Rosemary, Olive Oil & Orange Cake

This rosemary, olive oil and orange bundt cake debuted in the New York Times food section on Wednesday, March 8. I’ve already baked this cake twice. The first cake went to feed the homeless. The second one was a birthday cake for a friend. The fact that Yotam Ottolenghi is the author of this recipe, has everything to do with the compulsion to bake this cake — now. I can’t wait to try my hands on the new recipe. I have found his cake recipes, in Plenty and Plenty More, to be among the most creative and distinctive uses of vegetables (cauliflower) and fruits (apricot).

Yes, I’m obsessed with finding recipes that push the envelope and stretch the limit — on healthful ingredients, unusual techniques and unique flavors. More than just the sound techniques of a good recipe, the story behind the recipe, by and large, has to deliver that intangible and important ingredient in connecting us with the food we eat. It is that other dimension that creates the indelible memory and the magic that lingers.

Ottolenghi wrote about his childhood memory in the limonaia, in his grandparents house in Italy. It’s a lemon house, where lemon trees in their terra-cotta pots are kept out of the elements during the winter months.  The smell of citrus hanged in the air in the limonaia. The memory of childhood and family lives on beyond the distant summers. So much so that a squeeze of lemon would invoke fond memory and makes him happy in the kitchen. This is a remarkable piece of writing by a chef. I won’t want to spoil it with all the details. Read it: “A Childhood Scented with Citrus” in the New York Times. The same can be said about the recipe. You can find it there.

This bundt cake is decorated with crystalized rosemary and orange icing. Start with aerating sugar in olive oil, scented with orange zest and chopped rosemary. Next, two eggs are added to the olive oil mixture, followed by sour cream. I am curious about the use of sour cream, which does not usually show up in cake batters. There is a good amount (130 gm) of it, as much as the amount (140 gm) of olive oil, in weight.

But I’m more than happy to add “probiotic” microbes which allow us to plant our inner gardens with a diverse bacterial flora. More than that, I believe sour cream is providing some liquid, at the same time, flavor and fat as well as sugars and proteins for the browning reaction. The dry ingredients are then combined with the wet ingredients. The batter goes into the bundt pan and bake for about 30 minutes in a 325°F oven. All are simple and straightforward steps in making a cake. Use the best ingredients you can find and follow the recipe; you really can’t go wrong with this cake.

This cake is all about the citrus scent and the earthy notes of rosemary that travel from the inside of your mouth to your nose. Stupendous and unforgettable. It brought back memory of an equally compelling dish I had in Venice, a lemon and rosemary risotto, flavored with Parmesan cheese….

Start imprinting food memories that go beyond the walls of your kitchen.


Rosemary, Olive Oil & Orange Cake

Print Recipe
Serves: 10


  • 10 small rosemary sprigs, no more than 1 inch/3 centimeters each in size (see note)
  • 1 egg white, lightly whisked
  • 2 teaspoons granulated or superfine sugar (caster sugar)
  • About 2 tablespoons/30 grams unsalted butter, softened, for greasing the pan
  • 2 cups/240 grams all-purpose flour (plain flour), more to flour the pan
  • ¾ cup/160 milliliters extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup plus 1 teaspoon/120 grams superfine sugar (caster sugar)
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest (from about 1 1/2 oranges)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons/7 grams packed finely chopped rosemary leaves
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup/130 grams sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 ½ teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 ¾ cups/175 grams sifted confectioners’ sugar, or 1 1/2 cups/150 grams sifted icing sugar



At least 6 hours before you plan to ice the cake, prepare the crystallized rosemary: Brush rosemary on all sides with a little of the egg white and then dip it in the sugar, so the needles are lightly coated on all sides. Set aside on a wire rack to dry. Repeat with remaining rosemary.


Make the cake: Heat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit/160 degrees Celsius. Generously grease a 9-inch/23-centimeter Bundt pan with half the butter and refrigerate for 10 minutes. Butter again, generously, and then flour it, tapping away the excess.


Put olive oil, superfine sugar, orange zest and chopped rosemary leaves in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium speed until combined, then add eggs, one at a time. Whisk for another minute, until thick, then add sour cream and mix until combined on low speed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the whisk.


Sift flour, baking powder and salt together into a small bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the olive oil mixture and mix until combined. Increase speed to high and whisk for 1 minute.


Scrape batter into the Bundt pan and smooth the top with a small spatula. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until cake is cooked and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before inverting onto a serving plate. (You may want to trim the cake at this stage, if it rises unevenly, to allow it to sit flat on the plate.)


Prepare the icing: In a small bowl, whisk together orange juice, lemon juice and confectioners’ sugar until smooth. When the cake has cooled, drizzle icing on top, allowing it to drip down the sides of the cake, then top with the crystallized rosemary and serve.




For the rosemary, you want small, decorative clusters of needles. The simplest way to do this is to pull the smaller, bottommost clumps off of large sprigs, or trim off the very tops of several sprigs.


Adapted from the New York Times

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  • Reply
    Lydia Filgueras
    March 23, 2017 at 12:55 am

    Love the combination of flavors. I've used lemon and rosemary in scones, but not a cake. Your description sounds lovely! Glad you enjoyed it 🙂

  • Reply
    February 3, 2018 at 10:49 am

    A link to this post appeared at the bottom of your tapenade post. I have to bring refreshments to a meeting this week. I think this cake will be what I make!

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