Nettles aren't only useful in savoury dishes - they also make great additions to numerous baked products! I love putting them into cakes - especially this simple sponge cake with lemon. Nettles are so versatile - they can even be used to make a delicious cordial that is fabulous served with sparkling water, ice and lemon on a hot day. Or put it in a cocktail for something a bit different.
NETTLE AND LEMON CAKE
Makes 1 2lb loaf or 20cm round cake
*NOTE: for the sandwiched cake in the picture above, double the cake ingredient quantities and make two 20cm round cakes.
Preparation Time: 30 mins
Cooking Time: minimum 35 minutes
100 g raw young nettle leaves
200 g unsalted butter, softened
150 g granulated sugar
3 medium eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
The juice and zest of one lemon
250 g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Option 1 - glaze icing (as seen in the loaf cake pictures): 125g icing sugar mixed with lemon juice from ingredients above
Option 2 - buttercream (as seen in round sandwich cake pictures): 600g icing sugar mixed with 300g softened butter plus lemon juice from ingredients above
To decorate: edible flowers from the garden (I used daisies, dandelion petals and ground ivy flowers)
1. Preheat oven to 170C fan. Grease and line a 2lb (900g) loaf tin (I used a handy loaf tin liner, like this) or a 20cm round cake tin.
2. Carefully wash the nettles and blanch them in simmering water for 5 minutes. Drain, refresh in cold water, then squeeze as much water out as possible (don't worry - the sting is gone once they are cooked).
3. In a food processor, bullet blender or with a hand blender, whizz together the eggs with the cooked nettles. Set aside.
4. Cream together the butter and sugar. Then, gradually beat in the egg and nettle mixture, the vanilla essence (if using) and half of the lemon juice and zest.
5. Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt, stir to combine the finished mixture.
6. Spoon into the lined loaf tin and bake in the centre of the pre-heated oven for at least 35 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean. Ovens will vary - my oven takes closer to 45-50 minutes to fully bake this cake.
7. Cool in the tin, meanwhile make the icing.
For the simple glaze icing, sift 125g icing sugar into a bowl, add the remaining half of lemon juice and enough water til you have a thick double cream consistency. Smear onto the top of the cool cake, and decorate with edible flowers (avoiding members of the allium or mustard family as these really only work in savoury dishes) and the remaining lemon zest.
For the buttercream option, sift 600g icing sugar and blend with 300g softened butter. Add the remaining half of lemon juice and and a tbsp or so of water if needed for a soft smooth consistency. Using a buttercream icing tool or similar (I use a dough cutter) smear icing over the cake (if doing the double recipe for a sandwich cake, first sandwich the cakes together using buttercream and some jam - blaeberry is nice, then coat the overall sandwiched cake with buttercream). Decorate with edible flowers (avoiding members of the allium or mustard family as these really only work in savoury dishes) and the remaining lemon zest.