fresh mint olive oil cake with labneh and honey

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

crushed pistachios

honey and/or turbinado sugar

lemon zest

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! 


honey whole wheat challah

this is becoming a pattern. i get to new york, get so excited to play with all of my old friends and new, wear myself out like a rambunctious puppy who forgot what it was like to wear shoes all day, and then have to spend one solid evening sitting in bed with no pants and a pile of pizza. it's ok everybody! i'm going to be ok! this is just my typical adjustment to new york, so plz don't be alarmed that i have been in bed since 5:30pm last night. today i will be good as new and more like the new york dweller that i used to be. ready to walk and schmooze and go up and down stairs and wear all black. it's going to be great.

i've had such a wild past few days! it began with the taste talks awards, where i got to frost cakes with some awesome kiddos on stage at b.a.m., have my very first black tap milkshake with michelle, chat with kat kinsman about her book (which you all know to get, right???), ask michael twitty to be my hebrew teacher, and talk to flynn about how prom was. and i got to hug ellen and adeena and andrea which is the sign of a very great day. then i zipped on up to blue hill for my panel with kim, michael, and jenny about food writing. it was fun and made me kind of wish i had a xylophone to stand behind because being on a stage without a large instrument between me and the audience is new for me and makes me nervous. nervous that if i cross my legs the wrong way there isn't a bass drum there to prevent you from seeing my underpants. among other things. 

and then yesterday, marian and lauren and i woke up early to hear sam sifton and martha stewart talk about meal kits and snoop dogg! and then rux martin and gail simmons spoke about books and tv in a way that made me so excited about the future of food media. it was all so gosh darn inspiring. so, too, was the hot dog that dan barber served on the cutest ever tray:

on the way back, we swung by the blue hill chicken coop and all of the pretty tarrytown houses, and marian planted seeds in my brain about some fun things to talk about next week at my book launch events. about blogging, the current state of it, how it's changed, how it translates to a book. are you coming to hear deb and me talk next week?? is there anything specific you'd like us to talk about? by that time i'll be better at talking on stage without a xylophone in front of me. or maybe i'll just bring a xylophone. 

i was taken off guard when i found out my book was coming out on rosh hashanah! at first i didn't know what to do, then i was like, eh! non-traditional tractor-top rosh hashanahs are becoming kind of the norm for me, so what's really so weird about a rosh hashanah book release? i mean, i love tending to a brisket all day, but you know what else i love? sammy's roumanian steakhouse and the fact that they're open and ready for a rosh hashanah party. so that's where i'll be with my family and bridesmen. and to add to the non-traditionalness, here is some sprinkle crusted challah. it's been brushed with honey and kneaded with nutty whole wheat flour, and it'll kind of remind you of those honey whole wheat pretzels from trader joe's that are borderline healthy until you eat the whole bag. it's great with a turkey and apple sandwich, or obviously on its own, hot and with layer of salted butter.

honey whole wheat challah

makes 6 mini loaves


4 1⁄2 tsp (2 envelopes) active dry yeast 

1 1⁄2 c warm water 

1 tsp plus 1⁄4 c sugar 

2 1/2 c wheat flour (i used white whole wheat, either is fine)

4 c white flour, plus quite a bit more for dusting

2 pinches cardamom

2 tsp kosher salt 

4 large eggs 

3/4 c flavorless oil 

1⁄4 c honey

Egg wash: 1 large egg beaten with + 1 tb honey

sesame seeds, sprinkles, sea salt, za’atar, for topping


in a medium bowl, combine the yeast, warm water, and 1 teaspoon sugar and give it a little stir. let it sit for about 5 minutes, until it becomes foamy on top. 

in a large bowl, combine remaining sugar, flours, cardamom, and salt. separately, beat together the eggs, oil, and honey.

add the yeast mixture and then the egg mixture to the flour and stir to combine. cover the dough with a damp, clean kitchen cloth and let sit for 15 minutes.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead the dough by hand, adding flour as needed to prevent sticking, for 7 to 10 minutes. Knead until the dough becomes smooth and slightly sticky.

Use the oil to grease the inside of a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl. Cover again with the towel and let the dough rise for 2 to 3 hours, until doubled in size.

preheat the oven to 375ºf. line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

split the dough into six equal portions. mold each portion into a swirl shape and place on baking sheets. let shaped loaves rise for 30 more minutes. then brush the loaves with the egg wash and top with toppings as desired. 

bake loaves for 25 minutes, until golden brown. remove from the oven and cool. enjoy!