Lemon-Rosemary Olive Oil Cake

Updated: Feb 12

I have a MAJOR sweet tooth. I mean MAJOR. I love cake, cookies, ice cream, all of it. One thing that I’ve learned, though, is that I can’t eat a ton of sweets or I feel yuck! So, when I eat dessert, I want it to be so worth it. Well, I am here to tell you that this one is ABSOLUTELY worth it!

A few years ago, I was trying to figure out what kind of cake to make for my mom for her birthday. I don’t know about any of the other foodies out there, but I am the resident cake baker for family birthdays. I don’t mind it, because baking cakes is kind of like therapy for me. Well, my mom’s favorite kind of dessert is lemon-anything. I wanted to do something a little different, so I decided an olive oil cake was just the ticket. The result was divine! It’s now the go-to for all her birthdays!

The cake has several components, but I promise it is WORTH IT! The richness of the olive oil is so well balanced with the tart lemon curd. The buttercream is sweet and luxurious without giving you a toothache. It’s just the perfect dessert for any celebration.

So, what do you need for this cake?!

Cake Ingredients

Lemon Curd Ingredients

  • Whole eggs

  • Egg yolks (reserve the egg whites for your buttercream!)

  • Lemon juice (about 4 medium-large lemons)

  • Granulated sugar

  • Lemon zest

  • Coarse Kosher salt

  • All-purpose flour (or cornstarch)

  • Unsalted butter, room temperature

Lemon-Rosemary Buttercream

  • Egg whites

  • Granulated sugar

  • Unsalted butter, room temperature

  • Lemon juice

  • Fresh rosemary

  • Vanilla extract

  • Coarse Kosher salt

Lemon Simple Syrup

  • ¼ cup lemon juice

  • ¼ cup water

  • ½ cup sugar

How to put it all together!

Preheat the oven and prepare your cake pans: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush 2 8-inch cake pans with butter and dust with flour. Place a small circle of parchment paper in the bottom of the cake pan.

Mix you cake ingredients together: Place sugar, lemon zest, and rosemary in a small bowl and rub between your fingers until it resembles wet sand. Place sugar mixture and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until it is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Once the butter and sugar are light and fluffy, add the eggs, one at a time. Once eggs are mixed, scrape the bottom of the bowl.

Meanwhile, place flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. Place milk, lemon juice and vanilla in a measuring cup. Add flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with milk mixture in 2 parts. Begin and end with the flour mixture.

Bake the cake! Once all ingredients have been combined, stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl Return mixer to medium speed, and beat for 2-3 minutes. Divide the mixture evenly between the 2 cake pans. Bake for 24-28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, or the cake bounces back when VERY gently pressed in the middle.

Remove the cake from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes. Turn out onto a cooling rack and cool completely. Once the cake reaches room temperature, place on a cake turntable (NOTE: if you do not have one of these, do not worry! Just place it on a flat surface). Using a serrated knife, gently trim the top of the cake, creating a flat top. Next, cut each cake in half to create 4 layers of cake. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and place in the freezer to chill well.

Make your filling: While the cake is cooling, make the lemon curd: Place the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, and vanilla small saucepan over medium heat. Whisking constantly, bring the mixture to a simmer. Create a slurry by adding 3 TBSP lemon mixture to a small bowl with the 3 TBSP all-purpose flour. Whisk together until smooth, and then slowly whisk back into the saucepan. Whisking constantly, cook 3-4 minutes, or until mixture is thickened and cooked through. The mixture should reach 165°F. Remove from heat, and immediately place into a bowl. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the top of the curd, being sure to touch the curd to prevent a skin from forming. Place curd in the refrigerator until cooled.

Make your buttercream: While the cake and curd are cooling, make the buttercream. Fill a small-medium saucepan with 2 inches of water. Place this saucepan on high heat. Place the sugar and egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer. Place the bowl in the pot of water, creating a double boiler, making sure that just the first few inches of the bottom of the bowl sit in the saucepan and the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water.

Whisk the egg whites and sugar over the double boiler until they reach 165°F, or until the sugar is melted and the eggs begin to foam. Once the sugar mixture has melted, remove from the double boiler and place on the stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whisk the egg mixture on high until the mixture is cooled. Once the mixture has cooled to room temperature, add the butter, a little at a time, until it has all been added to the bowl. Next, turn the mixer off and scrape the bottom of the bowl. Add the lemon juice, rosemary, salt, and vanilla. Mix on low until well combined. Turn mixer up to high, and beat 2-3 more minutes, or until mixture is smooth and fluffy.

Make the lemon syrup: While the mixture is cooling, make the lemon simple syrup by placing all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk together until smooth. Let mixture simmer 3-5 minutes, and remove from heat.

To build the cake:

  • Place the bottom layer of cake on a cake stand or plate. Place small pieces of parchment paper under the edge of the cake. This creates a barrier between the buttercream and the cake stand for easy clean up! Place a bit of buttercream into a pastry bag. Cut a ¼ inch hole at the end of the bag.

  • Brush the bottom cake with a bit of simple syrup. Pipe a trough around the outside edge of the cake. Fill with ⅓ of the lemon curd. Place another layer of cake on top of the bottom layer. Brush with more simple syrup. Create a trough by piping an edge around the cake. Fill with another ⅓ of the lemon curd. Repeat the process with the 3rd layer of cake, a bit more buttercream and remaining lemon curd. Brush the 4th layer of cake with simple syrup and flip over the 3rd layer of cake, so that the bottom is now facing up. Place the cake in the refrigerator to allow the buttercream trough to solidify.

  • Once the trough has hardened, remove the cake from the refrigerator and ice by placing buttercream on the top and sides of the cake. If desired, place the cake in the refrigerator to harden before placing another layer of buttercream on the outside of the cake.

  • NOTE: If desired, while making lemon syrup, place thin slices of lemon in the mixture. Remove and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Place in a 250°F oven for 60-90 minutes or until they are dried. Use these lemons to decorate the outside of the cake!

ENJOY! And please leave a comment to let me know how you enjoyed this recipe! Also let me know over on Instagram @sugarandsalt_co!