Cake with a Twist

Years ago I ran into a simple cake, what one might consider a “tea cake” – light, simple, no frosting, not too sweet – and was instantly smitten.  It was a Lemon Rosemary cake.  I recreated it a couple of years ago, and find it is one of the most popular desserts I’ve served.  My friend, Deb, likes it so much that she tries to convince the other guests that they won’t like it, so she can have more.  It never works.

Lemon-Rosemary Cake

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon (about 3 Tbsp)
1 1/2 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary*
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil**
1 tsp. vanilla
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup Buttermilk
Powdered Sugar for dusting

350ºF Oven, 30-40 minutes.

Grease a 9 or 10 inch layer pan.  Line with parchment.  Grease and flour the parchment-lined pan.

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

Beat eggs with a whisk.  Add olive oil, lemon juice and vanilla.  Set aside.

Cream butter in a mixer with a paddle attachment.  And sugar and beat for several minutes until fluffy and pale.
Gradually add the egg mixture.  Scrape down the sides.
Add a third of the flour and mix just to combine.  Add half the buttermilk and mix.  Scrape down the sides.  Repeat with half the remaining flour, then the buttermilk.  Scrape the sides again.  Add the lemon zest and rosemary with the last third of the flour.

Scrape into the pan and bake until the cake is lightly golden and set.  Allow the cake to cool about ten minutes.  Invert the cake onto a plate, peel away the parchment, and then invert onto another plate.  Allow it to cool completely.  Dust the cake with powdered sugar and garnish with a sprig of rosemary and some long strands of lemon zest.

This cake is great serves with iced or hot tea or coffee, as a treat, or as a light dessert.  It is especially good with a Mediterranean or Middle Eastern meal.

*Dried rosemary doesn’t work.  It stays too chewy and you don’t get the flavor.
** Good olive oil is pretty much always a little green looking.  If you purchase “light” olive oil, it is likely a blend of olive and some other oil.  Get the good stuff.

A Twist on the Twist: Toasted Sesame Cake

1 1/2 cups Spelt flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
2 1/2 Tbsp. Toasted Sesame Oil
1/4 cup. sesame seeds, toasted (preferably black ones, but either is ok)
1 tsp. vanilla
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
Powdered sugar for dusting

350ºF Oven, 30-40 minutes.

Grease a 9 or 10 inch layer pan.  Line with parchment.  Grease and flour the parchment-lined pan.

Toast the sesame seeds over medium high heat in a small dry skillet.  Stir or shake the pan constantly so they don’t burn.  Set them aside in a heat-proof dish to cool.

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.

Beat eggs with a whisk.  Add toasted sesame oil and vanilla.  Set aside.

Cream butter in a mixer with a paddle attachment.  And sugar and beat for several minutes until fluffy and pale.
Gradually add the egg mixture.  Scrape down the sides.
Add a third of the flour and mix just to combine.  Add half the buttermilk and mix.  Scrape down the sides.  Repeat with half the remaining flour, then the buttermilk.  Scrape the sides again.  Add the sesame seeds with the last third of the flour.

Scrape into the pan and bake until the cake is lightly golden and set.  Allow the cake to cool about ten minutes.  Invert the cake onto a plate, peel away the parchment, and then invert onto another plate.  Allow it to cool completely.  Dust the cake with powdered sugar and garnish with a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds.

I really like the use of Spelt flour in this recipe.  The heartiness of the flour holds up well to the toasty flavor of the seeds and oil.   It looks very earthy – like something Tim Bombadil would make.

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