil, eggs and vanilla. Add basil and mix well. Fold in flour mix just until it crumbles. Pour in bundt pan or cake pans and bake 45 minutes.

Glaze: 1 cup of powdered sugar, 4 tsp lemon juice, and 1 tsp milk. Pour over cooled cake.

Cocktails That Taste Like Summer

When life gives you lemons, mint, basil, and thyme add some vodka and hurry to the porch.

-Shannon Hunter (that’s me)

Summertime brings about the most delicious herbs. Whether you grow them yourself, go to the farmer’s market or the grocery store, now is a great time to enjoy fresh basil, thyme and mint. My neighbor, Elizabeth, brought over an entire bouquet of basil and a craving for a lemon, basil and vodka cocktail. So I made her one. I always have lemons and vodka just in case.

I like to grow basil and mint in containers on the porch near the kitchen door. That way I can run out with my kitchen shears and cut some to add to whatever is on the stove or muddle in a drink. Basil and mint together is so good in sweet iced tea with lime. Love it!

So far this summer I have three delicious cocktails that are my favorites! I will say a gin and tonic is my absolute favorite in the summer, but I decided to make use of overflowing pots of basil and mint. I am not growing thyme so I have to get that from the farmer’s market or the grocery store when they have it.

They are so easy to make but you must have two things on hand…simple syrup and good quality tonic and soda. I highly recommend Fever-Tree. It truly is the best brand of tonic and soda I have ever had. Indian, Mediterranean and Elderflower are my favorite flavors. Here is a picture in case you aren’t familiar:

The best bargain for Fever Tree is to order it by the case on Amazon – otherwise it is between $5 – $6 for four bottles. Here are the links to my favorites:

Indian Tonic Water:

Elderflower Tonic Water:

Meditarranean Tonic Water:

To get started on porch sitting and sipping, you must have chilled simple syrup.

Simple Syrup:

1 cup of sugar – I also squeeze in a little honey. Especially if I add a sprig of thyme to the water.

1 cup of water

Bring water to a boil and stir in the sugar and honey. Turn heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir with a whisk. Pour into a Pyrex cup or heat resistant container and let it cool. I keep in the refrigerator in a sealed container.

Thyme infused simple syrup – add a sprig or two to the simmering water.

Basil, Lemon, Vodka Cocktail:

Muddle 2-3 leaves of fresh basil in a glass – leave them in the glass

Fill glass with ice

Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the ice

Add a shot of vodka – roughly 1.5 ounces

Add 1 tablespoon of simple syrup or more to taste

Top with Fever-Tree Indian Tonic

Garnish with a lemon slice and basil leaf

Stir and Serve!

Thyme, Lemon, Vodka Cocktail:

Fill a glass with ice

Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the ice

Add one shot of Vodka – roughly 1.5 ounces

Add 1-2 tablespoons of thyme infused simple syrup or more to taste

Add Fever-Tree tonic or soda to top – I prefer tonic but others prefer soda – make two and decide!

Stir and garnish with lemons and a sprig of fresh thyme.

Mint Juleps aren’t just for The Kentucky Derby ya’ll. It’s a great drink that is so refreshing during the summer. And helps with what to do with all that overflowing mint.

Mint Julep:

5 fresh mint leaves, muddled

2 ounces of simple syrup

2 ounces of bourbon – Woodford Reserve is my favorite mixing bourbon

Muddle 5 mint leaves in a glass. Fill the glass to the top with ice. Add simple syrup and bourbon. Garnish with mint sprigs.

What is your favorite summer cocktail? You know I’d love to hear!

Easy Summer Salads

Cook once, eat all week.

My approach to summer cooking.

I’m so lazy in the summer. I love to cook but I really don’t want to spend hours and hours in the kitchen when I could be outside. Or fanning myself on the sofa drinking a lemonade that may or not have vodka in it. So when I am busy with either of those activities and someone living in my house screams “I’m hungry” I can point them to the fridge. I’ll spend a little time on Sunday boiling pasta and chopping fresh veggies and cheese. I just squeeze lemon juice, pour a little olive oil over the pasta, add fresh basil, salt and pepper, and toss. Then I have fresh mozzarella, olives, salami, pepperoni, grilled chicken, hard cheeses, cucumber, artichokes and tomatoes ready to toss in. Sometimes I toss together and store in a covered container to enjoy all week. If my children complain about all the stuff they hate in it , I’ll store the sides in separate smaller covered containers and everyone can choose what they want. Kind of like a covered salad bar in the fridge.

My daughter just wants the pasta and chicken. My son adds pepperoni and whatever cheese he sees first. I add everything. It lasts for a week. So easy. I always have different variations that includes feta, asparagus, green beans, grilled corn, whatever sounds good.

Another favorite in my house is 3-5 bean salad. I say 3-5 because I don’t know what I have in the pantry. If I have five then great! If not, then three it is and great! It’s such a perfect side dish to serve with grilled hamburgers, chicken or anything off the grill. I like it alone for lunch, too. It also lasts in the refrigerator for a full week. The dressing is easy to make and it’s delicious!

These are also easy and ideal to bring to a potluck or serve when guests come over. Isn’t it nice to have a go-to at the ready when you are entertaining in the summer. Spend time with friends not with your stovetop or oven!

Store in the refrigerator in a Pyrex covered container or any covered container for up to a week.

See below for my recipes. I’d love to know what you add to make it your own and especially if your kids love it.

Serve anytime in your favorite dish that makes you happy. These bowls from Anthropologie are my absolute favorites.

Pasta Salad:

  1. Any pasta. I like rotini veggie pasta and I use the whole box. Follow directions on the package.
  2. Drain the water and keep in a colander to cool.
  3. Combine the juice of one lemon, 1/4 cup of olive oil and salt and pepper. Set aside.
  4. Dice a cucumber, tomato (I like to halve cherry tomatoes), zucchini, onion, whatever veggies you like.
  5. Coarsely chop any cheese such as feta, aged cheddar, fresh mozzarella, manchego, whatever you like!
  6. Add fresh basil leaves.
  7. Mix with the pasta and pour the lemon and oil over the salad. Toss to coat. Or just pour over the pasta and place the other ingredients in separate containers to add later.
  8. Store in the fridge up to a week and enjoy all week long.

Other variations:

I’ll add leftover grilled corn, sauteed green beans, avocado (add fresh to each serving each day or it will turn that yucky brown color) and serve with grilled chicken, shrimp, salmon or burgers. Balsamic vinaigrette is great with it, too.

Bean Salad – Any Variation Of:

1 can cut green beans

1 can red kidney beans

1 can wax beans

1 can garbanzo beans

1 can black beans

1 can northern beans or white beans

1 Vidalia onion or any type you love – shallots are good!

Green pepper, or red or yellow or none at all


1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup vinegar – any kind is fine but I prefer champagne or apple cider

1/4 cup of sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Drain and rinse the beans and put into a large serving bowl or large pyrex that has fitted lid. Add the onions, peppers, and stir gently to combine.

Mix the dressing ingredients well. Pour over the beans and stir well. Store in the refrigerator up to a week. When you take the salad out to serve, make sure to stir well to distribute the dressing.

So good! I hope you like it! If you add anything else, please comment and let me know. I’m always up for new ways to make favorite recipes!