Let Them Eat Cake!

October 1, 2007 at 12:34 pm 10 comments

Lemons for the cake 

Two cake recipes in quick succession!  My inner baker is clawing to get out! 

To be completely honest though, you wouldn’t have known this if it hadn’t been for the intervention of Sarah at the Headhouse Farmers Market yesterday.  See, this cake, while ridiculously delicious, was a bit of a visual disaster.  And it’s entirely my fault because the inspiration for this recipe was a gorgeous photo on Tastespotting (for the food porn lover in all of us) so I know it can be made to look lovely.  I was telling Sarah about my hesitation to post the recipe since I didn’t feel comfortable with the photo of the final product.  But she wisely observed that food blogs are as much about their “trial ‘n error” realism as they are about the pretty pictures.

The rosemary steeps in the milk

So it is that I come humbly to you with this wonderful recipe and a few words of advice.  First, use a round cake pan.  I thought I could get away with not washing up the dirty one in my sink by using my sheet cake pan.  While the cake baked up just fine (and in shorter time than expected, due to being more spread out, I guess), it was thin and my haphazard attempt to rectify the situation by cutting it in half and making a two layer square-ish cake just didn’t prove as successful as I had hoped.  If this cake were to be iced with a thick frosting, it would have been fine. But the icing is exactly where I hit my second and biggest snafu. 

I’ve made plenty of icing/glazes before but none with lemon juice.  Perhaps I was just high on rosemary fumes and added more than I realized or perhaps lemon juice reacts differently with confectioners’ sugar than milk does.  Whatever the case, my icing (which, in my defense, was initially the right consistency)  never set up on the cake.  Instead, it ran hastily over the sides and pooled mockingly on the plate. Indeed, the flavor was superb, but the visual was rather dismal. 

Time to juice the lemons

I hung my head in shame and did my best to take a respectable photo.

And then I finally ate a piece of cake.

Wow! WOW!  I’d had my doubts about lemon rosemary cake.  They were instantly swept away in a rush of savory sweet citrus delight. Each bite got better and better.  And the next day it was even better!  Everyone who has tasted it was equally enamored.  Moist and springy with a nice thick crumb, this dandy is a cross between pound and sponge cake. Surprisingly filling! Since it’s ever so slightly savory, it lends itself to breakfast fare and a nice cup of green tea on a late Sunday afternoon after a heady farmers market trip. 

All the fine ingredients are assembled

Oh, and before I forget, this rosemary is still some of that same amazing batch my coworker gave me the other week. Really fresh rosemary (i.e., not what you get in the supermarket that’s already been in the package for 2 weeks) keeps a very long time when sealed in a ziplock bag with a slightly damp towel and put in the crisper drawer of the fridge.  This recipe is another one of those instances when dried rosemary just will not do.  If you can’t get your hands on fresh rosemary right now, make a note to yourself to buy a little plant of it to put in your garden or a sunny window sill so you can make lemon rosemary cake to your heart’s content.  Don’t forget my few words of advice, but most importantly, don’t write a dish off based on its looks.  While it may not be a book, you still shouldn’t judge it by its cover (or, in this case, its icing). 

Very finely chopped rosemary goes into the cake batter

Adapted from My Feasts

2 c. of all purpose flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 3/4 c. sugar
2 sticks (16 T.) of margarine or unsalted butter (@ room temp)
6 eggs (@ room temp)
1 T. lemon zest
1 1/2 t. vanilla extract
1/2 c. fresh lemon juice (takes about 5 lemons)
1 t. fresh chopped rosemary, very finely chopped
1 large whole sprig of rosemary
3 T. milk

1 c. confectioners’ sugar
3+ T. lemon juice

Begin by zesting and then squeezing your lemons for the juice. Set both the zest and juice aside.  Place the milk in a small sauce pan along with the sprig of whole rosemary.  Heat over very low heat just until the milk begins to steam.  Remove from heat and allow to steep  while you prepare the rest of the batter.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a cake pan (9 inch or bundt pan work well) that you will be using. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Cream together butter and sugar until well combined, pale and creamy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and lemon zest to the mixture and combine well before adding the lemon juice and mixing it until it’s just incorporated. The lemon juice will react with the baking powder to add air into the batter so be gentle from here on out so as to keep from deflating the batter too much.

Slowly add the flour, salt and baking powder and mix carefully just until combined. Going back to the rosemary milk, remove the rosemary sprig and measure out 2 tablespoons of the milk. Add it and the chopped rosemary to the batter and gently fold in until distributed evenly. Pour into prepared cake pan and bake in the middle of oven till cake is done, about 35-45 minutes, or when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Allow cake to cool completely before glazing.  To make the glaze, combine the confectioners’ sugar with enough lemon juice to make a smooth, but not runny, liquid.  Pour glaze over top of cake and allow it to run down the sides of the cake.  Leave glaze to set up for several minutes before serving.  Garnish with a little sprig of rosemary or some lemon peel. 

(serves 12)

Lemon Rosemary Cake

Okay, so this picture isn’t so bad.  But it could have been a lot prettier!

Cake with a slice out and the icing pooled on the plate

It’s this picture that was the soure of my humility. 


Entry filed under: Recipes, Sweet Treats.

Variation on a Theme For Those Short on Space

10 Comments Add your own

  • 1. titus2woman  |  October 2, 2007 at 10:44 am

    MMMMMMMMMMM! My cakes ALWAYS, 100% of the time look AWFUL! and we don’t have round cake pans but were once given pie pans~so they look like flyin’ saucers! LOL! They are ALWAYS delish though! Your cake sounds divine! (((((HUGS))))) sandi

  • 2. Jennie  |  October 2, 2007 at 11:38 am

    Thanks for your encouagement, Sandi! Baking cakes in a pie pan…I might have to try that just for kicks sometime.

  • 3. Maya  |  October 2, 2007 at 4:24 pm

    HI Jennie:

    I was over the moon that you tried a recipe from my site!!
    I am sure it was delish 🙂

  • 4. Jennie  |  October 2, 2007 at 6:44 pm

    Hi Maya! Thanks for the wonderful idea! I only wish mine had been as pretty as yours!

  • 5. AddE  |  October 8, 2007 at 12:48 pm

    I tried this last week (with some adaptations) and it was great! Not being an avid baker I did not own a mixer or a flower sifter…I did however have a spoon attached to a functional arm and a martini shaker. Granted it took a bit longer than necessary, I’m sure, but the results were just as yummy 🙂

  • 6. therealpotato  |  October 8, 2007 at 6:11 pm

    Glad I could inspire! 🙂

    I think I actually learn more from my cooking mistake than I do when I follow a recipe perfectly. I’m guessing there’s some sort of acid reaction happening here, but I leave that sort of thing to Alton Brown! I have to say, though, the picture really isn’t that bad, and the cake sounds delicious. I’m a sucker for ‘savory’ ingredients in desserts.

    What is it about fall that brings out the baking urge? It’s not even cold yet and all I want to do is bake! Not that this is a bad thing…

  • 7. Joanna  |  January 22, 2008 at 11:04 pm

    I made this cake for the midnight tea-and-food break at a 6-hour Scottish dancing ball. 🙂 We’ve been getting huge bags of rosemary in at the Farmstand, so all I’ve wanted to do is find new ways to cook it! (I know ‘roasting with meat or potatoes’ is a predictable, savory answer, but I’ve become fascinated with rosemary used in desserts.) I’m so happy I could try this! I skipped the glaze because I’m lazy, and the cake was a little denser than I expected (I tried to be careful about not overmixing, but perhaps I failed?), but it was also really tasty and at least one person asked me for the recipe. 🙂 (I sent them the url for this entry so they could admire your beautiful pictures…) Thanks for the rosemary dessert idea!

    I also made the roasted-rosemary-potato and leek soup with some of that abundance of rosemary, and it was super-tasty. (I definitely agree about the smoky taste.) It also made clear to me that my next kitchen investment will be an immersion blender…

  • 8. Jennie  |  January 23, 2008 at 7:21 am

    Awesome, Joanna! Sounds like you’re a rosemary convert! Next time, try the cake with the glaze (it’s not too too much more work) as that sorta lightens it up since it adds some moisture and added sweetness…more cakey in the end instead of bready, if that makes sense. Thanks for passing along the url. 🙂 And definitely get yourself that immersion blender. It’s easy to get a good one for under 10 bucks and I use mine *constantly*! 🙂

  • 9. A Vanilla Rose « Straight from the Farm  |  July 1, 2008 at 10:52 am

    […] a “savory” cocktail, besides a Bloody Mary?  I couldn’t think of any).  I remembered the Lemon Rosemary cake from last autumn, but took a sharp right turn from that formula when I noticed the long-neglected […]

  • 10. Y.S.  |  April 16, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    Thanks for the recipe! It made a very dense cake (but I tend to overwork batter). My favorite part is everyone’s take on the cake; it’s all different.Some people say they taste the rosemary quite strongly and others say they taste the lemon more. I’m unable to taste either the rosemary or lemon. But everyone agrees: the icing is delicious. Despite your misgivings, it still looked gorgeous on the bundt cake I ended up with.


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