Saturday, March 26, 2011

Recipes: Rosemary-Orange Tea Cake and Muffins

This whole blog thing is starting to get serious.  I'm now cooking things--and testing the recipes--just so that I can post them here.  Sue and I will get fat.  It must end soon. (Don't worry:  I'll keep posting recipes.  I just have to stop looking for things to invent--unless they're diet food...)

It began with my post about making my own yogurt.  Shortly after that, Maryn, my faithful blog reader in Tanzania, sent me a recipe for a rosemary cake using yogurt.  (Thanks to Maryn, Tanzania comes third after the United States and Venezuela for the country with the most blog hits.)  A rosemary cake?  That sounds a little ... different.  Different enough that I was intrigued.  Maryn confessed that she didn't precisely follow the recipe she sent me; she often doesn't.  So I decided it would be OK to tinker as well.  The cake sounded like it would be good made with all whole-wheat flour, so I tried that, and I increased the leavening.  Mistake.  Everything fell into a flat pancake.  I also found the flavor of rosemary a little too overpowering and thought it needed a compliment.  I suggested lemon, but Sue thought that might be reminiscent of a way I often prepare roasted chicken--and therefore a little odd in a cake.  So how about orange?  Well, that turned out to be an inspiration.

I also thought that the recipe might make good muffins.  When I baked the cake, though, I decided that the texture was too light for muffins, so back to the drawing board.  A couple of tries later, I had everything about where I wanted it.

The cake is moist and surprisingly light for something made with whole wheat flour.  The flavor of rosemary is intriguing without being overwhelming.  The citrus gives it a brightness that I especially like.  While the original recipe called for butter, this kind of cake (and muffin) benefits from using oil:  the result keeps longer and is moister.  Some recipes will tell you that you can use olive oil.  If you do, don't use extra-virgin:  it will impart an off flavor to the baked goods.  Use a less-expensive product simply labeled "olive oil."  Canola is best:  it holds up well in baking and has virtually no flavor.

Neither the cake nor the muffins is overly sweet.  They are excellent for breakfast or afternoon tea.  I hope you enjoy the unusual taste of this cake and these muffins--and thank Maryn for getting me going on yet another quest!

(click on the title to go to a printer-friendly version of the recipe)

  • ½ cup salad oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
  • freshly grated rind of 1 medium orange (approximately 2 teaspoons)
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

1.  Preheat the oven to 350* F.  Grease and flour a 9-inch x 2-inch cake pan or an 8- or 9-inch springform pan.

2.  Whisk together the oil, egg, and sugar, then stir in the yogurt, the rosemary, and the orange rind.

3.  In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt.  Add these to the liquid ingredients and stir quickly to combine.

4.  Immediately pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and put the pan on the center rack of the oven.

5.  Bake for 25 - 30 minutes, or until the cake shrinks slightly from the sides of the pan and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

6.  Cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then transfer to a wire rack.  

Serve warm or cooled.  Dust the top with powdered sugar if you like.

ADDENDUM (8/14/11):  Not surprisingly, this is a pretty forgiving recipe.  For instance, we make yogurt in 6 oz. jars (3/4 of a cup).  So I often make this with 1 jar of yogurt and stir in a little plain milk if the batter is too thick.  Don't have orange?  Try lemon rind (it didn't taste at all like chicken when I tried it!).  This morning, I'm making one and don't have any oranges or lemons in the house, so I threw in some dried orange peel I had in the cabinet and stirred in a little vanilla for good measure.  In other words, I think this will take a lot of variation and still come out good. 

(click on the title for a printer-friendly version)


  • 2 eggs
  • ¾ c. oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup yogurt (or buttermilk, or milk soured with a tablespoon or two of vinegar or lemon juice)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated orange rind
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda


1.  Preheat the oven to 400* F.  Thoroughly grease 12 2-3/4 inch muffin cups.

2.  Beat the eggs, then add the oil, sugar, and yogurt.  Stir to combine.  Add the rosemary and orange rind.

3.  Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a small bowl.  Add all at once to the liquid ingredients, and stir quickly just to combine and make a smooth batter.

4.  Divide the batter evenly into the muffin cups, which will be nearly full.  Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until golden brown.

5.  Remove immediately from the cups.  Serve warm or cooled.

The scent of freshly chopped rosemary will linger on your fingers for a little while after you do this, and the flavor adds an oddly satisfying note to the cake and muffins.  It's a little unexpected in something sweet, but really delicious.  I hope you'll feel adventurous enough to try this:  you're in for a delightful surprise.

Food should always be delightful, don't you think?  It shouldn't always be surprising, but a little bit of a jolt now and then is a pretty good thing.


  1. Now you need Michele's recipe for Rosemary sorbet to go with it!

  2. I think Maryn has made rosemary scones using this recipe... they are delicious! glad your cake is the same.