We came across this lovely recipe by Nigella Lawson which we thought would make an appropriate alternative to Christmas cake for anyone who has been bereaved. Nigella explains the story behind her Rosemary Cake;

The food we eat connects us so deeply to those we love and, perhaps, especially so when they are no longer with us. And this recipe is really in honour of my maternal grandmother, and not just because her name was Rosemary. And yes, rosemary is, as Ophelia tells Hamlet, “for remembrance”, and has been since Egyptian times. Indeed, many Australians and New Zealanders wear a sprig of it to honour their fallen on Anzac Day.

This is the cake I make when a friend is bereaved - and I know that many of you, ever since the recipe appeared in Feast, do likewise. It’s plain, undemanding, and offers sweet, scented comfort when grief makes eating difficult.

And in its own simple way, it’s a beautiful cake, the rosemary sprig curving out over the top, down the length of the biscuity gold, dense loaf. 

Nigella Lawson

Photo: James Merrell


Yields: approx. 10 slices



  • 1 eating apple (approx 180g / 6oz in weight)
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary (1 small and 1 long)
  • 1 teaspoon caster sugar
  • zest and juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 teaspoon butter


  • 225 grams butter
  • 150 grams caster sugar (plus 1 tablespoon)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 300 grams plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder


  1. Peel, core and roughly chop the apple and put into a saucepan with the small sprig of rosemary, the teaspoon of sugar, the lemon zest and juice, and butter. Cover the pan and cook on a low heat for 4-8 minutes until the apple is soft. How long this takes really depends on the variety of apple you're using. Coxes cook the fastest, and are good here.
  2. Leave to cool, and fish out the rosemary sprig when it is cold.
  3. Preheat the oven to gas mark 3/170°C/150°C Fan/325ºF. Line a 450g / 1lb loaf tin with a loaf liner, or butter and line the bottom with baking parchment.
  4. Put the cooled apple into a food processor and blitz to a pulp. Then add the butter, 150g / ¾ cup of sugar, eggs, flour and baking powder and process to a smooth batter.
  5. Spoon and scrape into the loaf tin and smooth the top. Sprinkle the surface with the remaining tablespoon of sugar and then lay the long sprig of rosemary along the centre of the cake. On baking, the rosemary sheds its oil to leave a scented path down the middle of the cake.
  6. Bake the cake for 50 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean, then leave to cool on a rack. Slip the paper-lined cake out of the tin once it is cool.

Credit: This recipe can be found in Nigella's book 'Feast' a cookery book 'that celebrates life'. Copies can be purchased on the Feast website.