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

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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.

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Diana Henry’s Lemon & Lavender Cake
Diana Henry’s Lemon & Lavender Cake

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.

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.

More: Watch Diana make the cake on Facebook Live.

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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.

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Diana Henry’s Lemon & Lavender Cake

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Serves 8
  • Unsalted butter, for the cake pan
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 tablespoon edible dried lavender
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup mild-flavored olive oil
  • Finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon, plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Confectioners' sugar, to dust
  • Sprigs of fresh lavender, to serve (optional)

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


See more of our Fall Cookbook Cake Parade