As the youngest member of my family, it was always my job to run and fetch the back scratcher from it’s resting place on the hall table whenever my granny needed it. It was an odd looking implement with a woven handle and a small wooden hand attached to one end. This cake is the culinary equivalent. By that I do not mean that it can be used to relieve itchy body parts, but rather that it has partially cured my itch for spring.
After about two days of watery spring sunshine we’re back to winter conditions, with snow and deep drifts on all the hills. For the first time in my life, though, I’m not excited by it – I want spring! Warmer weather, fresher flavours, and flowers flowers flowers. Oh and lambs, because they brighten anyone’s day.
This rosemary cake rumbled around my head for a little while before I actually made it. I eventually settled on a lemon buttercream, and decided to grind the sugar with the rosemary leaves, to try and get a stronger flavour. This admittedly took a while, but I didn’t have anywhere to go and I’d say it was worth it. Plus it turned the sugar (and the cake!) a rather lovely, delicate shade of green.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from the flavour, but I think it was a success; it’s light and refreshing, without being overpowering or too ‘herby’, and the zesty icing really compliments it. I’m not usually a fan of buttercream icing because I find it too cloying, but here it was just right.
Rosemary cake with Lemon Buttercream
2 stalks of rosemary (about 5″ long)
175g unsalted butter (softened)
A few extra leaves of rosemary, very finely chopped
3 eggs, lightly beaten
175g self-raising flour
For the icing:
200g icing sugar
Juice and finely grated zest of a lemon
And three 17cm cake tins, greased, the bottoms lined with baking paper
First, remove the rosemary leaves from the stalks and crush a few at a time, adding a little sugar to the mortar with each set of leaves. Unless you have a large mortar, you’ll probably need to do this in stages. Be patient!
Preheat the oven to 180ºC (160ºC for a fan oven). Cream the rosemary sugar with the butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy, before adding the finely chopped rosemary.
Next add the eggs a little at a time, beating in a little flour with each addition.
Sift the rest of the flour into the bowl, and gently fold into the mixture.
Spoon into the prepared tins, smoothing the mixture – for a more even rise, it helps to have a slight dip in the middle.
Bake on the middle shelf for around 20 minutes, or until they are risen and golden, and a skewer comes out clean when poked into the middle.
Place on a wire rack to cool, before removing from the tins and leaving to cool fully.
Make the icing; beat the butter until soft, then sift in the icing sugar. Mix until fully combined. Add the lemon zest, and enough juice to make the icing easily spreadable.
Sandwich the cakes together with a little of the mix, then spread the remaining icing all over the cake.