Whole Wheat Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Rosemary Syrup & Candied Lemons

Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. P.O. Box 91 Ocean View, WA 99393. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.

In 1997, John Silveira wrote the above as a joke classified ad to fill space in a tiny publication, for which he worked, called Backwoods Home Magazine. The ad was the inspiration for the indie film Safety Not Guaranteed, and though I liked the movie in an emotional rom-com way, Silveira’s side of the story, told recently on Reply Allwas more thought provoking.

Whole Wheat Lemon Rosemary Cake by With The Grains 001

Response letters poured into the PO Box Silveira listed in the ad. Some letters were comical, some poked fun, but most were filled with regret, such as a woman who wrote from prison wanting to undo her part in the murder of her husband. Silveira, like most of us would be in this situation, was ill-equipped to deal with the fragile emotions flooding his mail. He felt remorse for the false sense of hope he had inspired in so many, which brings me to why his side of the story is far more thought provoking. Why did no one wish to travel back in time and relive a positive milestone?

Whole Wheat Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Rosemary Syrup and Candied Lemons // www. WithTheGrains.com

I’m not sure what my first reaction would be if someone offered me the chance to go back in time. I’d like to think I’d request my dad’s surprise 50th birthday, dancing until dawn in Buenos Aires, or the first time I glimpsed the Urban Farmer. I like to think I live my life without regrets, but do I live my life with enough contentment and celebration?

Whole Wheat Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Rosemary Syrup & Candied Lemons

Not having regrets doesn’t automatically mean contentment. We can’t go back in time and undo mistakes, undo hurts, undo losses, but we can fill our moments, savor our time and cherish those around us. I bake to share, to embrace a moment, to forge friendships and memories. Flour, eggs, butter and other fanciful concoctions merge magically into flavorful layers. We bite these celebratory cakes slowly from the fork, savoring the flavors as they hit our tastebuds- lemon? rosemary? what else do I taste? We use these cakes as our guides through our memories. “Oh yeah, that’s when you made me the bunny cake!”

Whole Wheat Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Rosemary Syrup and Candied Lemons // www. WithTheGrains.com

We can’t go back, so we try to relive. A recipe becomes a celebration, and then we return to that recipe for nostalgia. We bake it for the next birthday or anniversary. In that way, traditions form and combat the uncontrollable passage of time ever so sweetly. This cake was for the Urban Farmer’s grandmother as she celebrated another year with a growing family.

What would you do? Would you travel back in time to redo or relive?


Happy Baking!

Whole Wheat Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Rosemary Syrup & Candied Lemons

About This Recipe: Tart and herbal, this is a cake for early spring. Start by infusing simple syrup with fresh lemon slices and fresh rosemary. This process candies the lemons for the garnish and flavors the syrup. After the cake is removed from the oven, the simple syrup is added and seeps into the nooks and crannies of the cake, adding a citrus & herb accent to each bite. The same simple syrup is used to sweeten the whipped cream layer. Garnish with bright cheery fruit such as raspberries for the final touch.

Whole Wheat Lemon Layer Cake with Lemon Rosemary Syrup & Candied Lemons

Lemon Rosemary Syrup & Candied Lemon


3/4 cup organic raw cane sugar
3/4 cup filtered water
1 lemon, thinly sliced and seeded
4 sprigs organic fresh rosemary

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

For the Syrup

Bring sugar and water to a boil in a saucepan. Add lemon slices and simmer 25 minutes.

Using a slotted metal spatula, transfer lemon slices to a waxed-paper-lined plate. Stir remaining 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice into syrup.


Whole Wheat Lemon Cake


2-1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour, plus more for pans
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon lemon zest

1 cup (2 sticks) organic, unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
1-1/2 cups organic raw cane sugar

2 large eggs plus 3 large egg yolks (organic/cage-free)
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 cup organic buttermilk

For the Cake:

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter a 9-by-2-inch springform cake pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and lemon zest.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. With mixer on low, beat in eggs and yolks, one at a time. Beat in 2 Tablespoons lemon juice.

Alternately beat in flour mixture and buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix just until combined.

Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake until cakes pull away from sides of pans, 40-45 minutes.

Using a toothpick or a cake tester, poke holes in warm cake on rack. Brush with lemon syrup. Let cool completely.


Lemon Rosemary Whipped Cream


1 pint organic heavy cream, chilled

2-3 Tablespoons lemon rosemary syrup
2 Tablespoons rosewater
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup organic powdered sugar, sifted

For the Whipped Cream:

In the chilled bowl of a stand mixer, beat the heavy cream on medium speed until soft peaks begin to form.

Add the remaining ingredients and continue to beat until combined and fluffy. Keep chilled until ready to use.


To Assemble:

Use a bread knife and a lazy-Susan to cut the cake into two layers. Place the bottom layer on the serving cake. Dollop the whipped cream on the bottom layer of the cake. Use an offset spatula to smooth. Continue until all the whipped cream is cover the cake. Top with the other half of the cake (crumb side down). Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Top with lemon slices and add raspberries or other fruit to garnish.



This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. katylallanby

    What a lovely post (and a lovely cake!) I often regret so many things and get myself all worked up about them, so I’m really trying to live in the moment & for the future. I *think* it’s working! But this was a lovely thing to read – thanks for sharing!

    1. withthegrains

      My pleasure! I’m glad these themes spoke to you too. Thanks for such kind words!

  2. pradnyasfoodclub

    Hello! Been following your blog for some time now and this one really touched something in me! I have been thinking on these lines for some days and it was like all my thoughts had magically materialized into words… The cake recipe accompanying such profound thoughts too was just that – profound and magical! Will try your recipe soon….

    1. withthegrains

      Thank you for such thoughtful feedback. I’m glad this resonated with you also. Your comment made me smile and brightened my day!

  3. Linda

    I loved your post…I’ve often thought about the past and the choices I’ve made but can honestly say that I don’t think I regret anything and I remember all the wonderful moments as best as I can…here’s to living ‘in the moment’…and the cake looks absolutely delicious too!

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