Honey and Stinging Nettle Cake Recipe (Gluten free)
Stinging nettles and honey? It’s not a common combination but using vegetables in desserts is nothing new if you think about zucchinis or carrots. Not only do they taste wonderful in cakes, but they add a healthy note to sweet recipes. Same here, with the wild foraging angle as a bonus! Usually, stinging nettles are used in savory dishes, much like spinach, sauteed or pureed. However in France, nettle desserts are traditional in some regions. When I realized that stinging nettles cakes were an item, this opened a world of possibilities and Friday being baking day, I made an orange blossom nettle cake. As I had harvested too much stinging nettles, I set to make a second stinging nettle cake. Hence this honey and stinging nettle cake.
Foraging Stinging Nettles
Foraging the nettles was a fun part of the cake process too. It was a great excuse to take a walk with my daughter after school and forage a wild edible that nobody else wants. She even asked for a rubber glove to help forage the nettles. You can find stinging nettles almost anywhere in a green zone of a city this time of year. Look around the edges, around bushes and trees, along fences, and you’ll find them. I have a Royal Park nearby that’s a great resource for my foraging needs.
To make this cake gluten-free, I used cornmeal because I love the coarseness and taste of the grain, which makes it gluten free. People who enjoyed the cake told me that they like the crunchiness of it. That’s what you get with cornmeal. I use Bob’s Red Mill cornmeal (medium grind, whole grain) in my recipes.
In taste and texture, expect this nettle and honey cake to be quite close to French pain d’épices, a spicy quick bread sold in loaves and a staple afternoon snack for kids. It will springy and slightly sticky on the sides, and delicious as is or toasted and served with butter.
Honey, Honey, Honey
Last but not least, I used honey I purchased at the end of the 3-day backpacking trip in Scotland at the cafe of the Camping & Caravaning Club of Cannich. It’s Scottish heather honey from Struan Apiaries and excellent. The honey you use will have a lot of influence on the taste so if you can, pick a local honey you’re very fond of, not just pasteurized supermarket runny honey from random countries. Every ingredient matters in a 5-ingredient recipe and honey with character certainly makes a difference.
Now the recipe.
- 225g butter
- 150g molasses
- 250g honey (I used Scottish heather honey)
- 300g cornmeal
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 3 medium eggs
- 100g stinging nettle leaves, thoroughly washed
- Preheat the oven at 160C/320F.
- Place in a pan with a steaming basket on the stove and steam for 6-8 minutes. The sting will be removed with the heat.
- Drain and squeeze between your fingers to remove as much water as possible. Puree and set aside.
- In another pan, melt butter, honey and molasses over low heat until the mixture becomes bubbly. Set aside and wait 10 minutes.
- In a large bowl, combine the cooled honey mixture with the cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Stir well.
- Blitz the eggs in a food processor (or beat them with an electric mixer) until the liquid becomes frothy and pale yellow. Add to the cake batter and incorporate slowly with a wooden spoon. At this stage, the batter will be quite runny. Don't be afraid!
- Add the nettles and stir to combine.
- Pour in an oiled and lined loaf pan and bake 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.