Stinging Nettle and Honey Cake Recipe (Gluten free)
Stinging nettles and honey? Not only do stinging nettles taste wonderful in cakes, they add a healthy note to sweet recipes with the wild foraging angle as a bonus! Usually, stinging nettles are used in savory dishes, much like spinach, sauteed or pureed, but in France, nettle desserts are traditional in some regions.
Lucky for me, I’ve got a generous local patch of stinging nettles that keeps me happy year-round. Looking for a good cake recipe for gluten-free friends, I couldn’t find anything exciting and set to create this recipe for a stinging nettle and honey cake. As I’m a huge fan of coarse cornmeal for baking, I made it into the 100% wholegrain element that replaces wheat flour in traditional recipes and it works wonders. This cake is always a success, whether or not you eat gluten-free at home, and it’s a great cake for sharing. What’s not to like?
Foraging for Stinging Nettles
Foraging for the nettles is a fun part of the cake process. What you want is healthy looking nettle top leaves and stems, foraged by hand with a kitchen glove that will protect you from the stings. I find that the top part of the stem snaps easily in the spring and doesn’t require any particular blades, but it’s possible that you need to get creative later in the season. All you need is a pair of rubber gloves and a plastic or fabric bag to bring them home.
Looking for stinging nettles is a great excuse to take a walk with my daughters and forage for a wild edible that nobody else wants. You can find stinging nettles almost anywhere in parks, trail sides, cemeteries. Basically any disturbed terrain, as in affected by human activity, is good ground for stinging nettles. 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 use coarse grind cornmeal by Bob’s Red Mill because I love the coarseness and nuttiness of the grain. It’s gluten free, vegan, vegetarian, 100% whole grain, high in fiber, kosher Pareve. You can’t fault coarse grind cornmeal at all, it’s a perfect whole grain for baking. Unfortunately, the culture of cornmeal in Europe boils down to polenta so it’s really hard to find coarse grind cornmeal that works out the same way as far as texture. Until I find a European alternative, I’ll keep buying Bob’s Red Mill’s medium grind cornmeal at extortionate prices on Amazon.
In taste and texture, expect this stinging 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 also works great after Saturday morning races at the Serpentine Swimming Club. It will springy and slightly sticky on the sides, and delicious as is or toasted and served with butter.
Every ingredient matters in a 5-ingredient recipe and honey with character certainly makes a difference. 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.
I use Scottish heather honey from Struan Apiaries or store-bought heather honey, with some chestnut honey thrown in for good measure. Chestnut honey is one of the strongest honeys in terms of fragrance and really adds to this recipe.
Now the recipe.
Stinging Nettle Cake
- 225 grams Unsalted butter
- 250 grams Honey
- 150 grams Molasses (or treacle)
- 300 grams Cornmeal (coarse grind)
- 100 grams Stinging nettles (wilted, pureed)
- 3 Eggs
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 2 tsp Baking powder (gluten free)
- Preheat the oven at 160C/320F.
- Melt butter, honey and molasses over low heat until the mixture becomes runny. Set aside to cool down.
- Add pureed stinging nettles and eggs to wet ingredients.
- Stir in cornmeal, baking powder and salt with a spatula.
- Pour into a tea cake mould, either nonstick or lined with parchment paper.
- Bake until inserted toothpick comes out dry, 40 to 50 minutes.
- Let cool.