The Fall Cookbook Cake Parade

This Tender Lemon Cake Does "The Whole Lavender Thing" Right

October  4, 2016

Tra-la-la, it's The Fall Cookbook Cake Parade: a new cake from a new cookbook every day of October. Are your costumes cake pans ready?

Today: A lavender cake that doesn't taste like soap (hallelujah!), from Diana Henry's Simple.

Lemon and lavender are often made to hold hands, but go overboard with the combination and eating dessert (...or, er, breakfast) can feel like stepping into a soap shop in Aix-en-Provence.

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But this cake—as tart and refreshing as they come—is lemon first, lavender second. Diana Henry, who includes this recipe in her new book Simple, balances the herb first by pulverizing it in the food processor with granulated sugar, then toning it down further with the tangy Greek yogurt, olive oil, and plenty of lemon zest and juice in the batter.

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Top Comment:
“I used full fat yoghurt - greek) Also, if you're not into lavender - I think bergamot would be a great substitution and I'm going to try that (but just add it - I like lavender)”
— Soraya K.

More: Watch Diana make the cake on Facebook Live.

Not only does grinding the lavender with sugar keep the herb at bay, but it's also much faster than using the herb to infuse cream or simple syrup—and there's no mortar and pestle manpower, either. Thanks to the olive oil and the yogurt, you don't even have to soften and cream butter.

Photo by James Ransom

You can decorate the finished cake, impressively tall and tender for the minimal measure-and-mix effort put in, with sprigs of fresh lavender, as Diana recommends. Or do something even, dare we say, simpler: Crush extra dried lavender buds with your fingers and sprinkle them over the top of the cake along with a generous dusting of confectioners' sugar.

And we imagine that when Diana bakes this dessert, she makes extra sugar-lavender mixture to keep in the pantry for coating shortbread, or sprinkling on the crusts of fruit pies, or melting down into caramel (in which she sears figs and citrus). But that's just our hunch.

For more "effortless food with big flavors," pick up a copy of Diana Henry's Simple.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Amanda Moose
    Amanda Moose
  • Soraya Khalje
    Soraya Khalje
  • 蒋梦琪
  • Regine
  • cookinalong
I used to work at Food52. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream.


Amanda M. October 19, 2016
Can you simply use extra virgin olive oil?
Soraya K. October 10, 2016
This turned out perfectly and was such a huge hit at a dinner party I only got one small piece (luckily!!). Everyone loved it. I used exactly the recommended amount of lavender even though I wanted to use more - that would have been a mistake!!! Also, I live in Denver at 5,000 ft and I didn't need to make any adjustments!!! AMAZING CAKE!!! (I used full fat yoghurt - greek) Also, if you're not into lavender - I think bergamot would be a great substitution and I'm going to try that (but just add it - I like lavender)
蒋梦琪 October 9, 2016
For the Greek yoghurt, are we using full fat?
Regine October 4, 2016
Hmmmm...Sorry D) but I don't know about that. LOL
I still think regardless that anything food with lavender in it tastes like soap. I do like the recipe though but I admit that I will skip the lavender and replace with vanilla.
cookinalong October 10, 2016
Same here! No reflection on the recipe, which is wonderful! It's some quirk of biochemistry, I think I have the same reaction to fresh cilantro...tastes like soap! Luckily, this cake is just as good with vanilla subbed in for the lavender.