By Lauren Chattman
When my doctor, reviewing routine blood work a few weeks ago, told me I was anemic, the first thing I did was run out and buy a rib-eye steak for myself. It was the quickest remedy I could think of to pep up my tired, almost-vegetarian blood.
But it was also the least interesting. As a baker and former pastry chef, it didn't take long for me to consider how I might supplement my iron-poor diet with a thoughtfully prepared dessert. I wasn't interested in recipes developed by food faddists.
It had to be something I'd want to make regardless of doctor's orders. It wasn't until I Googled "spinach cake" that I hit what I believed to be dessert pay dirt. With these magic words I discovered a traditional Turkish recipe that satisfied my culinary standards and Popeye's, too.
Photos revealed ispanakli kek to be shockingly bright green. Attracted by the color alone, I decided to whip one up immediately. The recipes I saw called for fresh spinach, but I didn't feel like washing, chopping and cooking mountains of the stuff to wind up with the ½ cup or so that I needed. So for the sake of convenience and consistency, I used a package of frozen chopped spinach.
Tip 1: You can use frozen spinach in baked goods without throwing off the proportion of wet to dry ingredients by thoroughly wringing out the thawing veggies to remove as much moisture as possible.
I decided to skip the suggested whipped cream frosting because what would be the point of baking a butter-less cake and then slathering it with whipped cream?Tip 2: Consider adding chopped hazelnuts or even sesame seeds to your batter for a rich flavor.
I was delighted with my spinach cake. Its color was definitely a conversation starter. The spinach didn't so much flavor it as give it a rustic texture, the way carrots give carrot cake its unique consistency. Lemon zest gave it a mildly lemony flavor, and Greek-style yogurt gave it just the right amount of moisture.
It did take some bribery to get my children to give the spinach cake a try. Once they did, they enjoyed it as an afternoon snack and I even let them eat it for breakfast the next morning.
Tip 3: Remember, spinach may not be the best source of iron, even if it does make a tasty green dessert. This cake offers just 3 of the 20 milligrams of iron recommended for women each day. For other high-iron treats, consider desserts made with figs, or savory dishes with sardines or curry leaves.
Ispanakli Kek (Spinach Cake)
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1¼ cups sugar
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 large eggs
1 (7-ounce) container plain Greek-style yogurt
¼ cup sesame seeds
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Puree the spinach in a food processor or blender.
2. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan and dust with flour, knocking out any extra. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk together the sugar, oil, lemon zest, eggs and milk in a medium mixing bowl. Stir in the spinach and sesame seeds.
3. Add the flour mixture to the spinach mixture and stir to combine.
4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth with a spatula. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for about 10 minutes and invert it onto a wire rack to cool completely before slicing and serving.
Zester Daily contributor Lauren Chattman is a cookbook author, freelance writer and former professional pastry chef. She is the author of 14 books, most recently "Cake Keeper Cakes" (Taunton, 2009) and "Cookie Swap!" (Workman, 2010).
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