Rosemary Buttermilk Tea Cake

I hate wasting food.

Before I met Nate I would try to serve myself small portions of food, but with my eyes being bigger than my stomach, there would always still be too much for me on the plate. Since I hated wasting food, I would force myself to eat the last few mouthfuls rather than wasting it. (Don’t ask me how I developed this behavior since my mom never enforced the “clean plate” rule!)

Luckily Nate’s active lifestyle gives him an endless appetite. Now, rather than forcing myself to eat something, I just put it on his plate :) This solves the problem of having little bits of meal leftover, but it still doesn’t solve the problem of leftover ingredients.

Obviously if a recipe calls for buttermilk, or fresh rosemary, you will have copious amounts left. I had both ingredients sitting in my fridge (courtesy of some baked buttermilk rosemary chicken) for over a week because I refused to get rid of them.

I knew those two ingredients happened to be a perfect combo for something sweet and so I finally got myself to mix them together into a lovely cake.

This cake is light (in texture, not in calories), not overly sweet, and perfect for brunch with a cup of tea! The rosemary flavor is strong, but I love it that way. If you’re not as big a fan of rosemary, feel free to cut back.

I couldn’t stop myself from eating this. It’s so buttery, soft and flavorful.  I honestly don’t know what a tea cake is, but this is what I’d imagine :) The perfect thing to go with your Mother’s Day brunch!

And with your leftover buttermilk and rosemary, you can perhaps invent something even better!

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!!!

Rosemary Buttermilk Tea Cake

This photo doesn’t have an accurate portrayal of the cake’s texture. I took pics of it straight from the fridge, but out of the oven or at room temp it is fluffy and light and wouldn’t show fork marks!

Rosemary Buttermilk Tea Cake

Print this recipe!

Serves 8

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp lemon juice
zest of 1/2 lemon
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped (you can use less if you’re not a huge rosemary fan)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9 or 10″ pan with cooking spray. (*Note, the 9 inch will be taller than mine. I should have used a 9″. A springform would be perfect but a regular cake pan is fine)

Cream together the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the lemon  juice, zest, and rosemary and continue beating until batter is smooth and combined.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in another bowl and add alternately with the buttermilk to the butter and sugar mixture.

Beat until smooth, then pour batter into your greased pan, smoothing out the top with a rubber spatula.

Bake cake for 40 minutes until edges are golden and begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Let cool and serve room temperature or slightly warm.

You could make a glaze for this cake if you wanted by mixing some milk with powdered sugar, but I thought it was sweet enough as is, especially to be served with brunch.

*Note, if you must make this the day before and refrigerate, make sure it comes to room temp or warm it up before serving. It’s not the right texture when cold (although weirdo Nate likes it better cold and dry).


  1. Is this close to pancake?! Looks absolutely lovely

    • You know, I took this pic the next day, after it had been refrigerated and it sunk and got very dense (because of the high butter content), but on the day it was made it was super fluffy. I’d say thicker and cakier than a pancake :)

  2. What a lovely mother’s day post Amy. You know, there are certain ingredients that just immediately capture my attention without even needing to see photos or recipes – buttermilk and rosemary are two of them! This looks like a perfect cake for a Sunday afternoon tea… (light in texture, not in calories – heehee! :)).

    • Thanks Kelly :) It’s funny because I had that post title written before I even realized I was going to be posting it for Mother’s Day. I made this at night because that’s when I had time and tried serving it to Nate as dessert, but he commented that it wasn’t what he was expecting…it’s not super sweet and is much better suited for tea.

  3. Nicole@HeatOvenTo350

    This doesn’t even look like a leftover necessity creation. It sounds delicious. I often have leftover buttermilk from various recipes so I’ll have to give it a try next time!

    • Aw, thanks, Nicole! let me know if you try it :) I find myself having buttermilk leftovers a lot too so tell me if you have any other good recipes to use it up! Biscuits are always good, but maybe something different.

  4. I always have leftover buttermilk in the fridge. Always. Which then turns into some sort of buttermilk solid science experiment when I don’t happen upon a use for it. This cake basically looks like it would rock my world. And keep the refrigerator free of buttermilk solids. And I thank you for that…

    • haha, i totally know what you mean. And then you don’t know if you should try to pour it down the drain or put it straight in the garbage.

  5. Oh yes, significant others are definitely ideal for devouring leftovers…isn’t that why we have them in the first place?

    You know who else has buttermilk and rosemary in the fridge? Moi. Totally making this.

  6. wow that almost looks like cheesecake! hehe you are lucky that Nate is your designated eater! :D

    • I took a pic of it the day after I made it (after refrigerating it), which is why the texture looks like cheesecake…but at room temp it’s super fluffy and cakey!

      And yes, I’m very lucky to have a designated eater :)

  7. Wow this looks like a light version of a decadent cheesecake. I really would love this with a cup of afternoon tea.

  8. I hate wasting food as well…my grandma always made us finish our plates when I was growing up. So, whether it be a plate of fruit or a massive piece of cake, I just have to finish it. ;) This tea cake sounds fantastic. Yum!

  9. This looks amazing!! I love simple cake recipes, and the flavor here is perfect! Great job! :)

  10. I wonder if lavender would work also in place of rosemary… I recently tried imported french shortbread cookies that had lavender in them. I must say, they were to die for! I’m sure this cake will be along the lines of this, as rosemary and lavender sort of remind me of the same thing (yet are so different). Gahh!! I can’t wait to go to my mothers house. I am making this asap! (I’m currently a poor student who has to share a kitchen with 12 other people, the oven is never free long enough to bake!) I’m just going to drool on my keyboard until I go to my moms…

    • I’ve never cooked with lavender before, but I think it would work! I feel like instead of lemon juice/zest, maybe use orange instead? I think it would go better with lavender. Also, I used a LOT of rosemary in this and don’t know how potent lavender is, so play around with how much you should add. Let me know how it turns out!!! Aw, I know how it is to be a student with no kitchen…enjoy baking at your mom’s :)

  11. Since rosemary and lavender come from the same family, I wasn’t to worried with the swap. I used 1 heaping tbsp of fresh lavender (I think I could have gotten away with 2 tbsp as it was a bit too light in flavour). I did end up using lemon, as that’s what I had on hand. I used coconut sugar as I was thinking of my grandparents who were coming over later in the day, and it is much better for you (google coconut sugar for the benefits). I used 1 cup of coconut sugar though, as it is not as sweet as regular sugar. I also didn’t have butter milk (go figure, when does anyone ever have that stuff on hand :P) so I used 1 cup yogurt and a bit of milk to make the right texture and acidity level as buttermilk.

    I should have remembered that coconut sugar actually makes baked goods extremely soft/moist and therefore should have used 3/4 cup of yogurt/milk (or less) instead…

    Other than the slightly-over moist cake, the taste itself was delicious! I imagine without my substitutes, this is probably a perfectly amazingly delicious cake, as it’s already delicious the way i made it.

    Everyone loved it. I will make it again your way, and with rosemary soon! :)

  12. Pingback: Lavender Cake | The Season For Cooking

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