Sunday, June 5, 2011

Mint Cake with Lemon Icing

I'm not much of a gardener. But one thing I've found I can grow really well is mint. I know, I know, it has nothing to do with me, mint is a hardy weed that pretty much seems to thrive anywhere. Well the patch behind our backyard shed (where the lawnmower can't quite fit easily) seemed the perfect spot to put some in last year and now it has exploded in three kinds of delicious smelling minty goodness!

I wanted to make a dessert for the BBQ at my mother-in-law's house this weekend, and I knew we'd be having grilled shrimp and lobster salad in addition to the usual burgers and such. So I raced to the internets searching for recipes that would be sweet but light and made with fresh mint... and I found lost of things using a few sprigs of mint for a garnish, and a TON of chocolate-mint desserts. (I don't know about you, but I really don't want chocolate after seafood.) But then I stumbled across this amazingly simple recipe for candied mint leaves, and that got me thinking.

So I took a classic white cake recipe and tweaked it slightly to include both some fresh mint and some mint extract (and a tiny touch of green food coloring) and then I was off and running.

Here's the adapted recipe for anyone else out there looking for a really lovely sweet minty dessert perfect for serving after those lighter summer meals:

1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 large egg whites
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon mint extract
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves
3 or more drops of green food coloring (optional)

2 (9-inch) diameter cake pans, buttered and bottoms lined with parchment or waxed paper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1. Wash the mint leaves thoroughly and dry them off with a paper towel I used about 8 medium sized leaves for this part, and used more to make candied mint as a garnish. Chop them up very finely with a knife. Because I don't own a food processor, I just put the chopped up mint into a blender with the sugar and pulsed it on high a few times to grind up and mix the mint in completely.

2. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and the minty sugar together for about 5 minutes, until light and fluffy.

3. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

4. In a small bowl Combine egg whites, milk, vanilla extract and mint extract. If you want to add a few drops of green food coloring, mix it in here.

5. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to butter mixture then add half the milk mixture. Continue to alternate adding to the mix, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Scrape the bowl and beaters often.

6. Pour the batter into prepared pans and smooth the top with a metal spatula.

7. Bake the cakes in the middle rack of your oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

8. Cool in the pans on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then turn out onto the rack, remove paper and let cool completely before frosting.

You can finish your mint cake with simple white frosting, or chocolate if you don't have the "will this go with seafood" dilemma that I was facing. But I frosted it with delicious lemon buttercream frosting and it was perfect, like having summer lemonade with mint sprigs in it. Adding the candied mint as a cute and tasty garnish also helped disguise the fact that I am SO not talented at making pretty frosting.


  1. Nice, thanks.

    Based on your description, do you think you ran the risk of overriding the mint flavour of the cake (which I'm imagining as fairly subtle) with the icing?

  2. @Sinthrex... You know I was a little worried about that when I was making the frosting... but adding the mint extract instead of only using fresh mint in the cake batter helped keep the amounts of the two flavors in a pretty good balance. The candied mint definitely gives it an extra kick too. (I made a whole bunch and brought the extras along just in case I wanted to add more, but we ended up just snacking on it instead of feeling the need to use it on the cake)

    I did find that the leftover cake out of the fridge today tasted a bit more minty than it did when we ate it on the day of baking. So I guess if you want it to have even stronger mint flavor you can make it a day ahead of time, or maybe use a little less lemon than the frosting recipe calls for.