Lemon & Nettle Cake

Normally, I’m not exactly the worlds biggest fan of weeds, particularly invasive ones that have the potential to give you a nasty sting like nettle. They are honestly my biggest bug bare at the allotment as they seem to grow much faster than any of my vegetables?! Well, today I get my revenge, as I wait to my veggies to plump & ripen I’ve set my sights on putting these ghastly weeds to good use, in a cake, naturally! That’s right, both the leaves & stems of stinging nettles are entirely edible & perhaps one of the most nutritional wild edibles found here in the UK, but don’t rush out & tuck into them right away, first we need to take away their sting.

Lemon & Nettle Cake

Just a brief cooking in hot water & drying removes all of the stinging hairs from the plant, making them safe to eat, it’s as simple as that. I’m pretty sure stinging nettle are probably one of the most easily identifiable plants to forage for here in the UK, not only because it’ll pretty much grow anywhere but I’m willing to bet most of us learnt the hard way growing up! Be sure to use gloves when you’re out foraging for them though & avoid polluted areas such as busy roads. Nettle has a bright, peppery yet earthy flavour which I think works well paired with the sharp bitterness of lemon. Here in my lemon & nettle cake I’ve used it in three ways, firstly pureed, which turns this little loaf into a bright, vibrant green wonder. Secondly, I’ve used the cooked leaves within the cake, adding a little texture. And finally, because I can’t resist a little bit of natural decoration, I thought I’d try to crystalise some of the cooked nettle sprigs which worked surprisingly well & I’ve placed proudly a top my cake, giving you plenty of advance warning as to what it contains.

Lemon & Nettle Cake

LEMON & NETTLE CAKE
(makes one 2lb loaf)

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 100g nettle (pick the top four to six leaves of the plant, they’re the most tender)
  • 175g butter
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • Pinch of salt
  • 225g plain flour
  • 85g ground almonds
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • Zest of x2 lemons
  • Juice of x1 lemon
  • 50ml milk

For the icing & decoration:

  • A couple of small nettle sprigs
    • A couple of small blanched & dried nettle sprigs
    • 1 egg white
    • 50g caster sugar
    • A few dried lemon slices
    • Juice of half a lemon
    • 150 – 250g icing sugar

    Method:

    • Grease and line a 2lb loaf tin with baking parchment
    • Begin by blanching the nettle, bring a large saucepan filled with water to the boil & using gloves, add the nettles to pan & boil to 5 minutes
    • After 5 minutes, remove from the heat & rain the nettle before setting aside to cool
    • Once cool enough to handle, squeeze any excess water from the nettles
    • Take half of the nettles & roughly chop them before setting aside for later
    • With the remaining half of nettle, either place into the bowl of a food processor or use a hand blender to blits them into a vibrant green puree
    • In a large bowl, beat together the butter & sugar until pale & fluffy
    • Next, add the eggs to the bowl one at a time, beating with each addition
    • Sieve the flour, ground almonds, baking powder & salt into the bowl & mix until just combined
    • Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, pureed nettle & milk to the bowl & mix everything together until the batter turns a vibrant green colour & everything is well combined
    • Finally, add the reserved chopped nettle & fold this through the batter until evenly distributed
    • Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the oven at 180C for 50 minutes – 1 hour, until the centre springs back when pressed lightly or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out cleanly when removed
    • Leave the cake to cool in its tin for 10 minutes before removing & allowing to cool fully on a cooling rack

    For the decoration:

    • To make the crystallised nettle, begin by laying out the nettle onto a piece of baking parchment
    • Next, using a small brush, brush both sides of the nettle with the egg white
    • Sprinkle over enough caster sugar to cover the nettle before carefully flipping over & repeating
    • Set the crystallised nettle aside to dry out for a couple of hours
    • To make the icing, simply combine the lemon juice with enough of the icing sugar to make a pourable but not too thin icing & drizzle over the cake
    • Place the decorations on top of the lemon & nettle cake whilst the icing is still wet

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