ISSUE 12  |  21st Century Gardens

Recipe: Tea Cake with Meyer Lemons and Rose Geraniums

March 23, 2016 6:00 AM

BY Justine Hand

Nutmeg, apple, peppermint, and French vanilla. Inspired by the delectable aroma of the scented geraniums at the historic Lyman Estate, I decided to create a Victorian tea cake of my own using my new rose-scented geranium to add an old fashioned twist to a modern lemon cake.

See below for ingredients and step-by-step instructions.

Photography by Justine Hand.


Above: The taste of the Mediterranean and Victorian England all in one: rose geranium, olive oil, and Meyer lemons were the key ingredients in my cake. Buy a similar Pelargonium Attar of Rose Scented Geranium at Mountain Valley Growers; $6.50.

washed-leaves-rose-geranium-lemon-cake-Justine-Hand-GardenistaAbove: A few rose geraniums leaves, washed and dried, is all you need. I opted for rose, but it would be fun to experiment with other flavors as well.


Above: Fully edible, rose geranium leaves arranged at the bottom of my cake pan made a pretty pattern after the cake was baked.


Above: Zest and minced geranium leaves mixed with sugar bring out even more of the flavorful oils.

juicing-lemon-rose-geranium-lemon-cake-Justine-Hand-GardenistaAbove: Compared to standard lemons, the juice of the Meyer variety is sweeter.


Above: Minced rose geranium leaves. My kitchen was starting to smell really good at this stage.


Above: I added olive oil, then eggs, to moisten the cake.


Above: Dry ingredients.


Above: More Mediterranean flavors: Greek yogurt and lemon juice.


Above: I mixed the batter with a wooden spoon until it was smooth.


Above: Pouring the batter over the leaves so they did not move required a gentle hand.


Above: Golden brown and freshly baked from the oven. (The chick is my daughter Solvi’s contribution to the styling.)

finished rose geranium cake

Above: To avoid obscuring the pretty geranium leaves on top, I left my decoration simple: just a few more leaves and some powdered sugar.

yummy-rose-geranium-lemon-cake-Justine-Hand-GardenistaAbove: “Hey, there’s plants in here!” Though initially skeptical, my son liked the edible geranium leaves. I thought that the subtle rose flavor gave the cake a layer of complexity that was surprisingly sophisticated.

Meyer Lemon, Olive Oil Cake with Rose-Scented Geraniums

Adapted from The Noshery.

(Note: I omitted an additional glaze called for in the original recipe because I thought it would overpower the rose flavor.)



  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 5 Meyer lemons
  • 7 or 8 leaves from a rose scented geranium (pelargonium)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup mild olive oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt
  • powdered sugar


  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/3 cup juice from Meyer lemons



Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a heavy metal cake pan. Wash and dry your rose geranium leaves, and arrange them on the bottom of your cake pan with the top side facing you. Zest two lemons, then juice all lemons.

In a large bowl use your fingers to combine 2 tablespoons lemon zest and 3 minced rose geranium leaves with sugar. (This releases the oils in both the zest and leaves.) Whisk in olive oil and then eggs, one at a time.

In another bowl combine dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In a third bowl combine yogurt with 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Add this mixture, along with the olive oil and sugar mix to the dry ingredients. Mix until smooth and carefully pour over the leaves in the cake pan.

Bake for 45 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes, then turn onto a cookie sheet to finish cooling.


In a small pan, combine 2 tablespoons sugar and 1/3 cup lemon juice, and cook over low until the sugar dissolves. Poke holes in your cake (I avoided the geranium leaves) and brush the entire cake with syrup. Finish with a light dusting of powdered sugar, transfer to a pretty plate, and garnish.

N.B.: To experience the vast array of exotic scented geraniums, see my tour of the Lyman Estate Scented Geranium Collection earlier this week. Want more clever uses for scented pelargoniums? Sarah uses Rose Geranium oil in her Homemade Eau de Cologne. And in the kitchen, Stacy uses geranium oil in boiling water to dispel unpleasant cooking smells in The Power of Fragrance: 10 Secrets for Banishing Kitchen Odors.