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When the S.O. and I got married nearly six years ago [gah, how time has flown!], we made a pact to do something new together once a month so that we’d never get bored.  And while this little pact may seem silly — I think I read it in some vacuous bridal periodical while waiting for a dress fitting — it has actually kept us from falling into a rut.  So I’ve decided to extend a similar try-something-new philosophy to this blog.

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I made this decision after baking a strawberry-olive oil bundt cake for a recent dinner party.  Upon pulling that bad boy out of the oven, I realized this was the umpteenth time I’d made some version of a fruit-and-olive-oil bundt cake for a get-together.  I use the same recipe each time, only varying the seasonal fruit I incorporate into the batter.

It’s a great recipe, but I was growing bored of baking it — I can’t imagine how tired my guests must have been!

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So I set off to make something I’ve never made before:  a layer cake.  Yes, in all my years tending an oven, the accomplishment of baking a layer cake had somehow escaped me.

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Unable to stray too far from tradition, though, I made sure to add seasonal produce into the cake batter, to create the tender, moist crumb that my bundt cakes have had.  Sweet green peas tuck seamlessly into this batter — and for anyone worried that your dessert will taste like salad:  fear not!  The resulting crumb has just a whisper of sweet pea flavor.  In fact, everyone I shared this cake with guessed it was a pistachio cake.

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Certainly I’m proud of my first layer cake, but this little guy doesn’t just look good and make the baker feel good — it’s truly delightful to eat.  The fluffy, moist crumb and intricate mint-pea flavor make this cake taste much lighter than its slightly dense butter-and-pea batter would otherwise lead one to believe.  And the buttercream, goodness, the buttercream!  Lemony and minty, it brings a sharp, provocative coolness that both contrasts and complements the cake layers.  Crisp pea shoots as a garnish tame the sweetness and invoke spring produce.

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I hope you enjoy baking this layer cake as much as I did.  And as I am a creature of habit, expect more layer cakes on the blog in the coming months!

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Pea & Mint Cake with Lemon Buttercream and Pea Shoots

Makes three 6″ or two 9″ cakes | Cook time ~90 minutes (35 inactive) + cooling time

For the Cake

  • 2 C fresh or frozen peas
  • 1/3 C fresh mint leaves
  • 3/4 C unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 C flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • pea shoots, for garnish

For the Buttercream

  • 1/2 C butter, at room temperature
  • 4 + 1/2 C confectioners’ sugar
  • 5 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp peppermint extract
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Grease three 6″ cake pans or two 9″ cake pans, and set aside.*  Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Place peas and enough water to cover the peas by 1″ in a medium stockpot.  Bring to boil, and let peas boil for 2-3 minutes or until tender, but not discolored.  Promptly drain, then refresh peas in cold water.
  3. Place peas and mint leaves into bowl of food processor.  Process on low speed until smooth.  Set aside.
  4. Cream butter and sugar (using a stand mixer is easiest) until fluffy.  Set aside.
  5. In a small bowl, beat eggs and vanilla.  Add egg mixture to creamed butter and sugar, then mix well.  Fold in pea and mint mixture.
  6. Sift in flour, baking powder, and salt, while stirring continuously (or keep stand mixer blade running on low speed).
  7. Divide batter evenly between cake pans, pulling batter up along edges of pans to produce a flatter top surface upon baking.  Bake for 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  8. Let cakes cool in pans for 5-10 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.  Let cool completely before building layered cake.
  9. In the meantime, prepare buttercream by combining all ingredients (again, a stand mixer is fantastic here) and whipping thoroughly.
  10. Build cake by layering as follows:  small spoonful of buttercream to “cement” first cake layer to cake stand base; layer 1; buttercream; layer 2; buttercream; layer 3 (optional); final layer of buttercream (optional).  Pipe buttercream around circumference of cakes in the crevice(s) between layers to fill that space in.  Then you can more easily spread buttercream evenly around the sides of the cake.
  11. Garnish with pea shoots.

* Note:  If you only have one cake pan, bake one layer at a time.  Do not try to bake one tall cake then slice into layers — that would give you an unevenly-cooked cake.

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