This cake is what we baked the most, by far. It’s nothing fancy, really, but it reminds me of the cake my mum used to make when I was little – that silly-easy cake (the only one she knew how to make, really) that takes a pot of yoghurt as a measuring unit. it’s a classic, but also, a cake that bears some uniqueness – in its aroma as much as in its backstory. The idea sparked while chatting with Mehrunnisa over tea and cake. The cake in question was a tender lemon, olive oil and rosemary cake, and it was heavenly. Of course, the concept wasn’t new, but its powerful notes still struck me, somehow, and stayed with me ever since.
Then, a few days later I had my first encounter with Meyer lemons. I was starstruck. A citrus bearing the fresh notes of thyme and oregano in its skin was nothing short of bewildering for me – I had never found something as quintessentially Mediterranean as that tiny fruit before. I could smell the sea all over it. I bought some, and immediately, the thought of that lemon and rosemary cake came back and began to mould in my mind.
The first thing I did was nudging the rosemary. Meyer lemons hold such a powerful herbal aroma of their own that additional herbs weren’t needed in this case. Olive oil, however, seemed like the way to go. And so, I recuperated Mum’s trusted yoghurt cake recipe and made whatever substitutions it needed – lemon, olive oil, and a bit of semolina flour for texture. The zest of Meyer lemons went into to the batter. The juice, on the other hand, was whisked with powdered sugar into a sticky glaze that retained much of the herbal notes of the lemons. The result might not look like much, but trust me on this: there’s much more to look forward to than meets the eye.
Finally, a quick note on ingredients. Of course, Meyer lemons are not the easiest to come across. If you can find them, no worries: you can use unwaxed lemons and minced fresh rosemary instead. The result will be just as good. In all cases, though, opt for a fruity olive oil so as not to overpower the flavour of the aromatics. As for the semolina, you can replace it with plain flour, or use a fine cornmeal instead (Fioretto polenta would be my pick).
Meyer Lemon Olive Oil Cake
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Brush some olive oil on the bottom and sides of an 8-inch round springform pan and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine sugar, flour, baking powder and lemon zest. In a smaller bowl, whisk the eggs with the oil until barely combined, then add the yoghurt and whisk some more to incorporate. Stir in the bowl with the flour and mix everything until thoroughly combined, scraping down the sides to avoid lumps of flour.
Transfer the batter into the oiled cake pan and bake for about 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool for ten minutes before running a knife along the edges and bottom to remove from the spring form pan. Transfer to a rack to finish cooling.
Meanwhile, make the glaze. Whisk the sugar with the lemon juice until dissolved. Brush over the cooled cake and allow to set for at least 30 minutes.
*You can swap with unwaxed lemons + 1 tsp finely minced rosemary leaves
**Or conventional lemons