Hi! I am super excited to be sharing this recipe today for this super springy Olive Oil Layer Cake with Meyer Lemon Curd and Rosemary German Buttercream! I have a wee list at the front of my diary (planner for anyone in the US), full of all the things that I want to make for the blog. It can be recipe ideas, concepts, or fully written out ideas, depending on how far along in the thought process I am before I write things down. I’ve had “Semi naked cake with flowers” written on it for the longest time, so I am excited to be sharing this with you, and crossing it off the list! Naked cakes came onto the scene a good few years ago now - I love them for how easy they are to decorate, how versatile they are, and how beautiful they look when they are decorated with flowers!
I’ve been wanting to try my hand at an olive oil cake for a while now - I love the flavour and texture that the oil lends to baked goods. After many tries, and a few weirdly domed cakes that looked like Harry from Home Alone’s burnt bald head, I found a combo of ingredients that made a cake that is the perfect texture. It is fruity from the olive oil and a little lemon zest, and then has a beautiful texture thanks to a little bit of cornmeal I snuck into the batter! It comes together super quickly with no mixer needed - even if you weren’t going to layer this cake up, you could bake it off just as one 9” cake, finish it with some icing sugar, and you would have the perfect quick dessert!
I couldn’t help myself though (as per usual), and went all out, turning this into an amazing layer cake situation. I paired the soft cake layers with a meyer lemon curd, which is a little more mellow than curd made with regular lemons, and then finished the whole thing off with a German buttercream, which I infused with some fresh rosemary. I was initially a little hesitant about the rosemary buttercream because it’s a delicate line of a nice infusion and something tasting like hand cream, but it is super subtle, and goes perfectly with the zesty curd and olive oil cake.
The taste of an Olive Oil cake really does come down to the quality of the oil that you use, as it is the main flavour that is carried through, so you want to use a great quality oil that you love the taste of - one that you would have by itself. I used Filippo Berio’s California Extra Virgin Olive Oil in the cake - It is fruity, with a little peppery aftertaste, which makes it the perfect addition to a cake. It is great in baking, but we also use it for eating with bread and oil, and for finishing salads. Fun fact - my childhood best friend’s family owns an organic olive grove back in NZ, so I spent time as a kid sitting in on olive oil tastings, learning all the different flavour profiles in oil!
A few wee tips:
I find it easiest to bake layer cakes in three individual layers. I have three of these pans - they are amazing!
I put flowers on this cake - ensure that your flowers are either food safe, or you need to wrap the ends of the stems in floral tape so that they can go on the cake safely.
I used bake even strips to help stop my cake from doming. You can either use them, or you can make your own like this! They can be a pain to put on, but it made a huge difference in how much cake needed to be trimmed, giving slightly thicker layers.
As I mentioned before, make sure that you use a high quality oil in this cake that you love the taste of, or its going to come out tasting weird. Filippo Berio oil is great for this - I love both the California and the Italian for baking where you want the flavour to shine!
I used meyer lemons in the curd. You can absolutely just use regular lemons if you can’t get hold of meyer lemons!
It will seem like quite a bit of fresh rosemary needed to infuse the milk for the pastry cream. Don’t worry if it seems super strong - remember that it is going to be mellowed out by the pastry cream ingredients, and again by the butter when you whip up the buttercream.
If you can, make the cakes, pastry cream for the buttercream, and the lemon curd ahead of time. I like to wrap the cakes tightly in plastic wrap and freeze overnight to make them easy to frost, but if you are making them the same day, just make sure that they are totally cooled. The pastry cream and curd need time to thicken and cool - either overnight, or if you are in a pinch, pop them into a shallow dish, cover the surface with plastic wrap, and place in the fridge or freezer. A larger surface area helps to cool them quicker.
Olive Oil Layer Cake with Meyer Lemon Curd and Rosemary German Buttercream
- Makes one 6” layer cake -
Olive Oil Layer Cake
300g all-purpose flour
80g fine cornmeal (fine polenta)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
300g Filippo Berio California Extra Virgin Olive Oil
320g whole milk, at room temperature
3 large eggs, at room temperature
Zest of 2 lemons
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
Meyer Lemon Curd
Zest of 3 lemons
180g Meyer lemon juice
8 egg yolks
90g unsalted butter (can be straight from the fridge), cut into small cubes
Rosemary German Buttercream
190g whole milk
20g fresh rosemary leaves
12g corn starch
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
340g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- PROCESS -
OLIVE OIL LAYER CAKE
Preheat the oven to 350°f / 180°c. Grease three 6” cake pans, and line with parchment paper rounds.
In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. In a medium bowl, whisk together the Filippo Berio California Extra Virgin Olive Oil, whole milk, eggs, and lemon zest.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and whisk together until combined. Finish with a rubber spatula to ensure that there are no dry parts at the bottom of the bowl.
Divide the batter evenly between the three pans. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes, then remove from pans, peel parchment from the bottom, and allow to cool completely. These can be made ahead - store tightly wrapped in plastic until ready to use if making ahead.
MEYER LEMON CURD
Place a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water, ensuring that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Combine all of the ingredients, whisking often. Watch the edges of the mixture carefully to ensure that it does not catch and go lumpy, switching to a flexible rubber spatula as needed to help clear the sides of the bowl.
Heat, stirring often, until the mixture is thick enough that when you coat the back of a spoon or spatula with curd, you can drag a finger through it, and leave a clear track. Once it is at this point, continue to cook for a further 5 minutes. It will thicken more when it cools. Transfer to a bowl or container, straining through a sieve if you can see any small pieces of egg, then press a piece of plastic wrap directly against the surface of the curd. Place in the fridge to cool completely.
ROSEMARY GERMAN BUTTERCREAM
In a medium saucepan, heat the milk to just shy of a simmer. Remove from the heat, add the rosemary, stir well, and steep for 30 minutes. Strain through a very fine mesh sieve, and re-weigh the infused milk and top up to 375g. Wipe out the saucepan, and return to the milk mixture to the heat. Bring to just shy of a simmer. Meanwhile, In a bowl, whisk together the sugar and corn starch to remove any lumps, then add the egg, egg yolk, salt, and vanilla bean paste.
Using one hand to whisk constantly, pour half of the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture. This helps to temper the eggs and stop them from scrambling. Whisk until incorporated, and then pour the whole lot back into the saucepan.
Heat the milk and egg mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly, until it begins to bubble. It will thicken quickly. Once it has thickened, cook for one minute, then remove from the heat. Pour into a shallow container or bowl of a stand mixer and press some plastic wrap over the surface to avoid a skin from forming. Refrigerate until cold - at least four hours, preferably overnight. If you need to speed this process up, you can place the pastry cream in a bowl, then place the bowl in an ice bath, or use a shallow container. Stir frequently.
Fit your mixer with the whisk attachment, and place the pastry cream in the bowl. Whip the mixture on medium until creamy and lump-free. Begin adding the butter, a few cubes at a time, until fully incorporated. It may look curdled at some point but just keep whipping - it will come together! Whip for a further 2 minutes.
FILLING AND ASSEMBLY
If the cakes domed in the oven, level them a little with a sharp bread knife. Transfer some of the rosemary buttercream to a piping bag fitted with a medium round tip - this will be used to make a buttercream dam to hold in the lemon curd between the layers.
Secure one of the layers of cake to a cake turntable or cake stand using a little buttercream. Add about half a cup of rosemary buttercream onto the first layer of cake, and smooth using an offset spatula. Create a buttercream dam using the buttercream in the piping bag by piping a ring around the outside edge of the first layer. Fill in the ring with approximately 6 Tbsp of the lemon curd. Place the second layer of cake onto the first, pressing very lightly to secure, and sealing the joins with a thin layer of buttercream. Repeat the layering process - add half a cup of buttercream, make a dam, fill with 6 Tbsp lemon curd, then top with the third layer of cake - I like to put this one upside down to ensure that the top of the cake is flat.
Coat the sides of the cake by applying a thin layer of buttercream over the surface of the cake, and smoothing with a bench scraper or icing smoother. I gave this cake a semi naked look - so added buttercream to the sides, then scraped off to get my desired look. Smooth the top edge of the cake using an offset spatula.
Add flowers as desired (see notes about making flowers safe to use on cakes), and refrigerate until ready to serve. Remove from the fridge about an hour before serving to allow it to come to temperature.
Store leftovers in an airtight container.
Thank you so much to Filippo Berio for sponsoring this post! All opinions are my own.