I started making this nettle cake recipe a year ago and I’ve been waiting all year for nettle season to come around so I could further perfect it and then share with you.
Is it sad to admit that sharing a nettle cake recipe brings me so much anticipation and excitement?
Of course not!
You’re here because you love nettles too! And this recipe is truly delicious. It’s moist, fluffy and so wonderfully nettl-y.
Before we get to the nettle cake recipe let's chat about harvesting nettles.
Yes, you will need fresh nettles for this nettle cake. I don’t recommend using dried nettles. However, if you really want to give something like this a try and don’t have access to fresh nettles you could try substituting kale or spinach (or another wild edible like lamb’s quarters).
Nettles emerge in the early spring, often some of the first wild edibles to appear on the landscape.
As always it’s important to have a 100% positive ID before harvesting any plants.
Nettles have square stems and opposite leaves, which gives them the appearance of being in the mint family, but they are in the Urticaceae. There are several species of nettle that are used interchangeably but I am most familiar with Urtica dioica.
Nettle grows in temperate climates and loves rich soils.
The leaves are heart shaped when young and then lanceolate when older. They have a serrated leaf margin. The flowers are small and emerge from the leaf axils, but we want to harvest nettle before it goes to flower and seed.
One distinguishing feature of nettle is the sting! Nettle is covered in tiny projectile points that “sting” when they are brushed against. These hairs (trichomes) inject an irritating substance into your skin, resulting in a mildly irritating rash. For some this sting is therapeutic! It’s been shown to decrease inflammation and arthritic pain.
For the rest of us, we harvest nettles with gloves (and perhaps even while wearing long sleeves). If you do get stung by nettles and find it overly irritating you can mash up a fresh leaf of yellow dock (Rumex crispus), plantain (Plantago spp.) or other known safe spring green and spread it over the rash to cool it down.
Nettles can be sustainably harvested by only harvesting the top tips and cutting the stem just above the leaf node. When harvested in this way the nettle plant keeps on growing. You can visit the same nettle patch several times to collect the new fresh growth. Eventually the plant will flower and go to seed.
Nettles can grow abundantly in the right conditions. Harvest with care to support a healthy plant stand and future harvests. We aren’t the only ones to love nettle! Nettle is a host plant for many insects, including moths, butterflies and beetles.
Nettle is high in nutrients and benefits many common health problems like seasonal allergies, skin conditions, and problems with low energy. Fresh nettles have been shown to decrease inflammation associated with type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance.
For more information about the many gifts of nettle, including more harvesting, growing, and identification tips, see our book, Wild Remedies: How to Forage Healing Foods and Craft Your Own Herbal Medicine.
Wild Remedies also has more fresh nettle recipes, including Nettle Frittata, Nettle and Asparagus Soup, and Potato Pancakes with Nettle.
This green cake is the perfect way to celebrate spring and the abundant season of fresh nettles. It’s dense, moist and delicious with a hint of that rich nettle flavor. I recommend serving the cake alongside my Love Your Liver Tea (see below).
You can use a variety of different flours for this recipe. I use organic flour from Bluebird Grain Farms. A gluten free baking flour can also be substituted.
Heat your oven to 300F. Lightly grease a 9” cake baking pan.
Blanch the fresh nettle by dunking it in boiling water for 60 seconds. Drain. Put into a food processor and puree with the lemon juice. Make sure it is pureed into a paste, otherwise the cake won’t turn green.
Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.
In a large bowl mix together the oil, honey, and nettle puree. (I use a cake mixer for this step).
Add the eggs, mixing them in one at a time, and then the buttermilk (or yogurt).
Add the flour mixture in two batches. Mix on low speed until combined, do not over mix.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for about 50 minutes or until it is brown around the edges and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. While baking prep the topping.
To make the topping
I eyeball this topping recipe and it’s very forgiving so I trust you can do the same.
I use about two parts strawberries to rhubarb. An example of this would be 4 cups strawberries to 2 cups rhubarb.
Simmer the strawberries and rhubarb, adding a splash of water to the pan if necessary to get the juices started.
Simmer for about 15 minutes or until the rhubarb is softened. Remove from heat. Add honey to taste.
What is cake without tea? I recommend serving nettle cake alongside Love Your Liver Tea. Thanks to Tatiana Rusakova for creating this beautiful image for me!
To view the full Love Your Liver Tea recipe, click the image above or this link.
And if you’re looking for your very own nettle mug I recommend the beautiful pottery by Herb Nerd Zoe.
Rosalee is an herbalist and author of the bestselling book Alchemy of Herbs: Transform Everyday Ingredients Into Foods & Remedies That Heal and co-author of the bestselling book Wild Remedies: How to Forage Healing Foods and Craft Your Own Herbal Medicine. She's a registered herbalist with the American Herbalist Guild and has taught thousands of students through her online courses. Read about how Rosalee went from having a terminal illness to being a bestselling author in her full story here.