Every week — often with your help — Food52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.
Today: Green cake is the new green beer. And parsley is the new dessert.
If we can put rosemary in our frozen yogurt and thyme in our cookies, what, if anything, is stopping parsley from treading over the line?
Maybe it’s because we’ve only just begun to appreciate parsley as a worthy ingredient — not a garnish — that we’ve kept it locked up in savory dishes till now.
But parsley is an herb as shapeless as all the rest; it just hasn’t made the leap in our imaginations yet. That’s why we’re lucky to have the Roberta’s restaurant gang, namely former pastry chef Katy Peetz, to do the imagining for us.
In its bones, this recipe is a relatively normal sheet cake — sugar, flour, eggs, baking powder. There are also 5 bunches of parsley in it. Nobody, to the internet’s knowledge, has tried doing this before.
There’s some fresh mint too, for lift, and olive oil, to give it more savory cred. And even though Piglet judge Tad Friend called it “pond scum”, what could easily turn into a gimmick and an eyesore works. (Don’t worry: Friend landed pro-parsley cake, perfectly deciphering its taste: “like a sweet meadow.”)
But, whether it works or not, we still have to ask: why parsley cake? The Roberta’s team wanted “a dessert that really tasted and looked like it came from the garden,” as they write. “Whenever there’s an abundance of green things at the farmers markets and in our garden, green inevitably spills over into our desserts.”
So the desserts chapter also includes a watercress gelato and a green granita with more cress, parsley, and celery, plus green apple and lemon. All of them strange, but all strangely appealing.
And there’s still more to the genius! After blitzing up parsley oil in your food processor and stirring it into your batter, you’ll rest the mess a few hours or overnight, to make it still greener and hydrate the flour for a lighter, dewier crumb.
Peetz is fond of slipping in some cornstarch with the flour to keep gluten from forming and toughening batters — a trick you’ll see in her gingerbread and strawberry shortcake, too.
At the restaurant, the cake is served with fennel caramel gelato, lemon zest granita, and more parsley cake crumbles. We did the lazy equivalent: store-bought vanilla ice cream and lemon zest (sans granita). They also suggest eating the cake for breakfast, warm with a little butter.
It’s green cake in a way that’s festive and shamrock-forward, but also a cleansing moment at the end of a dense, salty meal.
Like a bitter wedge of chocolate or a gripping bite of sorbet, the best and brightest desserts aren’t always what you expect.
Adapted slightly from Roberta’s Cookbook (Clarkson Potter, 2013)
Serves 12 to 14
4 cups parsley leaves, tightly packed (about 5 large bunches)
1 cup mint leaves, tightly packed (about 2 bunches)
3/4 cup good olive oil, plus more for the pan
2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-pupose 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
- To make the herb-oil mixture, put a fourth of the parsley and mint in a strong blender or food processor, and blend it on low speed. Use a blender stick to help crush the herbs while the blade is spinning (or stop the machine from time to time to push the herbs back down toward the blade). Slowly increase the speed to medium (or a steady puree, in a food processor) and continue adding the rest of the herbs until you have added all of them.
- In a steady stream, add half of the olive oil. Mix on medium-low speed (or pulsing, if using a food processor) until all is combined. Add the remaining olive oil and blend for no longer than 10 seconds. The mixture will look loose and stringy. Scrape out the blender to get all of the parsley mixture, transfer it to a bowl, and refrigerate until ready to use.
- In a bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, salt, and baking powder and set aside.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the eggs for about 30 seconds. Add the sugar and mix on high speed until the mixture is very thick and turns a pale yellow color, about 3 minutes. Turn the mixer speed down to low and add the herb-oil mixture.
- With the machine still running, add the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Do not over mix. Pour the batter into a container and refrigerate it for at least 6 and up to 24 hours (the cake will turn out much greener than it would if you baked it right away).
- When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 340°F and lightly oil a sheet pan — ideally a 13- x 8-inch for a thin cake but 11 3/4- x 16 1/2-inch will work with a slightly longer baking time (at Food52, we used a 10- x 15-inch jelly roll pan). Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and lightly oil the paper. Pour the batter into the sheet pan and smooth out the top with a spatula.
- Bake for 12 to 18 minutes, rotating the cake halfway through. If the top begins to brown before the inside of the cake is done, turn the heat down to 330° and let it cook a couple of minutes longer. When a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, it’s done. Let it cool in the pan.
- To serve, tear serving-size squares of cake into a few larger pieces and divide them among individual plates. If desired, serve with vanilla ice cream and lemon zest. Alternately, eat warm with butter for breakfast.
Got a genius recipe to share — from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what’s so smart about it) at email@example.com.
Photos by Mark Weinberg
This article originally appeared on Food52.com: Roberta’s Parsley Cake