The first thing my husband said when he spied this cake cooling on the kitchen counter was: “WTH!?!”
Yes, this is cake.
And parsley. Loads of it.
All of which gets minced until it resembles churned up grass clippings. Then, it’s folded into a batter that ends up looking quite a lot like pesto.
Meet “Parsley Cake” from Katy Peetz, former pastry chef of Roberta’s in Brooklyn.
It’s from the cookbook, “Food52 Genius Desserts: 100 Recipes That Will Change the Way You Bake (Food52 Works)” (Ten Speed Press, 2018) by Kristen Miglore, creative director at Food52.
When I first spied this recipe, I knew I had to make it in time for St. Patrick’s Day. I mean, a cake the vivid color of moss clinging to an ancient castle couldn’t be more perfect for that holiday, could it?
The cake takes its dramatic hue from all the herbs in it. Unless you have a Vitamix — which I don’t — it’s probably faster and easier to use a food processor to chop them all up finely. Let the batter sit in the fridge overnight to really bring out the pop of color even more.
It’s made with olive oil, which makes the cake plenty moist, fluffy, and lush tasting. It’s baked in a rimmed sheet pan, so it’s done after only about 18 minutes.
You could cut it into neat squares to serve. But Peetz suggests just tearing off pieces to give the cake that trendy chef-y look with its jagged, raw edges. Arrange in a serving bowl with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Garnish with candied lemon peel or fresh lemon zest, and a drizzle of good olive oil. Or enjoy it for breakfast, smeared with butter.
The taste is probably like nothing you’ve ever had. It’s strangely intriguing and sophisticated at the same time. It’s definitely herbaceous with a subtle edge of bitter grassiness from the parsley coming through just at the very end. Like a cool breeze on a spring day, it’s also extremely refreshing, thanks to all the fresh mint in it. The sugar tames the inherent savoriness just enough, so that there’s no question that this is a dessert.
It’s definitely a restaurant-quality one. But a cinch to make at home. It’s a show-stopper sure to make jaws drop this St. Patrick’s Day.
(Serves 12 to 14)
4 cups firmly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (from 5 small bunches)
1 cup firmly packed fresh mint leaves (from 2 small bunches)
3/4 cup good olive oil
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 2/3 cups sugar
Vanilla ice cream, candied lemon peel or fresh lemon zest, and/or a drizzle of olive oil, to serve (optional)
Combine about one-quarter of the parsley and one-quarter of the mint in a high-speed blender or food processor and process on low speed, scraping down the sides as needed. Continue adding the remaining herbs in two or three additions until you have a blender full of fine green mulch.
With the blender on medium-low speed (or pulsing, if using a food processor), pour in half of the olive oil in a steady stream. Add the remaining olive oil all at once and process for no longer than 10 seconds. The mixture will look loose and stringy — that’s okay. Scrape it into a bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.
Whisk together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the eggs on medium-high speed for about 30 seconds. Add the sugar and mix on high speed until very thick and pale yellow, about 3 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, pour in the herb-oil mixture, followed by the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Pour the batter into a container and refrigerate for 6 to 24 hours, if possible (the cake will be greener if you can).
When you’re ready to bake, heat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly oil a 10-by-15-inch rimmed baking sheet. Line with parchment paper and lightly oil the parchment. Pour the batter into the baking sheet and smooth the top with a spatula.
Bake until a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out with just crumbs clinging, 12 to 18 minutes, rotating the cake halfway through baking. If the top begins to brown before the inside of the cake is done, turn the heat down to 325 degrees and cook a couple of minutes longer. Let the cake cool in the pan on a rack.
To serve, tear serving-size squares of cake into a few large pieces and divide them among individual plates, along with vanilla ice cream, candied lemon peel, and a drizzle of olive oil. Store any leftover cake in an airtight container at room temperature.
From a recipe from Roberta’s and Pastry Chef Katy Peetz, as published in “Food52 Genius Desserts” by Kristen Miglore
More: A Visit to Roberta’s in Brooklyn
Another “Food52 Genius Desserts” Recipe to Enjoy: Nonfat Gingersnaps