olive oil, rosemary and citrus cake

tableIf any of you are following me on Instagram, you’d know that I’m experiencing a woody herb obsession. It’s something to do with winter, cold nights and frosty mornings, slow roasting and baking whilst sipping a glass of wine.

Differing from soft-stemmed herbs such as parsley, coriander and basil (from which the entire plant is edible), woody herbs include the much-loved rosemary, sage, lavender, oregano and thyme.

As the name suggests, the stems of woody herbs are hard, fibrous and often inedible (think rosemary). As a general rule, they’re better in cooked dishes, finely chopped, bruised in a mortar and pestle, fried until crispy (think sage. JUST DO IT) or infused into oil.

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The robust nature of woody herbs makes them wonderful for savoury applications such as a classic meat stuffing or slow cooked meal. However, they’re also delicious in Mediterranean-inspired desserts when combined with delicately sweet ingredients such as citrus fruit, nuts, stone fruit and glossy olive oil. To me, it’s a little bit like the flavour profile of a cheese board in the semblance of a traditional dessert. Sweet with savoury notes. Perfect for those of us with dwindling sweet tooths.

Like my recent recipe for lemon thyme ice cream sandwiches, this cake offers beautifully herbal, woody and savoury notes alongside the sweetness of citrus and olive oil. It’s perfect when eaten with coffee and a big dollop of double cream.


Olive Oil, Rosemary and Citrus Cake

Adapted from this recipe by Michael Chiarello at Food Network

  • 2 cups plain flour (I used gluten-free)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 cups white caster sugar
  • 2 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups (375ml) extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp ground anise (Spanish anise seed, not star anise. Substitute fennel seeds)
  • 1 tbsp mixed orange and lemon zest, finely grated*
  • 1 cup mixed orange and lemon juice*
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups (315ml) whole milk
  • 1/4 cup orange liqueur (eg. Cointreau, substitute brandy)

*I used 2 medium oranges and 1 small lemon to extract 1 cup of juice.

To serve:

  • 4 tbsp citrus marmalade, preferably without peel
  • icing sugar, optional
  • fresh rosemary sprigs and/or edible flowers

Grease and line a 24cm spring-form cake pan, then set aside. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees f).

In a nonreactive saucepan, reduce the citrus juice over medium heat to 1/4 cup. Add the salt, mix well and allow to cool.

Lightly beat the eggs in a large bowl until frothy. Add the milk, sugar, liqueur, olive oil, reduced (and cooled) citrus juice, zest, ground anise and half of the fresh rosemary (the other tsp will be used for glazing the cake). Mix well.


Sift in the flour, baking soda and baking powder. Mix until you achieve a smooth, even batter.

Pour the mixture into your prepared cake pan. Bake for 1 hour or until the cake is risen and golden (a skewer inserted into the centre should have only a few moist crumbs attached. Cover the cake with foil three-quarters of the way through cooking if it is browning too quickly. The cake will crack, it’s pretty much inedible so don’t worry!).

Place the cake onto a wire rack. While the cake is still warm, heat the marmalade until runny and incorporate the leftover chopped rosemary.Gently pour over the cake, using a spoon to smooth out any clumps. Allow to cool completely, then turn out onto a plate. Dust with icing sugar and top with rosemary sprigs.

lokisniff cut

52 responses

  1. It’s a lovely cake! I love it when people use herbs in sweet dishes. I make a lemon and rosemary cookie that is to die for! When the weather starts cooling down here in Vegas I will give this gorgeous cake a try! :)

    • It’s amazing, adds a gorgeous savoury note that pairs so well with the olive oil and citrus! Apparently it’s also good in chocolate cakes, I’m seriously curious though as that’s a combo I’m yet to try! Thanks for the lovely comment Laura xx

  2. Cheeky Loki! He’s so cute!
    Laura, this cake is gorgeous, and woody herbs and citrus are where it’s at for winter. I love rosemary and so I’m glad to know that it pairs so beautifully with chocolate. This cake will be perfect for a wintry celebration :)

    • Aw thanks so much Amy! I appreciate the kind words. I definitely have to try rosemary and chocolate also, for some reason this combination has escaped me so far! Hope that you and Chris are well xxx

  3. This looks scrumptious, Laura– the bright citrus against the sharper rosemary. Perfect with a mug of tea. We have a large rosemary in the side yard– I have to try this.

  4. This combination of flavours sounds truly lovely Laura! Loki is such a sweetheart… if that was my Sophie in such proximity to a slice of cake, her tongue would have definitely whipped out for a little taste test!

    • Haha, pretty sure that Loki would have too if he was unsupervised! I’m pretty lucky with him though, he seems to want to listen to me (for some reason – I think it’s a bit of luck when you adopt a pup and we’ve struck gold with Loki!). Thanks heaps Margot xx

    • Thanks so much John, I’m definitely in complete agreement re rosemary in cakes. I’ve recently come across the combination of rosemary and chocolate also, which I’m itching to try! Thanks for the kind words!

  5. Another lovely recipe! I’ve never done an olive oil cake before, I’m interested to try it as it seems like it would be lovely and dense and moist. I am with you – I am loving woody herbs at the moment (well, probably always) and have found rosemary and chocolate to be a perfect combination. I also love Loki so much, I just want to smoosh his little face! x

    • Oh gosh, I have to try rosemary and chocolate! That sounds DIVINE. I want to completely veganise an olive oil cake one day soon. The texture is so gorgeous, moist and slightly savoury. As for Loki? He is the best little pup. Makes every day better (and more hilarious, he makes the funniest expressions!). Thanks so much Caeli xxx

  6. OMG – this looks so amazing, and is perfect for your winter! I, too, love woody herbs – their flavors are so distinct. I can’t wait to try this! Hope all is well, and that you and Aaron are staying warm down there!

    • Thanks so much David, the weather is warming up slowly – I think summer will be here before we know it! Hope that you and Mark are going well? I’ve missed so many of your posts, I’ve been off the computer most of the last few months due to my wrist injury (so frustrating!). Take care my friend xx

  7. I just love cake with herbs, and yours looks most seducing, dear Laura! The atmosphere in your pictures is adorable – and your description of the cold season’s delights is much refreshing as we’re facing another very hot day over here :-). Wishing you a wonderful time!

    • Aw, thanks lovely Claudia! How are you and Arne? Sorry for the late reply, I’ve been off the computer most of the time as I’ve injured my wrist. Can’t believe it’s been a year since Aaron and I visited Berlin! Stay cool, sending hugs xxx

      • We’re fine, Laura, thanks. But so sorry, dear, that you injured your wrist! We hope you’re fine again? Get well soon, and all the best to you and Aaron – can’t believe that a year passed already since we all met in Berlin :-).

      • Thanks so much lovely. I am a lot better but not ‘there’ yet, I am limiting my computer typing time as much as possible. Glad that you and Arne are well, sending you hugs xxx

  8. Pingback: Olive Oil, Rosemary and Citrus Cake | homethoughtsfromabroad626

  9. Just lovely. What a warming combination of flavors. I too have a woody herb obsession, which happens to be season-less. I love to throw sprigs of sage (or rosemary) into a pan while sautéing chicken or fish. It’s like creating your own infused oil on demand ;) Such a beautiful post! xoxo

    • What a gorgeous idea Emilie! I always perpetually throw rosemary in to any tray of roasted vegetables, I also adore sage but rosemary grows wild here (probably planted by an Italian nonna years ago!) so it’s easy to pick some on the way home! Thanks for your lovely words xxx

    • Thanks so much Rhonda, I’m just easing back into being at work, quite tricky as I need to limit my ‘extra curricular’ computer time. I have another post in the pipeline but I’m just completing it slowly. Thanks for thinking of me, you are such a lovely friend and I appreciate you reading and journeying along with me! Hugs. I’m still here xox

    • Thanks lovely, I have missed reading everyone’s posts too! I am gradually getting back on track but definitely have a little way to go, I’m limiting my computer time at present. Sending you hugs. And herbs definitely make everything more delicious! xx

  10. This cake is just lovely to look at & that must taste utterly delicious too! :) I happen to have a lot of fresh rosemary from the garden!
    MMMMMMMMMMM! I missed your cool lovely edible posts, my friend but i was 2 weeks away on Holiday! :) x

    • Aw, thanks lovely! Hope that you had an amazing time! I’ve been a little bit AWOL in the blogging world recently, my wrist has been causing me grief but I am getting there. Sorry for being absent, I’ve been trying to spend less time on the computer in general. Sending you hugs xx

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