This cake is representative of a Pacific Northwest take on the Japanese tradition of “Hanami,” tree-blossom observing. Instead of reminding us of the frailty of life through ethereal blossoms, moss reminds us of the constancy of life through ancient plants. Mosses have been here far longer than humans have existed, and some of their patches can be hundreds of years old.
Stinging Nettle Moss Cake:
A stunningly-magical cake that is also really easy, full of nutrition, and tastes wonderful? This nettle moss cake is the best of all worlds. This cake is a vibrant green without the use of any food coloring and is incredibly easy to decorate. Don’t let the stinging nettles intimidate you; they grow plentifully in the springtime and are completely safe (and very nutritious) to consume once the’ve been cooked. A fresh citrus flavor makes this cake extra scrumptious.
1 1/2 c. shortening or unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
4 Tbs. lemon juice
zest of two lemons
2 c. nettle puree (or spinach puree) - see below
4 c. flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1.Preheat your oven to 325F and prepare 2 (9”) cake pans and 1 smaller pan (any shape) by lightly greasing and dusting with flour. Cut out a circle of parchment paper to fit the bottom and grease it as well.
2.In a large bowl, cream the shortening and the sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, until they are well combined. Add the vanilla, lemon juice, and lemon zest and mix well. Add the nettle puree.
3.In another bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix well, then mix into the nettle mixture.
4.Pour into baking pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, or about 25 minutes.
Douglas Fir Grapefruit Buttercream:
This is an optional flavor, as a simple lemon buttercream would also taste wonderful. I just like to make use of another sprin
1 c. shortening or butter, at room temperature
1/4 tsp. salt (if using unsalted butter or shortening)
1 Tbs. ground fresh Douglas Fir needles
1 1/2 Tbs. grapefruit juice
4-5 cups powdered sugar (1 lb.)
1.Cream the shortening, salt, and fir needles until smooth and creamy. Add 4 cups powdered sugar and mix at low speed until incorporated to make a stiff dough.
2.Add the grapefruit juice and mix until smooth. Assess the consistency and add more powdered sugar or grapefruit juice as desired.
3.To ice and decorate the cake, first allow it to cool completely. With a long bread knife, trim the tops of the cake so that they are flat. Place one cake onto a serving plate and place strips of waxed paper around the cake for easier clean up later.
4.Spread a layer of frosting over the top of the cake, then carefully set the other cake on top. At this point it can be helpful to place the cake in the fridge for an hour or so for it to firm up. Meanwhile, crumble the scraps from the tops of the cake and the smaller extra cake into coarse crumbs using your hands or a food processor.
5.Spread the rest of the frosting over the entire cake and press the crumbs into the surface to look like moss. Remove the strips of waxed paper and serve!
1. To make stinging nettle puree, pick off all of the leaves (wear gloves!), then boil them for a couple of minutes. Strain and immediately plunge into an ice bath to cool. Puree the cooked leaves into a smooth paste in your blender - you may need to add 1 Tbs. of water to get them to grind properly. To make a spinach puree, just blend raw baby spinach leaves in the blender with enough water to get them to form a smooth puree.
2. Make sure to note the lower baking temperature of this cake. Baking it at a lower temperature for longer helps it retain the fresh green color.
3. If you are unable to forage or purchase stinging nettle, spinach works just as well! And don’t worry about your cake tasting like salad - the green veggies add a very subtle flavor that is accented nicely by the bright citrus. You’ll barely notice them.
As always, if you enjoy my writing and want to support my mission of sharing everyday magic with strangers, please take a look at my Patreon Page to learn about all of the delightful offerings I have there for you!
Judith Browning wrote:
I keep trying to grow nettle from seed because I can't find the patches of it I know are around here. I have one survivor in a pot.
Jay Angler wrote:First some disclaimers: I consider recipes a "guide" and therefore, I'm *really* lousy at following them word for word! Secondly, vague things like "two large handfuls" are difficult. Washed and squished into a glass measuring cup, the nettle came to ~2 1/2 cups. Yes, weighing would have been more accurate, but my spouse swiped my kitchen scale. Cooked and blended, it was ~1/2 cup.
Third, my blood sugar tends drop low easily, so I always substitute whole wheat for 50% or more of the flour which is what I did this time - if a recipe doesn't work because of it, too bad, as I probably couldn't eat it anyway!
Fourth, loaf pans are easier for me to cover, so loaf pans are what I used. This means it took a longer to cook - more like 45 min.
It really is - I've tried sneaking it into soup before and got negative responses, and neither of them are keen on pesto of any kind, let alone the nettle variety. The nettle is starting to bloom, so I'm not sure I can do another picking, but I think tomorrow morning I should try.
Very awesome that the boys enjoyed a nettle cake!!