This color is real!!! And, no, Kermit was not harmed in the making of this. This is really just a basic olive oil cake that simply has a bunch of fresh mint purée mixed in to give it the most delightfully fresh herbal flavor and of course this bright natural color. It’s inspired by a dessert that Lily, Alana, and I had at The Exchange Restaurant last month that was basically a bowl of crumbled bright green cake topped with yogurt sorbet, a lemony drizzle, and baklava crumble. We ordered it expecting a regular yellow olive oil cake but when it arrived and we saw the color we were like omgomgomg and immediately did that thing where all three of us suddenly block out everything that’s going on around us in order to decipher what’s happening in our mouths and in front of our eyes. We poked at it, snooped around its every nook and cranny, and took very deliberate tastes in order to figure it all out. It’s so good eating with them. The only thing that could have improved such a moment is if one of us had raised up a monocle or magnifying glass. We figured it must have been a few different herbs in there, basil maybe, or parsley even, and then we got on the subject of spinach cupcakes (ew?), and finally had a chat with the server about what all was happening. And it turned out that it was just mint! Which is wild because it didn’t taste specifically minty, the most minty thing about it was that it had a faint version of that fresh feeling you have after brushing your teeth. Past that it was sort of generically herbal, which was cool because it allowed the yogurt sorbet and pistachio baklava crumble to shine through. And above all it was delicious. One of the best most inspiring desserts I’ve ever had. I turned around faster than I’ve ever turned around in my life and flew home and started experimenting with olive oil mint cakes.
And I came up with this one! It’s a riff on the grapefruit olive oil cake from Yogurt book and it is really fun to make. You might think that the mint purée color would fade in the oven but it stays so bright. Sorry I am like one month late for St. Patrick’s Day, but actually I’m just 11 months early.
I originally intended to slather this in a classic sweet cream cheese frosting but at the last minute before bringing it to Mackenzie’s birthday party I decided to go deeper into my nod to The Exchange dessert and just use labneh with a honey drizzle and pistachios. I loved it because it was so aggressively not sweet. It was definitely not your typical happy birthday sugary cake though so because of this I was trying really hard to figure out what all of my friends thought of it. The thing about being surrounded by so many nice Midwest people however is that they will not tell you if your cake is bad!! Emily said it tasted *fancy* so there is that?? I’ll leave you with this: when it comes to assembling this cake, choose your own adventure. If you’re hankering for a classic sweet frosting use a standard cream cheese frosting. But if you’re celebrating a sophisticated 30-year-old birthday party then try out the labneh option (as written below)! You can always add more honey drizzles. If you can’t decide, use some of the cake scraps as test bites and concoct your frosting accordingly.
Fresh Mint Olive Oil Cake with Labneh and Honey
Makes one 2-layer 6” cake
1 c (50g) firmly packed fresh mint leaves
1/2 c (118g) whole milk or unsweetened almond milk
1 1/2 c (190g) all-purpose flour
1/2 c (56g) almond meal
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
Zest of 1 lemon
3/4 c (150g) extra virgin olive oil
1 1/4 c (250g) sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
About 1 1/2 c (338g) labneh
honey and/or turbinado sugar
sliced kumquats, optional
Preheat the oven to 350ºf. Grease and line the bottoms of two 6” pans with parchment and set aside.
Rinse the mint leaves and then ring them out very well. In a high powered blender like a vitamix, blend the mint and milk together until very smooth. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, almond meal, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and lemon zest. In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil and sugar until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking very well after each, and then add the vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and mint mixture in three alternating additions, whisking after each until just combined. Pour into the pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean; begin checking for doneness at 25 minutes. Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes and then transfer it to a wire rack to cool completely. Level off the tops.
Spread half of the labneh on one of the layers and top with pistachios, honey or turbinado, and a little bit of lemon zest, and then place the other cake layer on top and spread on remaining labneh. Decorate as desired with pistachios, honey or turbinado, lemon zest, and sliced kumquats, if using. Enjoy!