Spinach Cake with Lemon – My Super Simple Version of Le Gâteau Vert
My spinach cake with lemon is a super simple version of le gâteau vert or green cake and it tastes delicious too. I was inspired after seeing this week’s episode of Great British Bake Off. I’ve made it with wholemeal spelt, but you can use whatever flour you prefer. The batter is made with spinach puree and the icing is coloured with spinach too. I’ve filled it with lemon ricotta and topped it with pistachios.
Turkish Spinach Cake
Spinach cake (ispanakli kek) seems to be a bit of a thing in Turkey. I remember years ago buying a slice at a farmer’s market back home in Cornwall and being intrigued. You can see the picture I took of it just below. That was back in the day when I never thought to put greens in my cake. Now of course it’s a bit trendy and likely to become more so since le gâteau vert featured on this week’s episode of Great British Bake Off.
Great British Bake Off
Yes, just in case you’ve missed it. Great British Bake Off is back. This Tuesday saw the second episode and the theme was cake. There were stunners, there were disasters and of course there were tears. I can’t bring myself not to watch it, but I’m not a fan since it moved from the BBC to Channel 4 and the new ‘Mel and Sue’ just don’t work for me. Apart from anything else, the adverts break any dramatic tension and are just plain annoying. Anyway, Prue Leith set the technical challenge this week and to the shock of many it was for her version of Le Gateau Vert.
Monet’s Green Cake
The famous impressionist painter, Claude Monet, who died in 1926, liked his food. His garden at Giverny was not just about water lilies it seems; he also grew lots of organic produce, kept chickens and employed a cook. He also possessed a substantial collection of recipes that became known as his cooking journals. In 1990, the wife of his great grandson published a selection of them: Monet’s Table: the cooking journals of Claude Monet by Claire Joyes*. Le gâteau vert-vert is one of the recipes in that book. It’s a green cake made with pistachio nuts and kirsch and has bright green icing which uses spinach as the colouring agent.
Spinach Cake with Lemon
My spinach cake with lemon is totally different to either Monet’s cake or le gâteau vert made on Bake Off. It’s not only simpler to make, but it’s a lot cheaper too. Pistachio nuts are so expensive, you’d need to have a very special occasion to justify the quantity used in either of these versions. I opted for just a scattering over the top.
The spinach is briefly cooked then blitzed to make a purée. I used my super duper Optimum Vac2 Air Vacuum Blender* to do that bit. As regular readers will know, I try to use less sugar than the norm in my cakes which not only means they’re not quite as bad for you as they could be, but they’re usually a lot tastier. I find too much sugar can often overwhelm flavours. I only used a relatively small amount of fat in the cake too, but because of the spinach, it still had a lovely soft texture. Ricotta is a naturally low fat cheese, though I did add a little cream to it. But all in all, with the reduced amount of sugar and fat along with the the wholemeal spelt and addition of spinach, it’s pretty good as cakes go.
I don’t want to make you green with envy, but I’m really pleased with my spinach cake. It’s a substantial but not heavy sponge and it tastes fantastic. There’s a hint of lemon and a certain something interesting that’s hard to identify. CT told me that it reminds him of matcha cake. I don’t think anyone would actually taste the spinach though.
It’s by no means a sweet cake, but it’s a very satisfying one and the icing punctuates the underlying umami notes very effectively. The creamy ricotta and lemon filling complements the other components and the pistachios turn it into something a bit more luxurious. It was hard to stop CT from devouring the lot on day one, but luckily there was plenty left and we found it to be just as good on day two. I suspect it will still be in good shape on day three, tomorrow.
Spinach Cake with Lemon – The Recipe
- 150 g spinach - trimmed if necessary
- 200 g golden caster sugar
- 3 eggs
- 125 ml rapeseed oil I used cold-pressed
- 1 lemon - zested & juiced for the filling & icing
- 260 g wholemeal spelt flour
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 125 g kefir, buttermilk or sour milk
- 250 g ricotta cheese
- 2 tbsp double cream
- 25 g icing sugar
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 50 g icing sugar
- 1-2 tsp spinach juice
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 25 g pistachio nuts - roughly chopped
- Wash the spinach, give a brief shake and place in a pan. A little water clinging to the leaves is needed so the spinach doesn't burn. Cook over a medium heat for 3-5 minutes until wilted.
Blitz in a blender until smooth, then leave to cool - I used my Optimum Vac2 Air Vacuum Blender*.
- Turn the oven on to 180℃.
- Using a hand whisk or electric beaters, whisk the sugar and eggs together until well combined and slightly thickened. Add the oil and whisk again. Stir in the lemon zest.
- Sieve in the dry ingredients and fold in.
- Add the kefir and stir gently until just combined.
- Strain a splash of the spinach puree through a sieve and put aside. Reunite any pulp remaining in the sieve with the rest, then gently stir into the cake batter until everything is nicely green.
- Pour the batter into two 20cm / 8" round silicon moulds or lined cake tins and bake in the centre of the oven for about 40 minutes or when an inserted skewer comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes or so. Turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
- Beat all the ingredients together until combined and smooth.
- Spread over one of the cooled sponge halves and place the other on top.
- Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl.
- Add the lemon juice and a little of the spinach juice that was set aside from the puree. Mix until the icing is thin enough to spread over the cake, but not so much that it will pour off.
- Spread over the top of the cake, then scatter over the pistachio pieces.
Oven temperatures vary, so you're cake may need a bit more or a bit less time.
Will keep for a couple of days if you're kitchen isn't too hot.
Other recipes for green cakes you might like
- Cavolo nero & orange cupcakes via The Hedge Combers
- Chocolate & matcha battenberg via Tin and Thyme
- Chocolate & pistachio cake via Supper in the Suburbs
- Courgette cake with lemon curd & cream cheese frosting from Curly’s Cooking
- Cucumber & mint cake via Mummy Mishaps
- Kale apple cake via Tin and Thyme
- Lime avocado cheesecake via Natural Kitchen Adventures
- Matcha blondies via Tin and Thyme
- Matcha white chocolate cupcakes via Tin and Thyme
- Nettle, lemon & white chocolate cupcakes via Tin and Thyme
- Pea and mint cupcakes with rose water buttercream via Kavey Eats
- Pea and vanilla cake with lemon icing & peashoots via Veggie Desserts
For other recipes and ideas on how to use vegetables in sweet bakes, head over to my Sweet Vegetable Bakes board on Pinterest.
I’m also sharing my green cake with #BakingCrumbs hosted this month by Jo’s Kitchen Larder and alternately with Only Crumbs Remain, #CookBlogShare, hosted by Recipes Made Easy this week and #CookOnceEatTwice with Searching for Spice.
Don’t Miss Out
If you make this spinach cake with lemon ricotta filling, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below or via social media. A photo would be good too. For more nutritious and delicious recipes, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest.
Lemon Spinach Cake. PIN IT.
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