Sweet Pea Spring Cake

Sweet Pea Spring Cake (6)Frozen peas are my backup for fresh veggies, and the kind I buy come in a bag that boasts: “Naturally sweet!”  Those pretty italic words have been calling to me lately.  Of course, I usually mask the peas’ sweetness with a bit of sea salt or parmesan and eat them as a savory side.  But then again, I’ve done the same thing with carrots, zucchini and pumpkin;  and if these can make popular desserts — cakes, sweet breads, pies — why not give peas a chance?  So last weekend I finally paired my sweet peas with sugar, flour and vanilla (along with fresh peppermint leaves and a bit of tangy lemon zest).  The result was a delicious and utterly un-pea-like cake, bursting with citrus and sweet herbal undertones.  Here is the recipe.

Sweet Pea Spring Cake (1)Sweet Pea Spring Cake (makes two 8” layers)

  • 4 small lemons
  • 1 ¾ cup green peas (about 9.5 ounces), defrosted if using frozen peas, drained if needed
  • ¼ cup (about .25 ounce or 5 grams) fresh peppermint leaves, moderately packed, rinsed and dried, stems removedSweet Pea Spring Cake (15)
  • 5 egg whites
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon mint extract*
  • ¾ cup melted coconut oil*
  • 1 ½ cup flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • scraped seeds from one medium vanilla bean or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Lightly grease insides and bottoms of two 8″ cake pans, and line bottoms of pans with parchment; set aside. Finely zest the peel of one lemon; set zest aside. Juice the peeled lemon, plus 2-3 more, to make 3/4 cup lemon juice (seeds removed); set aside.  Fill food processor with peas and peppermint leaves.  Blend, gradually adding 1/2 cup of the lemon juice (reserve remaining 1/4 cup juice).  Stop occasionally to scrape down sides, and keep blending for just a few minutes, until mixture is consistent and there are no remaining big leaf pieces or whole peas.  Texture should be even but rather thick and not smooth.

Sweet Pea Spring Cake (14)With an electric mixer, beat egg whites on high speed, gradually adding ¼ cup of the sugar once whites are foamy and becoming white.  Keep beating until whites are fluffy, opaque, and hold quite solid peaks; set aside.  In a large bowl, beat the remaining ¾ cup sugar, oil and extracts until smooth.  Gently fold in the pea mixture, stirring until even.  Sift or sieve over the mixture: flour, salt, baking powder and soda.  Mix until incorporated, adding remaining ¼ cup lemon juice along the way.  Fold in the vanilla bean seeds and lemon zest until just evenly disbursed.  Gently fold in the egg whites 1/3 at a time until just incorporated, being careful not to flatten them too much.  Batter will be frothy and delicate.  Quickly transfer it equally into the prepared pans, spreading gently to edges.  Bake for 25-35 minutes or until toothpick tests clean in center and edges are becoming golden brown. Cakes will be an unusual color and not very tall.  Let them cool completely in pans before loosening edges with knife and removing. Once cool, cover until ready to frost or decorate, then store and serve at room temperature; do not refrigerate.

Sweet Pea Spring Cake (13)Because the cake is best at room temperature, you’ll want to wait to frost it until just ready to serve.  This refreshing cake matches perfectly with a basic cream cheese icing, enhanced with some lemon juice and a drop of mint extract.  To keep the dessert dairy-free, I opted to frost mine with this meringue frosting, replacing the orange juice/champagne mixture with: 4 tablespoons lemon juice, 3.75 teaspoons vanilla, and 1/4 teaspoon mint extract.  If desired, add a drop of green food coloring to your icing and/or decorate with peppermint leaves and even peas — that is, if you’re confident they won’t scare away your diners.

Sweet Pea Spring Cake (4)Extraordinarily spring-like and scrumptious, this sweet pea cake is a truly luscious dessert. Rather unsurprisingly, its texture reminds one of moist carrot cake with pineapple in the batter, while its flavor offers grassy hints that perfectly highlight the citrus and mint within.  With an open mind and an open mouth, let us all welcome peas to the wonderful world of veggie-laden desserts.  After all, they’re in very good company.

Sweet Pea Spring Cake (8)*Maybe next time… If you want to skip the frosting, a dusting of powdered sugar would make a winning topping. Similarly, I imagine orange zest would be a great addition or replacement for the lemon.  I chose coconut oil because of its natural sweetness and pleasant flavor, but if you don’t have any, melted butter will work fine. Also, I chose mint extract (which is a mixture spearmint and peppermint) over the more potent pure peppermint extract.  Peppermint extract is known as a finer product because of its purity and strength, but sometimes I prefer the more generic mixed mint type because of its softer flavor.  If you use peppermint extract, use caution and add it very slowly.  Finally, organic peas tend to be sweeter than conventional peas and often don’t cost much more.

Sweet Pea Spring Cake (2)Sweet Pea Spring Cake (10)Sweet Pea Spring Cake (5)Sweet Pea Spring Cake (12)

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24 Responses to Sweet Pea Spring Cake

  1. Pingback: Grapefruit Coconut Cookies: Little, Luscious, and Vegan | butter, sugar, flowers

  2. jen says:

    I want to try this pea cake and I want to see that movie too! :-)

  3. Pingback: 7 Full-Course Meal Recipes With Green Pea (Including Dessert)

  4. I love this! I love using unconventional ingredients in my baking…I’ve never even thought of using peas. Genius!

    • Thank you, Haleigh! I am thrilled that you stopped by and shared these kinds words — especially because it led me to your wondrously creative blog. I love its name (I always save my peels for zesting, candying, simmer pots or another use), and I love its contents of both craftiness and creative cooking. All around YUM!

  5. katy says:

    I love these pictures and the idea of a pea cake (I wonder how a ricotta lemon pea cheesecake would taste? Your adventurous spirit has pushed me to see peas in a new light). More importantly, I feel fortunate to have gotten to try this lovely cake; thank you for always saving me a slice! It really does brighten my days on campus!

    • Oooh, ricotta lemon pea cheesecake sounds wondrous! I love the way you think.
      Thank you for your ever kind words. It’s always a pleasure to set aside a piece for someone with such sincere appreciation (and openness to try my experiments!).

  6. Looks amazing! I’m all for vegetables in cakes, great thinking

  7. Lilly Sue says:

    Wow! So creative! I love your pictures too :)

  8. Get out – I would never had thought to put peas in a cake but then again I trust you completely. It’s interesting that you mention it having the texture of spice cake because when I looked at the picture that’s what I thought of immediately.

    • Thanks, Diane — I so appreciate your trust! Yes, as your fabulous food intuition told you, this cake definitely echos a carrot cake in texture, even though the flavor is less spicy and more herbal/lemony. (But at the moment, I’d love to have both!)

  9. CateyLou says:

    Peas in a cake, what a great idea!! And so pretty too

    • Thank you so much, Catey Lou! Your open-mindedness and kind words are making me smile. And I LOVE your philosophy that you’ve “never met a cookie that [you] didn’t like” — I feel very much the same!

  10. What an amazing idea! I had never thought of peas for baking, but they are so perfectly sweet and spring-like. Last fall I stumbled across a recipe for parsnip cupcakes that I thought was really intriguing (parsnips are one of my favorite veggies!), but I haven’t tried it yet. But your beautiful baking adventures have opened up all kinds of possibilities in my mind! Can’t wait to see what you do next!

    • Thank you so much, Cameron! Your encouraging and kind words are extra meaningful, coming from one of the most creative people I know. A parsnip dessert is indeed intriguing, too! I am starting to believe that a world of dessert creations waits with its doors open to many mild veggies: parsnips, peas, sunchokes, tomatoes… and surely many more around the corner, about to fall into our laps (or our mouths, for that matter).

  11. Yesterday I watched “Toast,” with Helena Bonham-Carter baking any sort of sweets… Just like you (minus her evil twist ;-) ) If you haven’t watched the movie, I am not going to spoil it. :-)

    • Thanks, Maurizio! I’ve never seen or heard of that movie, but now I’m excited to check it out thanks to you! I hope you are well.

      • I am well, thank you, looking for a job (as usual), ready to pack and move back to Italy for good should it not materialize in the coming weeks. Oh well.

    • I was reading through this thread to see the feedback on this cake and I read this so I had to go look up the movie and watched the trailer and it is on my must watch list along with making this cake, maybe I will do both on the same night… :)

      • Hi Valerie, Thanks for stopping by and sharing your sweet words. The movie and cake together in one night sounds wonderful — that’s my kind of evening! Enjoy!

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