Y’all. It’s winter citrus season. And I’m kicking it off with this Rosemary Meyer Lemon Cake. Yes! It’s bright, it’s citrusy, it’s full of so much flavor. It’s not your average lemon cake, and it is so, so good.
This cake has three components. One: the cake layers, which are flavored with lemon juice, zest, extract, and ground dried rosemary, which I’ll talk a bit more about below! Two: meyer lemon curd. And three: dreamy lemon frosting. Let’s get to it!
You may be asking yourself, “What’s the different between lemons and meyer lemons and why should I use the latter?”
Meyer lemons have a pretty distinct flavor that is completely different from regular lemons. Still lemony, yes, but almost a little more savory? I’m sure that’s not quite the right word. The internet tells me they’re slightly more floral and even have hints of spicy flavor. They’re a little smaller, rounder, and smoother than regular lemons too.
Most notably, at least to me, is the scent. I made quite a few lemon chess pies at work over the Christmas holiday and I can vividly remember the strong (and heavenly) aroma as I zested all the lemons. As I was zesting these, I could very clearly smell the difference. Still lemony! But the savory and spicy notes definitely came through. Which is why I decided to pair meyer lemon with rosemary!
GROUND DRIED ROSEMARY
Last summer I made a wedding cake for a friend, and she requested rosemary-lemon cake with vanilla frosting. I’d never included rosemary in cake batter before but absolutely loved it. I tried fresh vs. dried, and while I like the appeal of using fresh (and most of the recipes already on the internet use fresh), the flavor was noticeably stronger with dried.
The key is to chop or grind it as finely as you can so you don’t end up with large pieces of rosemary throughout your soft and tender cake. If you get a container of dried rosemary from the spice section of your grocery store, it’s unfortunately probably not enough to work well in a food processor unless you have a small one or quite a lot of dried rosemary. I tried this with my big food processor, and as you would expect, it didn’t really work! I ended up using my vegetable chopper (an older version of this), and went ahead and chopped the whole little bottle so I could pour it right back into the container. It’ll make more than you need for this recipe that way, but you can use it again and again!
Make ahead: I suggest making the lemon curd a day or two in advance and storing it in your refrigerator. You can also make the ground rosemary in advance.
Frosting and lemon curd: To keep the lemon curd from being absorbed by the cake layers, spread a thin layer of frosting over the cake layer. Then pipe a border to prevent it from spilling over the sides as you frost the cake. Then fill in the border with lemon curd! When you place the next cake layer on top, the lemon curd with be sealed safely inside.
Storage: Store cake covered (or loosely covered) at room temperature.
I hope y’all enjoy this recipe, friends, and be on the look out for more bright and citrusy things coming your way! Happy Baking!
More Lemon Recipes:
Rosemary Meyer Lemon Cake
Meyer Lemon Curd:
- 1 large egg
- 2 large egg yolks
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 1 tbsp meyer lemon zest
- ⅓ cup fresh meyer lemon juice (3 to 4 meyer lemons)
- 6 tbsp unsalted butter softened and cut into chunks
Rosemary Meyer Lemon Cake:
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp ground dried rosemary (read post for details)
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs
- ¾ cup vegetable oil
- 1 tsp lemon extract
- 1 tbsp meyer lemon zest
- ¼ cup fresh meyer lemon juice
- 1 ¼ cups whole milk
Meyer Lemon Frosting:
- 1 cup unsalted butter softened
- 1 (8-oz) pkg shortening
- 2 tbsp lemon curd
- 1 tsp lemon extract
- 2 tbsp heavy cream
- 5-6 cups powdered sugar
To make the Meyer Lemon Curd:
- Fill the bottom pot of your double boiler (or a heat-safe bowl over a pot) with 1-2 inches of water. Place over high heat, bring water to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer.
- In the top part of the double boiler, whisk together egg, yolks, sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Continue whisking as the lemon curd cooks. Cook until the mixture becomes thick and thickly coats a wooden spoon, about 10 to 15 minutes. If curd isn’t thickening, turn up the heat and continue whisking constantly.
- Remove from heat and whisk in the butter until melted and completely incorporated. Transfer lemon curd into a heat-safe bowl or container and place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Cool completely before using. (The lemon curd will also thicken some more as it cools.)
- Lemon curd can be made a day or two in advance. Store covered in the refrigerator.
To make the Rosemary Meyer Lemon Cake:
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Line three 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper and spray with nonstick spray.
- In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, ground rosemary, salt, and granulated sugar.
- Add the eggs, oil, lemon extract, lemon zest, lemon juice, and milk. Mix on medium speed with an electric mixer until all ingredients are incorporated, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Divide batter evenly among cake pans. Bake for 23-25 minutes or until cakes are golden brown and set in the center. (Test by inserting a toothpick into the center of each cake layer. If it comes out clean, they're done!)
- Let cakes cool in pans for about 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the Meyer Lemon Frosting:
- Cream butter on medium-high speed with an electric mixer. With mixer running, add shortening. Continue mixing until smooth and creamy.
- Add lemon curd, lemon extract, and cream. Mix well.
- Add half of the powdered sugar and mix until well blended. Repeat with second half of powdered sugar, and mix for 1 additional minute.
- To assemble the cake, use a cake saw or serrated knife to cut off the domed top of each cake layer. This creates nice, flat, and even layers.
- Spread a small dab of frosting in the center of a cake plate or stand. Place one cake layer on top and spread with a thin layer of frosting. Then using a piping bag with the tip cut off, pipe a border round the cake layer. Fill with lemon curd. (The frosting ensures the lemon curd doesn’t sink into the cake itself and the border keeps it from spilling over the sides.)
- Repeat with the second cake layer. Place the third and final layer on top, cut side down. Spread remaining frosting over the top and around the outside of the cake. Garnish with meyer lemon slices and rosemary if desired.
- Store cake covered at room temperature.
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