Carrot cake and zucchini bread are just two examples of sweets that include vegetables in a surprising way. Namely, it’s that they are relatively undetectable from a taste point of view, despite the fact that the recipes often include quite a large amount of the veggies. Carrots and zucchini have become such common inclusions, that we’re not usually surprised to see them in recipes. Other vegetables make us sit up and take notice a little bit more when they appear in unexpected places. These cake bars, for instance, have lettuce in them.
That’s right, iceberg lettuce.
Lettuce is relatively bland and shreds up nicely, just as carrots and zucchini do. I saw a recipe for some spice bars that featured – or at least included – lettuce in an older cookbook from my collection, Cuisinart Food Processor Cooking (great book from 1981 – came with an old Cuisinart). I didn’t use the food processor for any part of this recipe, but couldn’t resist trying it out.
The cake bars are pretty good, and you wouldn’t know that they have lettuce in them unless someone directly told you or you didn’t get a great “shred” and a few big pieces slipped into the batter. They’re moist and soft, with a good balance of chewiness and tenderness. Iceberg lettuce is definitely the best choice for these, as it is light, crispy and breaks down easily. I wouldn’t really recommend using a different type of lettuce for this, as it might seem like you’re incorporating a plant into a cake if you get tough leaves or a stronger flavor in there. These bars are flavored with cardamom and topped with lemon cream cheese icing – both of which are flavors that really go well together and with some of the faint notes from the lettuce. The bars also have raisins and chopped walnuts to add a little more texture.
These bars are quite thin and only need a thin layer of icing to match them. They make a great snack cake and keep well when stored in an airtight container.
Spiced Lettuce Cake Bars
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 head (approx 1 1/4-1 1/2 cups) iceberg lettuce, shredded
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking pan.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cardamom and ginger. Stir in sugar.
In a medium bowl, whisk together vegetable oil, eggs and vanilla extract. Pour into dry ingredients and stir until almost combined. Add in lettuce, raisins and chopped walnuts and mix until all ingredients are well distributed and no streaks of flour remain.
Spread into an even layer in prepared pan.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool cake in pan completely before frosting.
Lemon Cream Cheese Icing
1/4 cup cream cheese
1/4 cup butter
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon extract or zest
approx 1 1/2-2 cups confectioners sugar
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and beat at medium-high speed until frosting is smooth. Add a little extra confectioners’ sugar if mixture is too thin to spread easily on the soft cake. Add a little more confectioners sugar if the mixture is runny.