Rosemary Buttermilk Tea Cake

July 1, 2012

As I was looking through my Recipe Index the other day, I realized that most of my recipes fall into one of three categories --

Classics: These are the recipes like vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream frosting, red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, and banana bread. Timeless classics that I will always love and am happy to eat anytime, anywhere. 

Challenges: There are some recipes that I stare at in awe and wonder for a long time. Such a complicated recipe... could I really make that? The kind of recipes where, before I start the baking process, I actually fear picking up the spatula. The recipes for Dark Chocolate Lacey Cookies and Funfetti Birthday Layer Cake are examples of what I consider to be challenging recipes.

Experiments: Although I love straightforward recipes with simple ingredients, I'm prone to occasionally indulging in exotic spices (like hibiscus flowers), unexpected ingredients (root beer milk -- say what?!!), and quirky flavor combinations. 

Can you figure out which category this recipe for Rosemary Buttermilk Tea Cake falls into? 

I don't normally think of rosemary as something that goes with baked goods or sweet foods. But when I saw this recipe for Rosemary Buttermilk Tea Cake from Elephant Eats, it was like a light went off in my head. I'd wanted to try something unique and new for a while now -- and of course! Rosemary and buttermilk! Why hadn't I thought of that? What a great combination! The only times I ever really ate buttermilk and rosemary together were in the form of fried chicken and other savory foods. So I was curious to see how it would play out in a baked good:

The rosemary added an elegant, unexpected spice to the cake's buttery flavor. This is the kind of cake that would be appropriate for grown-up events like baby showers and wedding parties. Or maybe the kind of snack to go with a cup of Earl Grey Tea on a rainy day.  

I'm not really sure if I was a big fan of the rosemary (I tend to like my goods unapologetically sweet, bold, and chocolatey), but I couldn't deny the cake's soft, light, and lovely texture. Both my boyfriend and my roommate seemed to enjoy the cake a lot. My boyfriend complimented the cake's unexpectedly light and buttery flavor, while my roommate ate it with her coffee and said it tasted like brioche. 

Would I make this again? Sure. But I would definitely say that this recipe belongs firmly in the "Experiments" category of my collection.

Without further ado, the recipe:

Rosemary Buttermilk Tea Cake
(Adapted from Elephant Eats)


(makes one 9-inch cake)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • zest of 1/2 lemon 
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and butter a 9-inch cake pan.

  2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl until combined. Set aside.

  3. Using a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or a handheld whisk), cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until very light and fluffy, at least 4 minutes.

  4. Lower the speed of your mixer and add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

  5. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the lemon juice, lemon zest, and rosemary. Continue beating until the batter on low speed until it is smooth and combined.

  6. Continue to have your mixer on slow speed. Slowly pour in half the buttermilk. Beat until just mixed, then add half the flour/baking powder/salt mixture and continue mixing until the flour is just incorporated.

  7. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and repeat this process until all the buttermilk and flour/baking powder/salt mixture have been added. Beat until smooth, but be careful not to overbeat or your cake will be tough and fudgey as opposed to light and airy.

  8. Pour the batter into the greased pan, smoothing out the top with a rubber spatula. Bake cake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes until the edges are golden and begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. Place the cake on a wire rack to cool completely. 


  1. Aw, I'm so glad you made this!!! And that it helped me find my way your lovely blog :)

    There's no doubt that the rosemary imparts a strong flavor...I, personally, loved it, but my fiance said he would have liked a bit less.

    1. Hi Amy,

      Thank you for posting the recipe on your blog! I definitely liked the rosemary's unique flavor. Also the cake's texture was amazing!


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